Where I’m From – A Love Letter to Susan

Scarface’s ‘My Block’ song comes to mind when I start writing this, because this is a tribute to my block, my joy, my pain, my struggle, and it’s my source of everyday passion, motivation and inspiration.

This isn’t about a woman. This is about a building. A region. A name that’s more than something posted on a street light; it’s more than just a street that runs 1 block deep, it’s an aura unto itself, and a lifestyle for those who lived there. It’s a sacred bond, it’s a family no matter where the representatives live now and their liveliness. It’s Susan.

3847 Lawrence Avenue East

Simply put, this was my home, it’s where my heart is, and where it will never leave. Toronto Housing isn’t something that a lot of people who be proud to represent, but like a lot of people who grew up in the “under-developed” areas of the city of Toronto, there’s a lot of things that we learned from “the block” that we carry on for many years; my own is just an example, but a lot of people can relate to their own.

I moved to this building in 1999, but I’ve been apart of this building since I moved to Scarborough in ’94. The daycare centre is where I met a lot of my childhood friends, we went to the same elementary school, and essentially grew up together. That’s what happens when you’re exposed to an environment that’s close to home; you begin the process of going through life with people who you’re familiar with, and thus you solidify your bonds to them. It’s how it worked, and that’s how life works, no need to explain that, because we all know that.

The Back of the building
Susan Towers

I’ve been to a lot of blocks before in Scarborough, and maybe it’s because I didn’t live at those blocks why I can’t really give a formal opinion, but living at 3847 felt different. Not necessarily because it was home, but because the feeling around us just felt like it was a special place to be at, to be proud to represent on a daily basis. It was one of those blocks that people either never heard of, or they were familiar with, but the times when I was there, it had its own mystique around it that somehow gave us that feeling to be proud to walk around shouting “SUSAN” where ever we went. Going to the local all ages jams and getting your block shouted out meant a lot for us, because we weren’t one of those names that people had on their minds. They knew areas like M&E, O.P, G-Way, 400, Whiteblocks, B&E, Chester Le, and of course who can forget the infamous Malvern and their abundance of regions as if it was a city within the city of Scarborough.

Yes. I’ll still refer to Scarborough as the City of Scarborough. I was there before Toronto amalgamated into the ‘Megacity’ and I’m still not happy about that. They tried to unify the city, but it’ll never be unified and accepted by others. That’s why when people (like myself and others) defend Scarborough, it’s because they’re always looked at as the Black Sheep of the city. Many would argue that Jane & Finch is a bigger area that people look at in a negative way, and it’s true that the media & overall people do, but we’re talking about ONE BLOCK, compared to ONE CITY. It’s different, and that’s why people from the East end will always be proud that they’re from Scarborough, because it’s that chip on their shoulders that they carry into different areas, where ever life takes them.

Besides the point, this is where the heart of me is, and where it will always be, as I’ve said before. The main reason why I love and represent this block is because of what it made me be today, a lot of learning curves and growing pains came from here. Shit, my nickname came from here, right at the basketball court. That was our sanctuary, our place of peace, and our congregation. It’s ironic that the building is right beside a church, because Susan felt like it was a church more than just another block in Scarborough.

We’re taught to love thy brother & sister, to show respect where respect is due. I learned that it’s easier to go with someone than against them. It’s a family that you don’t go against, because just like how we’ve seen in The Godfather Part 2, it’s not really the best decision to go against family (RIP Fredo Corelone). We may always bump heads, but what family isn’t dysfunctional? You can’t name one, because they don’t exist. Drama is inevitable, it’ll always happen within a circle of people, and this core group was no different.

In 2010, I met a spoken word artist that goes by the name of David Delisca. He’s a very wise man with an old soul, and his pieces reflect that. I was listening to a spoken word piece that he did for a mixtape of a project that i was working on, and ironically the name of the piece is the name of this blog post (I meant that to happen). I hope he doesn’t mind that I use some words from his piece that really resonated with me, because they do have value that I’d like to share:

“Where I’m From
The kids are famished
They’re hungry, they’re starving for information
These kids, they’re seekin’ to inbound intervention
Audible is their stomach growling but, ain’t nobody listenin
Underprivelaged, can’t get past the line of scrimmage
And how can they avoid the blitz when the left and the right guard is missing
Whole front line is crippled
So the defense is really the offense, so it really makes it no competition with no chance of winning, they’re forced to take a loss and then we wonder
Why Are They Quittin’?
Well maybe…it’s because of the pressure.
The Pressure of success
Success measures on this high materialistic bar for those who can’t reach it are engaged into distress…”

Those few words really sums of the life that some of us lived in our respective blocks, but it’s true from the words being said, that there are so many hostiles coming at us at the same time, that we can barely protect ourselves from the strong impact: The police, getting caught up in street life, and not having the ability to get a job because of where you’re from, are some of the obstacles that set us back, and it certainly did with me and a lot of the people who I surrounded myself with.

A lot of people had many talents. One was one of the most sought out talents in high school basketball (actually 2, because there was one female), one was a football player, and it was a good feeling to know that people were making a name for themselves and doing good, but then, for reasons that I neither know, or understand, they faded, and were forced to really seek other options, or they just lost the love of it. It sucks when you see people with so much potential throw it away, but at the same time, it could have just been blessings in disguise.

3847 is more than a building number. It’s the last 4 digits of my phone number (and has been since I first got a cell phone at 16 years old), as was a lot of people’s who lived in the building, it’s a brand name, it’s a motto, it’s LIFE! I took the 4 numbers, and using my phone’s keypad, I came up with 4 letters: E U I R. I created an acronym

Everyone Unique Is Represented

Many different cultures, many different backgrounds, and different faces were common on the block, as Toronto is known for being “The world in one city.” Many people can say the same for their own blocks, but what I mean by this acronym, I mean that every unique person is represented through each other. If (and when) I make it on a successful platform, I represent the unique people. I represent the convenience store ran by the Koreans who watched us all grow up, it’s the Halal food restaurant, it’s the African hair supply store, it’s the Jamaican food that filled our stomachs, it’s Prem that supplied peanut punches & blunt wraps, the Indian mini market, and Barney’s bar & grill where the resident stoners hung out. That’s what I represent. It wasn’t always easy or fun living there, because there were rough times, but that’s a part of growing up. We go through these things to shape us into the people that we are today.

The number 3 has to be something of a divine power. It’s a number that has been a lucky one for me. I lived on the 3rd floor where it was THE FLOOR to hang out, the buildings that I lived in both started with 3, and I lived there from November ’99 – August 2009 (9 years/3 = 3). It may seem stupid, but I really believe that it’s more than what it is.

The block was never one to stir conflict with anyone, but at the same time, we weren’t punks that really backed down when trouble brew. Many came from far and wide to chill here, and that includes people from the west end of Toronto, to Mississauga, to Pickering, wherever. We were stricken with a loss when we lost our friend Robert, and we got significant media coverage that really showed us come together as a community to honour our friend, as any family would come together to mourn the loss of a loved one. We’ve had people go to jail, but we still never forgot about them, it’s just a testament to what living on the block was like, and it’s something that I’ll always appreciate about growing up in that area; appreciating those in your life that you have and remaining true to them; helping out your brothers & sisters in need.

I’m proud of the progress that people have made since coming from the block. Whether it’s a pursuit in music, in sports, or in the arts, there’s always something good I hear when talking to people who grew up there and what they’re doing with their lives now. They’re motivated individuals with a purpose, and the constant thing that keeps them going – is the block. The heart & soul of their upbringings. It’s a beautiful thing, and I can only hope that when they reach their respective pinnacles of success, that Susan Street will forever be what they refer to as their main source of their motivations for success, because I know that’s what I’ll be doing.

As I’ve stated before, this story isn’t about just my block, because everyone grew up in an area that they can relate to this in some way. Everyone has their own shares of experiences on their blocks, their homes, and their own communities, and I’m not saying that mine was better than anyone else, I’m just giving it from my perspective and why I love this damn place so much. Even when I go there years later, it’s changed dramatically in ways I wish it hadn’t, but it still feels like home, and I’m always happy go back, because it’s just comforting, and there are people who can attest to that statement from wherever they were brought up.

Although it may have had its darkest days, there’s no denying that it was always

“A Sunny Day in Susan”

That’s My Word & It STiXX

4 thoughts on “Where I’m From – A Love Letter to Susan

  1. I swear i was gonna cry while reading this, because everything you said is so true.. but what hurts the most is what the block changed to now ..but its still home no matter what!

    love u stixx

  2. I really love the paragraph about the City of Scarborough. So true.
    CityTV still thinks Scarborough isn’t worth naming intersections, so all news reports get “Another shooting in Scarborough!” as a title, whereas if it happens in Old Toronto it gets “Shooting at Richmond and Bathurst”

    This was a great read, thank you.

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