Street gangs are not going away

From Sao Paulo to Chicago, Cape Town to London, street gangs need the soil of poverty, hopelessness and social exclusion to grow and flourish, wrote Simon Black, a researcher at York University’s City Institute and a doctoral fellow in political science, in a Toronto Star opinion piece published July 2. Compare a map of TAVIS gun and gang "hot spots" to the Toronto United Way’s map of Poverty By Postal Code and you’ll find a direct correlation between neighbourhoods with gang activity and neighbourhoods deemed "high priority" by the United Way’s poverty reduction initiatives.  

Toronto could learn from the mistakes of another world city characterized by vast inequalities and gang activity – Los Angeles, wrote Black. In the wake of the Rodney King riots, local Bloods and Crips called a gang truce and put forward a joint proposal for rebuilding their communities. The Bloods/Crips Proposal for LA’s Facelift was an extensive plan for reform in areas ranging from law enforcement and education to human welfare and community economic development. Unfortunately, it was ignored by the powers that be and Los Angeles missed an opportunity to incorporate its street gangs into a positive program of social uplift.  

The LA proposal provides a historic example of the potential of street gangs for positive social change and political activism. Whether Toronto follows LA down the road of mass incarceration of young men from low-income communities or decides to address the roots of gang violence with serious economic redistribution and intensive social investments – not law and order strategies – is one of the most important questions facing our city today.  

York grad and MP welcomes new Canadians

Dozens of citizenship ceremonies across Canada welcomed hundreds of new Canadians into the fold July 1. These rites of passage came with cake, warm embraces and a speech from a member of the community welcoming new Canadians. In one town this year, Saudi Arabia-born MP Omar Alghabra was one of those speakers, reported Sun Media July 1.  

The Natural Resources critic immigrated to Canada in 1989 seeking an education and improved quality of life. Alghabra was only 19 and could barely speak English when he took the decision to leave the Saudi Arabian eastern coastal town of al-Khobar and his family behind. “I often say that people like myself, who have lived in other parts of the world, often have a greater appreciation for Canada, and for what Canada offers, than people who were born here," said Alghabra.  

Canada has been good to Alghabra. He quickly found work after finishing his degree and studied part time to attain an MBA in 2000 from York University. In 1998 he became a Canadian and it is the only passport he currently holds. In 2006, he crowned his Canadian identity by being elected as Liberal MP for the riding of Mississauga-Erindale.  

Choice mom or single mother by choice?

Lily is not waiting for her biological clock to tick any louder. At 33, she has given up on dating. So she is planning to have a baby on her own next year, via a sperm donor, reported The Globe and Mail July 1. While she has told some supportive family members of her plans, the Toronto resident has looked elsewhere for both practical and emotional advice: an online group called Choice Moms.  

For women like Lily, the choices never stop. First, you have to choose how you are going to become a mother: adoption, sperm donor or unprotected sex? If it is via a donor, will it be a known donor or anonymous? Then, there’s what to call yourself. Are you a Choice Mom? A Single Mother By Choice?  

That different labels are emerging indicates the movement is coming of age, says Andrea O’Reilly, a professor of women’s studies at York University. "A woman 48 and single can say, ‘I chose this.’ And a woman at 18 can say, ‘I chose to keep my baby,’ " she says. "It’s something we would not have seen a decade and a half ago."  

Welcome, Cito Gaston

The critics and cynics have always been wrong about Cito Gaston, the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays when they won their only two World Series championships, wrote The Globe and Mail July 1.  

Gaston, the fourth black manager in major-league baseball, first assumed the post early in the 1989 season, with the team in last place with 12 wins and 24 losses. Under his quiet leadership, the team won 77 and lost just 49 of the remaining games, and finished first. The Blue Jays went on to win four division titles in five years, and the 1992 and 1993 World Series. As for respect, Rodney Dangerfield got more.  

Here, in a snide commentary, is how a former Globe sports editor once summed up Gaston’s contributions to those World Series victories: “Gaston was the right man for that job, such as it was. Don’t get in the way, let the best team in baseball win easily.”  

A more sensible analysis came from a professor of arts and media administration at York University. Managing a great team can be more difficult than managing a mediocre team, said Joseph Green, quoted in a 1993 feature from Martin O’Malley. “Baseball players are like artists. They are easily humiliated. In spite of the bravado, they are very vulnerable.” Gaston recognized vulnerability.  

Student’s video makes him a winner in contest for shoe lovers

“Sex and the City” gave credence to shoe obsessions by insisting, in the words of Carrie Bradshaw, that "you can never have too many shoes." But now a local self-professed shoe-aholic is proving men can also be swept off their feet by footwear, reported the Ottawa Citizen July 2. "Women are more inclined that way," says 20-year-old Alex Josselyn, this year’s Ottawa winner of Town Shoes’ Shoe-aholic Search. "I guess that’s the way society is, but men should also feel comfortable taking an interest in shoes."  

For Josselyn, the contest was not as much about gender as it was about combining his two loves: fashion and filmmaking. A film student at York University, Josselyn created a short video showing his struggle to find the perfect shoes to complete an outfit.  

School wins gold for eco-efforts

Sheridan Park School has received gold certification through York University‘s Ontario EcoSchools program, reported the St. Catharines Standard July 2. The school of about 300 students has spent the year turning off lights, planting gardens and reducing garbage to meet the guidelines of the provincial certification program. Other initiatives included writing student reports on eco-friendly products, performing skits for Meadowvale and Parnall schools and handing out Green Family certificates.  

On air

  • Marcel Martel, professor of Canadian history in York’s Faculty of Arts, discussed Canada’s first prime minister and whether Canadians care about the history of their country, on a panel on TVO’s “The Agenda” July 1.