A year out from the violent slayings of two young men in Lowertown, community members came together Saturday in remembrance and in support of a goal of building safer streets than the ones the victims walked.
A crowd gathered beside the Rideau Street Loblaws in the afternoon sun, with some young people still wearing gear from the basketball tournament that was the other part of Saturday’s inaugural “Peace in the Streets” event.
They were waiting for the unveiling of a Black Lives Matter mural created by Lowertown youth and artist DRPN Soul, as well as speeches from family members of Loris Tyson Ndongozi and Creflo Tansia, shot and killed last July and August, respectively, at ages 20 and 18.
“He was a young man dreaming of freedom, and he just wanted to find his place,” said Victory Tansia, of the younger brother he also described as ambitious, generous and “a source of inspiration for anyone who had a chance to meet him.”
Victory, who works as an animator and graphic design consultant, including work for Netflix, challenged a belief he observed among his community’s youth.
“I think that we think violence, dominance and intimidation are the way to manhood,” he told the assembled crowd. “The beauty in sports is that you can prove dominance over another team. You can fight with all your might. You can run into many altercation(s). But still, at the end of the game, you’re going to shake the hand of your opponent with respect. That’s a healthy way that we can regulate our negative emotions as young men, as human beings.
“My hope for the future is that young men like my brother don’t confuse where their values lie in society. They can be more than a statistic. They can be more (than) the perception and negative expectations of others. They can be more.”
A 17-year-old youth was charged with first-degree murder in Tansia’s death and turned himself into police last August.
Jooris Ndongozi, whose son’s accused killer, a 26-year-old, remains at large, said he wanted to share a message of love and vision for fighting crime at Saturday’s event, organized by the Lowertown Community Resource Centre, Prezdential Basketball and Tyson’s Dream (the latter, a violence prevention initiative launched by Ndongozi.)
When it comes to combatting crime involving youth, “We can do something if there is a good cooperation between police, school, community, and parent(s),” said Ndongozi. He stressed as well the importance of dialogue between fathers and their sons — something Tyson’s Dream is working to support.
Prezdential Basketball founder and former pro player Manock Lual said it was his hope that youth came away from “Peace in the Streets” motivated to take action in their own lives.
“We took action to promote a message that is very important right now in our city. There’s a lot of crime happening, there’s a lot of shootings happening. There was a murder last night in Lowertown,” said Lual, referencing the Clarence Street shooting currently under investigation by the Ottawa Police homicide unit.
“So hopefully these youth are going into their communities after (today), taking that action. And it’s not necessarily making change, but influencing the change, right. ‘Hey, you don’t need to go down there today, you know, come with us.’ … That could save a life.”