Hamil­ton owns its suc­cess

it is not a Toronto men­tal­ity mak­ing our city great place

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - LAURA FURSTER

Let me be­gin by stat­ing clearly that I adore Toronto. I grew up in the GTA, did my un­der­grad at the Univer­sity of Toronto, and have spent many af­ter­noons ram­bling around the streets of Kens­ing­ton Mar­ket.

I love Toronto, but I love Hamil­ton even more, and I can no longer watch idly as Toron­to­ni­ans try to claim Hamil­ton’s suc­cess as their own.

Re­cently, Toronto Life boldly de­clared on their cover, “Toronto’s new hot spot: Hamil­ton!” Thanks for the nod, big brother, but Hamil­ton is not ac­tu­ally a district of Toronto. It’s a whole other city, about 60 km away from you, as the crow flies.

I will gladly give credit where credit is due. We all know about the mi­gra­tion of many for­mer Toronto res­i­dents to Hamil­ton, pre­cip­i­tated by im­pos­si­ble hous­ing costs in Toronto. Yes, there has been some added fi­nan­cial and cul­tural en­ergy pumped into Hamil­ton as of late, but no, it is not a Toronto men­tal­ity that’s mak­ing Hamil­ton a great place to live.

I have lived for sig­nif­i­cant lengths of time in Mis­sis­sauga and Guelph, and have been in Hamil­ton now for two years. In my heart and soul, I am a Hamil­to­nian. This city speaks to and for me in a way that no other Cana­dian city ever has. Hav­ing grown and gone through many for­ma­tive ex­pe­ri­ences in other places does not mean that those places can lay claim to my cur­rent suc­cess.

Hamil­ton has a vibe that is not akin to Toronto’s. I have felt vibes sim­i­lar to Hamil­ton’s in Ha­vana and Am­s­ter­dam, but in my ex­pe­ri­ence, Montreal and New York are far more Toron­toesque than we are. It’s not about prox­im­ity — it’s about at­ti­tude.

I hear two dis­tinct sen­ti­ments from peo­ple who are new to vis­it­ing Hamil­ton: “It’s a pretty good city, if you over­look the bad parts,” and “I don’t know what those peo­ple are com­plain­ing about.”

The men­tal­ity that there is some­thing not quite good enough in Hamil­ton’s es­thetic sheen is one that stinks of Toronto. But, it’s not about the ex­is­tence of a few shabby build­ings. It’s not about the good and bad neigh­bour­hoods. It’s not about the home­less pop­u­la­tion. All of these things ex­ist in Toronto, in spades.

It’s about a long-held view that Hamil­ton is not elite, and those who cling to that opinion will never be among those who are con­tribut­ing to Hamil­ton’s great­ness. Be­ing great, for Hamil­ton, does not mean be­ing revered by our neigh­bours. It means be­ing a strong, pro­gres­sive, cre­ative, and com­pas­sion­ate com­mu­nity that is rife with tal­ent and am­bi­tion.

And, if you don’t “get” Hamil­ton, well, that’s just too bad for you.

We don’t need Toronto’s ap­proval to let us know that we’re an in­cred­i­ble city all on our own, and we don’t need to pre­tend that we in­vented the over­sized lawn sign to feel se­cure in our self­hood.

Those who are mov­ing from the GTA or closer cities such as Burling­ton and Oakville be­cause they see great­ness in Hamil­ton are do­ing so be­cause their at­ti­tude jives with ours, and we wel­come them be­cause we rec­og­nize that we are only made stronger by grow­ing our com­mu­nity of like minds.

Re­brand­ing as “HamOnt” rather than “Ham­mer City,” or “Steel­town,” has been part of an ini­tia­tive to re­ju­ve­nate Hamil­ton’s iden­tity. How­ever, I see no shame in re­mem­ber­ing Hamil­ton’s roots. We are so much more than a bunch of Toronto ex­pa­tri­ates — the peo­ple and the in­dus­tries that have led us to where we are now trace a deep and com­plex his­tory, and in­clude both an­ces­tral res­i­dents and new ar­rivals who share a com­mon vi­sion.

Hamil­ton was also once called the Am­bi­tious City. Per­haps it’s time we re­in­state that ti­tle.

Laura Furster is a fine artist, lit­er­ary writer, and jour­nal­ist liv­ing in down­town Hamil­ton. She can be found on Face­book/Twit­ter/In­sta­gram, and at www.laura-furster.com. Con­tact: laura.furster@out­look.com.

Be­ing great, for Hamil­ton, does not mean be­ing revered by our neigh­bours. LAURA FURSTER

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.