Halifax Heroes: Spreading positivity in Uniacke Square
Alex Ross uses his Family over Fame music and business to give back to his tight-knit community.
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Alex Ross is building both his life and his community through turning adversity into inspiration.
Born in Uniacke Square in Halifax’s North End, Ross, now 20, was raised by his mother and grandparents. He lost his little sister when he was young, and then his grandfather – the only father he’d known – when he was just 16.
“I took that very hard, but at the same time he wouldn’t want me going down the wrong road,” said Ross. “He’d want me to keep my energy positive and keep doing great things.”
This loss became Ross’ inspiration for ‘Family Over Fame’, which is, all at the same time, the title of an R&B album he released, a clothing company he started, a community organization he’s building and a lifestyle he’s promoting.
Both ‘family’ and ‘fame’ are nuanced concepts for Ross.
“Family means something different to everybody – Family doesn’t just mean your close family, it can mean the workers at the library, your employees at McDonald’s, people on the street you know,” said Ross. “Uniacke Square is my family.”
‘Fame’, on the other hand, while meaning literally music celebrity, is also an analogy for Ross meaning success in whatever professional one chooses to pursue.
Family Over Fame is thus a call for people to keep their priorities in the proper order.
“Once you make it big, don’t forget your family. Don’t let that stuff get to your head,” said Ross, “Remember who helped you from the start, and give back.”
Growing up, Ross said he looked up to neighbourhood role models like Dean Nelson and Juno Johnson, who he saw staging community basketball tournaments and helping steer kids away from trouble.
“Their generation inspired my generation, so what I’m trying to do is give it back to the next generation,” said Ross.
“This generation from Uniacke Square, we don’t want to hear about the negative things any more, because we’ve been hearing that about our neighbourhood for a long time – what we’re trying to do is, whatever positive comes out, we’re going to support it.”
Ross, through Family Over Fame, staged his first community event in July; attended by more than 400 people, it featured live music performances, free food, clothing giveaways and face painting.
For Ross, this event, the clothing line, and his 2015 album release are ways to spread positivity and help inoculate the community against negative influences.
Perhaps Ross’s most important role in tight-knit Uniacke Square, however, is as a positive influence for kids who might heading down the wrong track – almost like a neighbourhood coach.
“Sometimes I will just go to them and say, ‘Man, you shouldn’t be doing this kind of stuff’, and I’ll have a conversation with them,” said Ross, “Because I care about these kids that come out of my community.”
Often times this encouragement helps kids reset their course, said Ross, but “If I feel like it is going back downhill again, that’s when I will talk to them, see where their mind’s at, what’s going on, try to flip it into something positive and keep them on the right path.”
Ross’ efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.
Family SOS recently selected him for their ‘Inspiring Youth Award’, as part of their annual Courage to Give Back Awards ceremonies.
The group stated this is in recognition of “Extraordinary individuals in our community who have overcome adversity in their personal lives. Not only have they found courage to overcome obstacles, they also inspire others by giving back to their communities.”
Ross puts it more succinctly: “It’s all about spreading positive vibes.”