Scarborough.

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When Farley attended the then newly opened Lester B. Pearson Collegiate Institute, Scarborough was its own city. The school won the city's high school basketball tournament for four straight years.

Behind the scenes of Farley Flex’s Scarborough pride video: How he discovered rapper Maestro

The Canadian Idol star and music executive describes how he got his entrepreneurial start in Malvern.

To round out our series of reports that seek to challenge entrenched stereotypes about Scarborough, we created a video featuring Malvern native and former Canadian Idol judge Farley Flex. In it, Farley describes how growing up in Scarborough shaped him as an athlete, a music entrepreneur and an engaged citizen with deep interest in community development. Now, I want to share some behind-the-scenes tidbits that reveal how this video came together.

I’d seen Farley in the community — once at a R.I.S.E. event where he told attendees about an upcoming workshop that aimed to facilitate honest conversations between Toronto police officers and black youth, and another time at Don Montgomery Community Recreation Centre near Midland Avenue and Eglinton Avenue East, where I saw him giving daps to high school students before accompanying them to a weekly drop-in session. At the time, I didn’t know about this side of Farley.

Of course, I knew who Farley was due to his reputation as a music industry executive who’d managed award-winning Canadian rapper Maestro Fresh Wes and who’d later become a reality-television personality. So, when my colleague Anita Li and I came up with the idea of producing videos to reflect why Scarborough residents are proud of their hometown, we immediately thought of him.

Farley Flex (left) takes a break during our interview in the school’s library, while videographer Paul Ohonsi reviews footage.

When I asked Farley what place in Scarborough meant the most to him, he quickly replied, “Lester B. Pearson, my high school.” That’s why, on a wintry December afternoon, our videographer Paul Ohonsi, Farley and I met at Lester B. Pearson Collegiate Institute to start the shoot. While walking through the hallways and gym, we ran into some people who knew about Farley and his connection to the school.

There were many outtakes that didn’t make it into the final video. Here’s one in which Farley recounts how he first met Maestro at a roadhouse restaurant near Kennedy Road and Sheppard Avenue East:

This week, we published another video featuring upcoming writer Leanne Toshiko Simpson who talks about a hidden space in Scarborough: the Shoniker Clinic at Scarborough Health Network, which specializes in assessment and treatment services for young people with mental health problems. The clinic helped Leanne when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in high school.

What are some of your favourite Scarborough spaces? I’d love to learn more about the places that hold deep meaning for you. Email me your thoughts.

Spotlight

Hana Syed, a 22-year-old UTSC student, is passionate about advocating for affordable housing for students.

Hana Syed is a student at the University of Toronto Scarborough and vice-president external for the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union. Hana also founded a nonprofit organization called Global Youth Impact, and plays in a band with her three siblings, called Deys Official (check out this video they did for Canada’s 150th anniversary).

When it comes to describing Scarborough, Hana picks a musical metaphor. “Harmony. That’s the word that comes to mind. I even have a harmony banner up right now, in my office,” the 22-year-old says. “People with so many unique experiences and backgrounds all find home in Scarborough. It creates a beautiful mix.”

Although Hana views the diversity of her community as a strength, residents’ perspectives don’t get reflected in broader public discourse, especially when it comes to transit, she adds. “Whether they use the TTC or the GO, there’s a huge demographic of commuters in Scarborough. But it’s at the edge, so it gets left out.”

Story Circle: Transit edition

Attendees listen to each other at Scarborough Discourse’s Story Circle, which focused on transit issues, on Thursday, Feb. 28.

Last night, we held our Story Circle: Transit edition at the East Scarborough Storefront. A diverse group of more than 30 engaged community members came out on a wintry evening, including three city councillors representing Scarborough: Jim Karygiannis, Cynthia Lai and Jennifer McKelvie.

Everyone had been forewarned: We didn’t want to hear the usual talking points. Instead, we wanted to understand how public transit fits into the daily lives of Scarborough residents. Do they carry groceries on the bus? Do they drop off and pick up their kids from school using the subway? How do they cope with transit delays?

Many thanks to everyone who attended. I’ll reflect your community-driven solutions and insights in an upcoming article, so please look out for that. Anita and I hope to see you at our next Story Circle!

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