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Supporting a Community

The Dixon community is frequently represented in the media, but for reasons that are nothing to celebrate. If you Google ‘Dixon Road Toronto’ you will see a digital footprint showing a trail of events and names that have scarred the neighbourhood. The stream of stories paints Dixon as a troubled neighbourhood plagued by violence and crime. Here are three Dixon community members and what they are doing to change the way they’re represented in news media.

Photo credit: @yilin2lens

Antonino Calarco

Photography began as a hobby for Antonino Calarco, but soon evolved into a passion project. Calarco, 23, is double majoring in biology and Italian language at the University of Toronto. He grew up in the Kingsview Village and Westway area, and still visits the neighbourhoods he grew up in not only to take photos, but to reminisce on his childhood.

The images Calarco take capture the unique characteristics of Dixon. He believes his community Instagram photography page (@dixonrdto) will increase the self-worth of all members of his community. 

Calarco’s Instagram photography page, started in December of 2017, has recently gained major traction, with activity this year at an all-time high. As engagement increases and more people get involved in building the @dixonrdto photo collection, Calarco believes that people will start to see the beauty of Dixon. He has always loved taking photographs “purely for the joy of capturing special moments.” He accepts photo submissions from people as well to help create a more unified community. Calarco hopes that his photography page will change the perception of the neighbourhood’s residents who have all been impacted by discouraging headlines over the years.

Hareda Fakhrudin & Ilham Dirie

Hareda Fakhrudin is a fourth-year history student at Ryerson University and she loves Calarco’s Instagram page for its sheer beauty. As a long-time resident of Dixon, Fakhrudin appreciates how Calarco uses photography to bring the community together. Ilham Dirie is a fourth-year English student at the University of Toronto, and alongside Fakhrudin, they run basketball sessions for girls every Friday at a local community centre.

snowy street
Photo credit: @dixonrdto

As active members of their community, Fakhrudin and Dirie were upset with the major shootings that occurred in 2017, with many young lives lost. “The whole community was distraught, and I couldn’t just sit back and do nothing about it,” says Dirie. Dirie knew the youth in the community needed a positive hobby to keep them occupied. She teamed up with her long-time friend, Fakhrudin and they decided to run basketball sessions as a good way for the youth in Dixon to have some fun every Friday.

With about 15 to 20 girls attending every Friday, they saw that their dream was coming to fruition. “At first, we didn’t even think people would attend, but slowly more girls started to show up, and we were so happy!” says Fakhrudin. The sessions take place at Elmbank Community Centre which is roughly a 10-minute drive from Dixon and Kipling Ave. Dirie and Fakhrudin wanted to make sure that the sessions were close to Dixon, so that parents did not have to drive too far. The goal for Dirie and Fakhrudin was to make sure that the girls were having fun playing basketball, while also socializing with their peers in the community.

While Fakhrudin and Dirie’s methods may be different from Calarco’s, they strive toward the same goal. Calarco’s goal for this year is simple: “I would like to paint a better picture of my neighbourhood, a place that provided me with a variety of experiences as dynamic as the people who call it home.” Calarco wants to acknowledge his community, the hardworking people and local artists who strive every day to help move their community and world in the right direction. Sagal Ali attends the basketball sessions every Friday and loves how girls from her community are enjoying themselves and other’s company. “I think it’s great what Hareda and Ilham are doing. There’s a sense of unity every time we are all together and that’s what it’s all about.”

As active members of their community, Calarco, Fakhrudin and Dirie set a wonderful example for the future of Dixon.

I love writing compelling stories that shed light on communities and hardworking individuals striving for change. I also love all things social media! :)

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