[#RIPNahomBerhane] the story of his death should be about not just 1 #Community, but rather a whole city in #Mourning
By: Jacques Gallant
As usual, Nahom Tsehaie Berhane had a packed schedule last Friday.
He began the day by coordinating a weekly community lunch, before making his way over to a neighbourhood barbecue in the afternoon, and finally a networking event for young leaders in the evening.
Later, the 34-year-old father of two teenage daughters was walking with friends along Danforth Ave. near Greenwood Ave., where he was fatally stabbed around 3 a.m. Saturday.
Police allege Berhane was stabbed following an altercation with another man, who fled when confronted by Berhane’s friends. Osama Abdulaziz Filli, 23, has been charged with second-degree murder.
With that brutal act, as a friend and colleague put it, the city lost “an important part of its civic leadership.”
“When you hear about the next generation of leaders in this city, he was one of them,” said Amanuel Melles, president of the Eritrean Canadian Community Centre and the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs, where Berhane would regularly help out with conferences.
His sister, Arsema, emphasized that her brother’s reach went far beyond the Eritrean community, saying the story of his death should be about not just one community, but rather a whole city, in mourning.
“It’s a life lost senselessly; it’s a young person who had so much to offer, who had big dreams and an even bigger heart,” she said.
He was considered like a close family member to many people in his role as a health promoter at Access Alliance, a community health centre, said its executive director, Axelle Janczur.
She said Berhane, as “our face in the community,” primarily in the east end, would connect with individuals and families and help them access services at the centre. Aside from leading the community lunch on Fridays, Berhane, who had been working at Access Alliance for the past five years, also took care of the income tax filing clinic in the winter, helped organize a summer family picnic and a community health fair, and put together an exhibit for students during Black History Month, said Janczur.
Melles said Berhane was also a founder of the Eritrean Youth Collective, which provides arts-based programming and networking opportunities to Eritrean-Canadian youth.
Passionate for the arts — Janczur called him a “modern-day Renaissance man” — he talked about creating a music studio for youth, something Access Alliance is considering creating as a way to honour him.
Born in Eritrea, Berhane came to Canada on his 10th birthday via Sudan, and grew up in the east end with an older brother and two younger sisters. He graduated in 2005 from the University of Windsor with majors in communications and sociology.
He was a graduate of United Way’s “CITY Leaders program,” and was team captain for the United Way’s annual CN Tower climb. Janczur said he had just completed a project management course at the University of Toronto.
“He was the kind of guy who could see the potential in everybody, and he would talk to anybody,” said Janczur. “People have come in and said, ‘He was my family. He was my brother.’”