In an area of her home she calls “Quinn’s Corner,” Brenda MacIntyre sings the title song on her brand new album Picking Up the Pieces.
“The music helps me heal,” she said.
Her son, 29-year-old Quinn Taylor, was shot and killed near Spadina Avenue and Nassau Street in downtown Toronto on Jan. 31, 2016.
He was downtown with friends celebrating a birthday when shots were fired outside the New Ho King Restaurant.
David Eminess, 26, was also killed and two others were injured.
Just this summer, Kyle Sparks MacKinnon, 29, was sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder in the shooting.
The journey took a toll on MacIntyre, who turned to her songs as an outlet for her feelings.
“I don’t write them, they write themselves and when they come through they have medicine … so they heal anyone who listens and that includes me. So I take my medicine,” she said.
“Singing is my gift.”
On her website, she writes, “I’ve risen out of multiple dark nights of the soul to re-create myself and my life anew, so that I can help you re-awaken into the power of who you are becoming, and express that beautiful being with confidence and radiance.”
MacIntyre’s Indigenous name is Medicine Song Woman.
Her music is infectious. A blend of multiple genres, including fusion, reggae, soft rap, Indigenous hand drum singing and hip hop.
“I’ve been singing for 35 years professionally and my music has sort of flowed,” she said.
As she performs another song in Quinn’s Corner, her eyes close.
His pictures are all around her apartment.
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“I know that when we do the thing that lights us up, that is healing for us,” she said.
After Taylor’s murder, MacIntyre spent months in shock, searching for the right kind of support.
“It was weird. I remember sitting there going, ‘I don’t have any enjoyment out of this.’ I couldn’t bring myself to sing. I couldn’t bring myself to do anything,” she recalled.
“Once the shock lifted, then I was able to kind of start to find my way back to myself. And that’s why I call the album Picking up the Pieces. It’s like there has to be this big fall apart that happens first … This is traumatic grief. It’s not normal grief.”
When she describes her son, she smiles.
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“He just loved life. He made a life. He had huge energy and he just, like, went out and did life big,” she says.
In memory of her son and all of those who have died as a result of gun violence, she released her album.
It’s infused with medicine, she explains, to help people to feel love, connection and joy along with the grief, pain and trauma.