Black in Halifax: Josh Creighton is battling stereotypes and empowering North End kids
The 19-year-old Dalhousie student was one of six teenagers who co-founded the North-End Community Action Committee.
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Ask Josh Creighton about the young lives he’s already influenced, despite being just 19 years old, and he’ll brush it off and talk about the “amazing youth” in his community.
Growing up just outside Uniacke Square, Creighton said it was a challenge battling stereotypes about being a Black male from his community.
“As a young person growing up there, there are preconceived notions that kind of limit you. It’s unconscious … and growing up and having those expectations placed upon you takes a very big toll,” he said.
“I wasn’t really able to articulate my thoughts around that until I was older, until people really influenced me, gave me the tools that I needed to get past that.”
When Creighton was in Grade 12, he was one of six teenagers who co-founded the North-End Community Action Committee.
The youth-led initiative’s goal is to assure that "the voices and concerns of Black youth, marginalized communities and North-End residents get addressed, with the overall objective of empowering Black youth to better the communities they live in.” The society organizes a number of community engagement initiatives — the Creighton Street painting project, for example — and has a mentorship program.
Creighton is also involved with Leave Out Violence Nova Scotia, Man Up and the United Way.
The second-year Dalhousie University student is also a volunteer tutor with the SHINE program at the North Branch library. He benefitted from the program himself in high school.
For the past two years, Creighton has been the after-school program co-ordinator at his local YMCA.
“That’s my main vehicle that I use to connect with youth in my community. I love that job. I wouldn’t want to leave that for anything,” he said.
In his “off-time,” Creighton continues making connections and building relationships.
“I very much enjoy taking it down to a grassroots level and being on the front lines interacting with the youth,” he said. “As a young person growing up, that’s what played the most significant role on me... That’s where my passion for youth engagement comes from. I want to be someone that the youth in my community can look up to, because I know what it’s like to grow up and deal with all the things they have to deal with.”
Creighton is optimistic for the future, in large part because youth in his community are increasingly aware of, and committed to, issues of social justice.
“I can name many kids from the community that when I compare myself to them at that age, they’re doing way better than I was doing. It’s just so refreshing to see and it creates hope. And that’s the biggest thing,” he said.
“With all the things going on, it’s easy to lose hope and get distracted and not kind of fall off. With my job and seeing the way these youth carry themselves? It is amazing. It creates hope and it keeps that hope alive.”
His message for the community?
“There’s not much I would change about the Black community in Halifax. It’s a very strong community and it’s a very tight-knit community and I wouldn’t want to grow up anywhere else,” he said.
“But in terms of the Halifax community, I ask for just openness. Openness and a willingness to explore things other than what you're used to."
This story is part of Metro's ongoing Black in Halifax series. Let us know your thoughts on the series, and share your own stories using the hashtag #HalifaxWhileBlack with tweets, Instagram posts and Facebook comments. We may just share it in a future edition.