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. A stream of stories about Dixon paints it 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.
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. He loves visiting the neighbourhoods he grew up in because not only is he taking photos of them, but he is also reminiscing on his childhood.
Calarco captures the unique characteristics of Dixon through a series of images. He believes his community Instagram photography page (@dixonrdto) will increase the self-worth of all members of his community.
Calarco started his Instagram photography page in December of 2017, but the page has only 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 he is trying to bring the community together through photography. 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.
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 running basketball sessions would be a good way for the youth in Dixon to have some fun every Friday.
With about 15 to 20 girls attending every Friday, they noticed 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 in close proximity 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 the Dixon community, Calarco, Fakhrudin and Dirie set a wonderful example for the future of Dixon.