April 22, 2013 – Independence, MO – One of the first things Toriano Porter did when he received word that his 16-year-old son, Toriano II, was shot and killed Sept. 28, 2009 in north St. Louis was “pray to God that my son’s death would not render me useless.”
Since November of 2008, Porter had been on a mission to make a difference in the lives of youth, specifically youth that have been classified at-risk to succumb to some of the harrowing challenges of everyday life.
Porter spent his formative years growing up in the 3400 block of Park Avenue in south St. Louis, one of that city’s most notorious gang, drug and crime hot spots of the last three decades. He knows all too well the pitfalls that await young people who fail to take advantage of an opportunity to learn and educate themselves.
He feared his son’s resistance to his teachings would make his message a moot point.
“I beat myself up for a minute over the situation,” Porter says. “I felt like if I couldn’t inspire my son to greatness, how could I reach out to people that I had absolutely no history with and try to inspire and encourage them? I had a good friend basically tell me to ‘get over it.’ I mean he didn’t put it in those words, but he did tell me that I did the best I could as a parent and to let it be. That helped the process of healing begin.”
Porter will take part in the Writers Place Reading Series from 4 to 6 p.m. June 2 at the Writers Place, 3607 Pennsylvania in Kansas City. He will be joined by fellow author Chalise Bourque of Sarasota, Fla. Porter will read some of the tragic and painstaking poems found in his first book “The Pride of Park Avenue,” a collection of personal essays, short stories and poems about growing up in one of the Midwest region’s toughest neighborhoods.
Currently a business/education reporter at the Lee’s Summit Journal in Lee’s Summit, Mo., Porter was back on the trail two days after his son’s funeral in 2009. He spoke to a group of at least 50 students at Roosevelt High School in south St. Louis. His message to students there was “to dream big and never stop dreaming.”
“Get your education,” Porter told the students. “Don’t end up a statistic. Have a dream and never stop trying to pursue it. There’s always going to be obstacles but have faith that you will see it through.”
One of Porter’s dreams had always been to write a book. Little did he know with the publication of his first book in 2008 would come a responsibility to help inspire some of today’s youth.
“It was put on my heart that the book was my opportunity to testify about the trials and tribulations that I’ve been through as a teenager and young adult,” Porter says of “The Pride of Park Avenue.” “Really, that’s what my book is all about: never giving up on your dreams no matter the circumstances that present themselves.”
Now, more than three years after his son’s death, instead of Porter being rendered useless, he is in ‘live cool’ mode after the recent publication of his second book “James Cool (circa 1985): a classic American novel.”
“James Cool is a work of fiction I describe as a beautiful little love story about a boy, a girl and the boy’s first kiss,” Porter says. “I tried to capture the innocence of youth that so many of us remember and can relate to.”
As for his ‘live cool’ mantra, Porter says events over the last few years of his life –
in addition to his son’s death, his best friend of 23 years was gunned down in 2008 in St. Louis and his best friend from high school committed suicide a year later – has shaped his view on living “a stress-free, drama-free, hater-free and sucker-free life.”
“When you lose your two best friends and your son, you have no choice but to come to grips with your own mortality,” he says. “My worst fears have been realized, so I have no fears. Emotionally, I am cool. I’m good. Don’t feel sorry for me. I will never be some tragic figure from Shakespeare. I’m in ‘live cool’ mode and I’m going to continue to enjoy my life and try to make a difference in the people’s lives I come across on a daily basis. If nothing else, I want to be an inspiration and an example on how to move forward in life despite setbacks.”
Find Porter on twitter @torianoporter and on facebook at www.facebook.com/torianoporter. “The Pride of Park Avenue” and “James Cool” are both available on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.