Manyok Akol, just 18, was fatally shot while he slept inside an Airbnb on Gilmour Street Jan. 8 in what police believe was a targeted attack that also saw three of his friends injured. No arrests have been made in what remains the city’s only homicide of 2020.
But to those who gathered Sunday evening to mourn him — his grieving family, his friends, his community — he was just Manny, their brother, their neighbour.
Pastor Ralph Dartey II read aloud scripture: “For what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?”
Dartey told the hundreds who gathered, so many of them youth mourning their friend, that all the cash in the world, all the material goods, the trappings of the streets that might lure them in, aren’t worth their lives.
The son of African immigrants, just like Manny, he spoke of the path that his family had to carve for themselves and that there needs to be hope from the community that yet another son isn’t slain.
Those gathered had watched, just minutes earlier, a slide show of everything Manny was. Manny smiling. Manny on the football field. Manny making music. Manny graduating from high school. There was a heavy grief in the room.
“What good is it if you go through life trying to achieve all these things and you have everything in the world, you have all the money, you have all the cash, all the cars, everything in the world, but in the process you end up losing yourself?”
Akol was raised on Ritchie Street in Ottawa Community Housing’s Britannia Woods neighbourhood. As a child, he played football across the city but in recent months had focused on making hip hop music as “FTG Metro.”
He was shot in the leg in August 2019 in what remains an unsolved shooting and rapped that “hard circumstances” had led him, a man who was raised well by his family, to change his ways. His songs and social media posts showed images of lots of cash, both fake and real drugs, and his lyrics told the story of his struggle to get out of the ‘hood.
Manny was a “leader with a vision to overcome the odds stacked against young black boys in communities like this,” said Atong Akot, speaking on behalf of their family. Manny was resilient, strong, had a purpose and “had an impact on many people” whether he was buying ice cream for kids in the community or engaging them in heart-to-heart conversations, she said.
“Manyok adored his mother and he wanted to give her the world,” Akot said. “His biggest motivation in achieving his goals was bringing his mother east. The one thing he’d always say, ‘I’m taking my hooyo out of the block.’” It meant he wanted to give his mother a better life.
“He was a mama’s boy,” Akot said, as Manny’s mother clutched the arms of those sitting next to her inside the gym and cried for her dead boy and his dreams. A white poster board held by those grieving next to her pleaded: “We need justice. Stop killing our children.”
“Manyok always wanted his music to reach the world. He may not be here with us today but he is far from done and now it is up to us to spread his name, his music, and his legacy,” Akot said.
They called the vigil to grieve together, organizers said.
And in unison, as they released dozens of white balloons in the night sky on Michele Drive, they yelled his name.
“Rest in peace, Manny. Rest in peace, Metro.”