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Welcome to North Preston: Community members say area much more than violent crime


NORTH PRESTON - Pens and craft supplies are spread across tables in the community centre room as young people chat and laugh, glitter on the floor where a sign reads ‘United we stand.’

Last Thursday about 10 teens and young adults with North Preston’s Future, or N.P.F., worked on decorations for their float in the North Preston Day parade two days later. They had just finished training on the Clean Foundation’s Home Warming program, so they could go door to door letting low-income people know about free energy-efficiency improvements.

Miranda Cain, N.P.F. founder and volunteer, said she knows this isn’t the vision many Nova Scotians have of North Preston, Canada’s largest black community.  

She said locals have long resented the area is portrayed in the media only for violent crime and as home to the North Preston’s Finest gang, most recently in June being connected to the Heart of a King gang raid in Toronto by police there.

“You come here and our community welcomes you with open arms. People are not afraid to come here, so why are you portraying that in the media?” Cain said, standing in the sunshine outside the North Preston Community Centre, after inviting Metro out for a visit.

“We are a part of Canada’s history as the largest black community, we should be recognized as such - not as being North Preston’s Finest where the little 2 or 5 per cent is doing whatever.”

After leaving the anti-violence group CeaseFire last year, Cain said she still wanted to volunteer with black youth so she applied for a federal grant to employ young people (with the title North Preston’s Finest to take back the infamous name) and was surprised to be awarded five positions.

However, Cain said since she had gotten 16 applications, she rallied enough grants and honorariums from the Clean Foundation to employ 12 positions this summer.

The youth work at giving back by helping seniors cut their grass, doing general maintenance, picking up litter, random acts of kindness, hosting events for kids, and more.

Although she wanted to keep the original name, Cain said the word “future” popped into her head as another title - and “that’s exactly what we’re doing, because we’re making our next chapter of North Preston youth that’s going to come up.”

Sherine Beals, 28, said she was surprised they given the chance to talk with neighbours about the efficiency program because it feels like “nobody pays attention to the community.”

Beals said N.P.F. is the first job for many of the teens, but besides resume-building the work is a way to challenge stereotypes by having the group perform good deeds.

“We’re one. We’re united. United we stand, divided we fall,” Beals said.

“People think it’s like a gang and always bad, but it’s not, we’re trying to change it,” Tyondra Willis, 17, added.

Kendall Saunders, 16, nodded next to Beals and said he really likes the feeling of improving the community and helping older people.

When asked what it’s like growing up in the community, Saunders said it’s “fun” and Beals said she loves how “everyone’s all family,” although both pointed out the lack of grocery stores, opportunity, programs for young people, and Emergency Health Services unit adds to the feeling of isolation.

“The snow plows … they come up here like hours after. What if there’s an emergency? Shouldn’t we be entitled too, if we’re paying taxes?” Beals said.

As a group walked out, Cain asked them all about their schedules and when they’d be coming into work or mowing grass the next day. As they left, she said with a smile it’s been so rewarding to see the kids’ confidence and sense of pride grow over the past few weeks.

The program fills a need in that most other groups in North Preston are enrichment for those doing really well, or support for those in “really bad” situations, Cain said, but little for those who land in the middle and could go either way.

“The only way I think to change it is not just voicing it ... it’s by actually doing the change, showing another side. Then maybe someone will say ‘Okay, that’s not North Preston’s Finest, this is North Preston’s future right here, and that’s what’s important,” Cain said.

Community shootings, including the April homicide of Daverico Downey, are from a tiny percentage of North Preston people, Cain said, which is no different than any other area.

“We’re trying to bring back the community loving because you know that we have the crime, and we’re killing each other, so that of course divides a community,” Cain said quietly.

“[We’re] trying to patch it back by whatever we can do, hoping that other organizations will see what we’re doing and start taking on that.”

Last Thursday about 10 teens and young adults with North Preston’s Future, or N.P.F., worked on decorations for their float in the North Preston Day parade two days later. They had just finished training on the Clean Foundation’s Home Warming program, so they could go door to door letting low-income people know about free energy-efficiency improvements.

Miranda Cain, N.P.F. founder and volunteer, said she knows this isn’t the vision many Nova Scotians have of North Preston, Canada’s largest black community.  

She said locals have long resented the area is portrayed in the media only for violent crime and as home to the North Preston’s Finest gang, most recently in June being connected to the Heart of a King gang raid in Toronto by police there.

“You come here and our community welcomes you with open arms. People are not afraid to come here, so why are you portraying that in the media?” Cain said, standing in the sunshine outside the North Preston Community Centre, after inviting Metro out for a visit.

“We are a part of Canada’s history as the largest black community, we should be recognized as such - not as being North Preston’s Finest where the little 2 or 5 per cent is doing whatever.”

After leaving the anti-violence group CeaseFire last year, Cain said she still wanted to volunteer with black youth so she applied for a federal grant to employ young people (with the title North Preston’s Finest to take back the infamous name) and was surprised to be awarded five positions.

However, Cain said since she had gotten 16 applications, she rallied enough grants and honorariums from the Clean Foundation to employ 12 positions this summer.

The youth work at giving back by helping seniors cut their grass, doing general maintenance, picking up litter, random acts of kindness, hosting events for kids, and more.

Although she wanted to keep the original name, Cain said the word “future” popped into her head as another title - and “that’s exactly what we’re doing, because we’re making our next chapter of North Preston youth that’s going to come up.”

Sherine Beals, 28, said she was surprised they given the chance to talk with neighbours about the efficiency program because it feels like “nobody pays attention to the community.”

Beals said N.P.F. is the first job for many of the teens, but besides resume-building the work is a way to challenge stereotypes by having the group perform good deeds.

“We’re one. We’re united. United we stand, divided we fall,” Beals said.

“People think it’s like a gang and always bad, but it’s not, we’re trying to change it,” Tyondra Willis, 17, added.

Kendall Saunders, 16, nodded next to Beals and said he really likes the feeling of improving the community and helping older people.

When asked what it’s like growing up in the community, Saunders said it’s “fun” and Beals said she loves how “everyone’s all family,” although both pointed out the lack of grocery stores, opportunity, programs for young people, and Emergency Health Services unit adds to the feeling of isolation.

“The snow plows … they come up here like hours after. What if there’s an emergency? Shouldn’t we be entitled too, if we’re paying taxes?” Beals said.

As a group walked out, Cain asked them all about their schedules and when they’d be coming into work or mowing grass the next day. As they left, she said with a smile it’s been so rewarding to see the kids’ confidence and sense of pride grow over the past few weeks.

The program fills a need in that most other groups in North Preston are enrichment for those doing really well, or support for those in “really bad” situations, Cain said, but little for those who land in the middle and could go either way.

“The only way I think to change it is not just voicing it ... it’s by actually doing the change, showing another side. Then maybe someone will say ‘Okay, that’s not North Preston’s Finest, this is North Preston’s future right here, and that’s what’s important,” Cain said.

Community shootings, including the April homicide of Daverico Downey, are from a tiny percentage of North Preston people, Cain said, which is no different than any other area.

“We’re trying to bring back the community loving because you know that we have the crime, and we’re killing each other, so that of course divides a community,” Cain said quietly.

“[We’re] trying to patch it back by whatever we can do, hoping that other organizations will see what we’re doing and start taking on that.”

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