addiction, advice, Letters, Mental Health Support, MentalHealth, Message from Little, SpotLight, Surrey BC

What Do Black Voters Need in Surrey?

This post contains conversations about cannabis and is adult in nature. Like all medications cannabis should be used with caution and only with the adherance of a medical professional and or adult presence.

Too many times Black folk across the globe have seen their children murdered at the hands of white cops. It’s going to happen here eventually if we’re not careful. Surrey has more Black voters now than they’ve ever had before, and while we’re few and far between, we still need to be heard and listened to.

Surrey BC is known as the city of parks, but it should be known as the city of diversity. Surrey is one of the most diverse cities on the lower mainland, but you’d never know that when you drive around. There are a handful of ethnic restaurants that cater to Mexican and African food, but not many.

There are very few places for visiting Black football players to get their hair done, which means there are only a few places out here that do Black hair, which means little girls across the city are either getting their hair done by friends, or family. That’s money that we’re losing because we’re not catering to the Black population.

Cannabis is a Black tradition, every Black kid in every place in the world has one or ten family members who use cannabis, but because of stigma, racism, and bad advertising by marketing companies, no one in the Cannabis industry is allowed to have a business in Surrey. I’m not even allowed to talk about cannabis without adding a disclaimer.

There’s a problem with that when the medication of cannabis is clearly helping so many people around the world. Again, more money we’re losing to other cities that could be used on education, hospitals, nurses, and doctors, money that we could spend on much-needed infrastructure to support the rapid growth of this great town.

Black voters in Surrey need a mayor who hasn’t been arrested on public mischief charges, while then making those same voters provide him with legal services when he should be paying his own bills to do the responsible thing.

They need to know their children, specifically, their daughters are safe, and they need to understand that with so few of us in such a large area, we have to stick together, which means having places we can go where we can hang out with others who are like us in environments that foster some sense of community and connection.

With the rise in gang violence, we need anti-gang programs that are more about helping at-risk youth than they are about catering to the public.

I am tired of opening the paper to see another dead young person who has been shot by a gangster because they got involved in something they never really wanted to. Being the city of parks is fine I guess, but I’d rather be the city of the community again.

I know it’s been tough since the beginning of the pandemic, but when we do get to gather again I want to see all the beautiful Black families of Surrey BC coming together and the only way they are going to do that is if they feel comfortable and safe in the community.

That’s never going to happen if we don’t address the very real problems of sex and violence and gang culture that come with living in Surrey BC. These things don’t have to come with our city, we don’t have to allow them.

With a lack of school-funded programs and too much time on their hands kids gravitate toward gangs, company, and community. If they can’t fit in in their schools they’re going to try and fit in somewhere and often that ends with violence and trauma.

We can post police officers outside the social assistance offices and get those drug dealers off the street, we can host a gun for cash program where guns get turned in, and in return, the people turning them in get cash without the questions.

It’s worked in other cities and it can work here, and before you ask where the money could or would come from, we could allow Cannabis Educators such as myself to give seminars on cannabis to educate the community and some of the proceeds could go to buying back guns.

I know hundreds of well-funded cannabis companies that would love to get their start or build a bridge through Surrey, too many kids are being put into the jail system for cannabis crimes, usually when the crime is holding a joint or six in their pocket.

I remember talking a cop-out of arresting an 18-year-old kid for holding a bottle of alcohol, to be fair I was twenty-three and he’d bought it to impress me. We had a great time that night, not because we were drinking because I still didn’t drink as much back then, but because he didn’t get arrested. He actually stopped drinking a few years later, but the point is that situation could have ended very differently because he was a few months shy of his 19th birthday.

We have tons of new housing, but none of it is for people living below the poverty line. I remember an old friend who was very excited about his postage stamp of an apartment. He was excited because it cost him 100,000$ to live at the top of the building and the view was shit. A bunch of old rooftop buildings back then, nothing too exciting to look at.

Now the view is incredible because there are other buildings to look at, but back then, $100,000 was to my mind completely wasted. The development across Surrey has been beautiful, it’s been great for economic growth, it’s been great for inviting new citizens, but those new citizens need to trust their government has their best interest at heart but right now what’s happening doesn’t make sense.

It makes sense to defund the RCMP and move to a more official Policing system, but it doesn’t make sense that these cops are not prepared for life in Surrey. Six or seven years ago when I was working at the church we’d never had a violent incident.

This year a gun went off and someone was shot, another person was stabbed at the same place. It’s not because the people there don’t know how to do their jobs, it’s because the level of mental health issues they are dealing with now are so much more severe than what we had to deal with back then.

With the opioid crisis killing people across the planet, Surrey has to really deal with the idea that it may soon come time for us to think about having a Safe Injection site somewhere here in the city, but so few people want to have that conversation because then it would have to mean admitting that we have serious issues with poverty and houselessness in this city.

Years ago I asked the then Minister of Housing whether or not we knew how many people living in the forests and surrounding streets were also living with addiction issues or who were completely sober. He responded by asking a room full of church volunteers and mental health advocates whether or not it mattered.

It matters. If we’re really going to be able to help people living houseless in Surrey British Columbia, we need to know why they are living where they are living.

We need to know what these people need, specifically so that we can help them if that’s what they so desire, if we don’t care about this in particular, then we can’t say that we’re really helping them at all.

If we can’t help our city’s most vulnerable, citizens, then what are we even doing here? I know I am not looking at life through the lens of someone on the front lines anymore, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t care.

There are so many things like safe injection sites, like affordable housing for our population’s most vulnerable people, like better medical care that we’re not talking about that we need to start talking about, but none of this can happen with Doug McCallum in office anymore.

I don’t know who I am going to vote for, but I know for damned sure it’s not going to be a man that cares more about his legacy as mayor than he does about what that legacy as mayor represents.

Sending all my love

Devon J Hall

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