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Who is Scarborough?

“You are so much more than what they say about you.”

This quotation is from a collaborative letter to the future of Scarborough by six youth artists, myself included, who work for the Scarborough-based non-profit organization kin+care collective. This letter, alongside the artists’ photos, was displayed at Modo Yoga Scarborough on January 21st, 2023.

Photo Credit: Isabelle Espaldon

"Thank you for being our home; for being the landing place for folks from near and far; for being a cultural hotspot; and for helping us understand the power of our individual and collective creativity.”​

To begin their “mama’s hands program,” kin + care asked its team of youth artists to describe Scarborough in one word. Responses included real, close, and home. However, Googling Scarborough paints a different portrait—murder, poverty, and the dreaded “ghetto” pollute our district’s name. Tourists visiting Toronto may drive past Scarborough on their way to glossier destinations, ignorant of the love in its communities. Non-profit organizations like kin+care collective, Toronto Ward Museum, and Stay Golden Outreach support local artists to combat harmful stereotypes.

Armed with disposable cameras, the youth artists captured an intimate look at the parts of Scarborough that the mainstream media so often glosses over—the mundane, human sides. Sides that do not generate clicks and ad revenue. Art which goes against the ghetto narrative.

My Chinese immigrant neighbour’s garbage bin has 666 written on it, not because she worships Satan as I had assumed for 13 years, but because her daughter wrote the house number 6 on each side of the bin. Photo Credit: George Yonemori

Scarborough’s population is approximately 76.6% immigrants, further supporting outsiders’ negative perceptions. The stereotype that minorities are more likely to be criminals is deeply rooted in the cultural consciousness. The best way to combat a narrative is not to remain silent, but to speak out positively. Paint the concrete walls as orange as the sunset over the valley. Publish the unpublishable stories about how living here empowers you. By publishing this story, I intend to do just that. kin+care collective’s support allowed us to achieve our visions.​

“We hope that when others talk about crime and “the hood,” they also ask about where and whom these stories came from.”

Photo Credit: George Yonemori

The mama’s hands program asks and answers a more abstract question: who is Scarborough? The media portrays Scarborough as a racialized, broke gangster with no future; however, to kin+care, Scarborough is the maternal figures nurturing a brighter future for their children.

“And to all the mamas of Scarborough, you’re based.”

Scarborough is the immigrant parent working a job they are far overqualified for to support their children. After a long shift, they price-match groceries to save for their child’s education at a prestigious university like ours. They fight for a future their neighbours inherited. They do not complain because they think the ability to fight is a privilege in itself.

“We hope that when others talk about our resilience as a community, they also ask about why we have to rely on resilience just to survive.”

Photo Credit: Joyce Manongsong

The beating heart of Scarborough silently pounds with ambition and quiet communal support. It is time to be loud.

“To Scarborough and all of our familial and community mamas, thank you. We are us because of you; there is no us without you.”

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