The night before Shoot For Peace’s “Nostalgia” photography exhibit, captured by Sumeya


For most of my life, I never truly felt like I belonged anywhere, no matter how much I neglected parts of myself that were fighting to get the opportunity to shine. However, little did I know there would be a day when I would walk into a space that would finally make sense for me. A space that showed me that being my authentic self was possible. I found people who never allowed me to dim the light they saw in me and the passion they felt with every word I spoke. Shoot For Peace, in my eyes, became the second home I never knew existed or expected—a place where my younger self would’ve wished to be sooner. 

The street 276 Carlaw Ave became more than just another street in the city. It became the intersection of where I would ultimately decide to be creative unapologetically. When I first heard about Shoot For Peace, it was through a friend. She expressed that Shoot For Peace was precisely what I needed at the time. I only understood what she meant long after I was accepted into the program. Moments after the final exhibit, that same friend walked with me outside and explained why she knew Shoot For Peace was the place for me. She explained that she knew I had it in me to be whoever I wanted to be artistically. I learned in the six months of being a studio regular that I have control over my self-limiting beliefs, and Shoot For Peace helped me break those limits. With the level of thoughtfulness, comfort and trust surrounding the studio and suffocating anyone who walked in, I knew I finally felt safe to be me. Although I don’t know who I will become, Shoot For Peace allowed me to choose what that version of me decides is suitable. I realized in those months that being in that space has healed me in ways I didn’t know I needed to be healed. 

Slowly, days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and before I could realize that time was slipping, my art was hanging on a wall. I was relieved because I finally had the opportunity to be proud of myself in public. The exhibit taught me that it was okay to be proud of how far you’ve come, regardless of your perception of a big or small win.

To whoever ends up reading my story, the main message I want you to leave with is that whether you join a program or you don’t, Shoot For Peace will always have a place for you and me.