I have been following the escalating gun violence in Toronto, as I am sure many have. I find it sad and incomprehensible. Many I speak to say they think it is no shame. After all, “If they want to shoot each other, let them.” is the common thread. What’s another gang member?

For anyone who has children, I can’t understand those words. A child is a child, and for any child, white, black, or other, to be snatched into the hopelessness and despair of these gangs of thugs is a shame. We all start out the same, as a clean slate, but we don’t all receive the same odds. Growing up in a project or an unsavory neighborhood has a huge amount of challenges. For sure, each individual has choices to make, but they are harder for these youths.

I speak from experience. I grew up in a housing project in Rexdale, and at times it was excruciatingly difficult. As I look back on my youth, I had it fairly easy compared to today’s youth. The pressure and fear applied to join a gang were absent. Add in that variable to my childhood, and I don’t know if I would have stayed away from all that I did.

Mr. Delroy Darling was a 41 year old man, with 10 children. I can’t imagine the sense of loss so many feel as this man was taken by cowards, by youths whose meaning is wrapped up in holding hatred close to their hearts. Mr. Darling was a known community leader, whose mission had become to help the youth in his community resist the gangs. His reward was to be gunned down by those who did not like the effects he was having.

I must say that I am disappointed in an article that is posted on one of Canada’s biggest news site. They do a write up on Mr. Darling that is very becoming, but they close with the statement that Mr. Darling has a criminal record for drug related charges and that they don’t know how far back they go. Others sites report that police had known Darling, but that he had turned his life around. Some didn’t feel it necessary to find that fact out before posting their comments. The way they wrote it, CTV left a shadow hanging over Mr. Darling’s name. They should fix it because it wasn’t necessary.

Witnesses from the community expressed outrage at the crime. Some spoke to the press but withheld their names, apparently out of fear. I know it is easy for one like me on the outside to say this, but that fear is the biggest weapon that these thugs have. The community must overcome it to defeat this bunch. They must stand up as one and declare that they have had enough. They must not shelter these youth with their silence any longer. They are in a war zone, and they are now fighting for the lives of their own children whether they realize it or not. Lose this fight, and you will lose those young ones you now shelter. They will be drawn into the cycle.

In memory of a man whom you all profess to respect, stand up now. Don’t let an act of cowardly violence erase his memory or his work. It will be dangerous and some more will probably fall, but I think you will agree that the next generation are well worth it.

The next time I have a barbecue, I will think of Mr. Darling, a man I never met. I will think of the barbecue that he just held. A barbecue of hope for his community. He didn’t stand around throwing poisonous words at others like some activists. He did good things and Toronto, indeed our whole country, needs people of his calibre, people strong enough to overcome their own mistakes and move upward. I will silently pray that his work will continue through other brave citizens. Citizens who know that they can make a difference.

Even if it is only to one child, it is well worth the sacrifice.