Documenting stories from Toronto’s arrival city, Scarborough.
When my family decided to leave the Arabian Gulf, it was because they wanted to see us have more opportunities than they had working as migrants in a foreign land.
We made it to Toronto, Canada in the summer of 1999, with life feeling even more foreign. Just a month before the millennium, we moved into an apartment building in the east end of Scarborough. This apartment building and Scarborough has remained my family’s home since then.
Like many other newcomers arriving from different parts of the world, I got my start to a new life in Scarborough. This is where I would have to learn to navigate the good, bad and ugly of growing up in an arrival city.
Defining the arrival city.
The term arrival city has different aliases which are often used to describe neighbourhoods that exist on the outskirts of major cities like Mumbai, Panama, Bangkok, Sydney, Toronto, Paris or Los Angeles.
Most often these neighbourhoods are also followed with the labeled as at risk, marginalized, low income or under resourced. Some may see them depicted more as ghettos, favelas, slums, shanty towns or barrios of the developing countries and in the more developed countries others know them as the Hispanic quarters, the Chinatowns, Little India’s and other ethnic enclaves.
For me, arrival cities are a symbol of the layered cultural diversity painted by the many migratory movements of our world over time.
A breeding grounds for a raw potential of underdog survival lives in every arrival city. This potential is always marked by the dream of becoming successful which in most eyes is met by need to move out to someplace better than here.
Regardless of where these arrival cities are situated or what they are called or who represents them, one fact remains in common for its inhabitants. The fact that we all want a life for our families that is better than what we had before.
A double edged dream that seems to end in a demise of the arrival city.
The tale of the 6ix
In the case of Toronto, its surrounding arrival cities became suburbs after the amalgamation of the 6 boroughs (which included Scarborough) into the city of Toronto in 1998. This is a move than many criticize today as what further marginalized some of these neighbourhoods that exist beyond the margins of the city centre.
Over the next decade as I transitioned from a disengaged kid on the block to an engaged civic leader working around the world. I would also witness the growth of Toronto but not see much change in Scarborough.
I wondered if success could be found in these come up cities for young people, when most of their energy was focused onto making it in the bright lights of the downtown hustle & bustle.
Scarborough had a different kind of hustle. More often I would see it be the portrayed in the media, mostly for its negative challenges around crime or violence than for the untapped potential of human capital that contributes towards the vibrancy of Toronto.
Which brings me to the Scarborough Made Photo Project.
After having the opportunity to work and travel around a number of communities with a similar build to Scarborough, I’ve come to see arrival cities around the world as unique economies of their own, filled with beautiful life stories of hustle, struggle and hope.
This year as I want to give back to the city that raised me by sharing my craft and documenting the stories which highlight the realities of coming up from Scarborough.
So join me in telling the story of Toronto’s East by contributing your voice as someone who is #ScarboroughMade
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