Book Excerpt for All Eyes on Me
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Families, communities, school system, government, community groups, addictions, justice system, policing, gangs, domestic violence groups and men’s groups .
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My first day at the new school, I went inside the front doors to look for my homeroom class and I was intercepted by the principal and taken directly to his office. I was baffled as to why the principal had removed me from my friends. How did he even know who I was? It was there that I was told I wouldn’t be allowed in the main school—ever. Instead, I was assigned to spend each day in a stand-alone building constructed in the schoolyard called The Hut. I was being segregated from the main school from day one even though I hadn’t been inside it for more than five minutes to cause any trouble. I was confused. Why was I being singled out? The principal firmly told me that my history of fighting in my previous schools justified their decision for segregating me. I was provided no opportunity to prove differently despite crying out for a chance. My pleas were ignored. I was totally deflated of the excitement I felt about attending the new school. It fuelled a growing anger. I felt the world was against me. I felt hopeless.
The principal led me back outside, where I was paraded in front of the students, who stared at me as if I was a prisoner and not a student. I was walked across the schoolyard and placed inside The Hut.
I looked around at the sullen rows of faces while making my way to an empty chair. The classroom was nearly all indigenous kids. The exclusion from the main school and all the activities that went on inside burned. I felt guilty. Yet I had done nothing at this school to be guilty of. All my friends were in the main building, and I was not allowed to enter even to visit them. I couldn’t play with my friends during the lunch hour in the schoolyard either. I was totally banned from school property other than inside The Hut. I would have to meet my friends down the street at a 7-Eleven. My thoughts were a whirlwind of anger, sadness and shame. All the school events throughout the year would go on, but none of us students inside The Hut were allowed to attend or participate. We were a classroom outside of the school system. Even the protests that later came from my mother were met with empty promises and no changes.
The monotony of spending the entire day isolated and disconnected from the rest of the school became unbearable as the weeks went on into the fall season. There were no physical activities or options to play an instrument as part of the curriculum. We were basically housed to keep us from disrupting the “normal” classrooms. Our individual education outcomes held no value to the school as long as the majority of students received a proper education.
My initial eagerness for school quickly cooled. Then it faded. And then it soured.
I said fuck it.
I dropped out of school in grade seven.
Something that means a lot to Vincent is Ogijiita Pimatiswin Kinamatwin (O.P.K)—Ogijiita is the young warrior; Pimatiswin means “good life”; Kinamatwin means moving forward in that good life. Mitch Bourbonniere extended an invitation for Vincent to become part of the O.P.K that helps support marginalized, at-risk, Indigenous young adults and their families. Vincent has been passionately involved in feeding the homeless, delivering over 200 food hampers to Winnipeg homes during the Christmas season and providing clothing to those in need. This has become one of the ways for Vincent to give back to the communities and to the people who have supported him in his own journey. Vincent cannot express the honour he felt when presented with an O.P.K vest, which he proudly wears. His native spirit name is Red Wolf Man.
Gang Action Interagency Network (G.A.I.N.) works on grassroots solutions to gang problems in Winnipeg to prevent youth from joining gangs and to help youths get out of gangs. Vincent readily accepted an offer with G.A.I.N., for which he did his very first presentation, and it was to the Congolese Community of Manitoba.
Winnipeg Police Services Guns & Gangs Unit has trusted Vincent as a dedicated volunteer to be able to live the dream he had while serving his sentence in prison: to tell his story in schools across Winnipeg to community groups, students trying to become police officers, and teenage military cadets. His message is one that is heartfelt and matter-of-fact to prevent at-risk youths from getting involved in gangs and drugs. Vincent has made presentations to community groups about his personal experiences in gangs, prison and addictions for them to learn what they can do to strengthen their family bonds and prevent their children from being drawn into the gang lifestyle.
Current Community Involvements For Vincent Lillie
Vincent mentors at-risk youths involved in Young Thunderbirds where he supports boys up to the ages of sixteen. Providing them with his genuine care for their well-being and telling his own story that relates in many ways to their current lives has been a humbling and rewarding experience for Vincent. He wishes to give these children hope and a pathway to their own successful futures and personal autonomy. Vincent’s title at Young Thunderbirds is Land Worker.
Aurora Recovery Centre invited Vincent to participate in a personal video to raise awareness about addiction, recognizing that many people don’t openly talk about it, don’t know where to go for resources, and to help those who have lost loved ones to addiction. Vincent believes in putting out the message on recovery and was proud to be able to tell his own personal story of addiction. It was humbling to be included at the event held in Winnipeg at The Forks. Vincent has expressed his appreciation for the considerable contributions that Aurora has made to assist him in his own personal journey developing his business plan and actively supporting the promotion of this book.
Behavioural Health Foundation asked Vincent to be a guest speaker for their outreach group that consists of former residents who are still actively in recovery. Vincent embraced the request proudly and took the opportunity to give back to the very organization that was an integral part of his own recovery and self-discovery.
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