The youth of Lowertown have created a song that features powerful lyrics such as, “I don’t want to be another dude on the news, not just another stereotype, not just another homicide”; “pow pow all we hear is the gun sounds, like man put the guns down, I’m so sick of my hood being on the news” and “The nights might be scary, but I‘m safe in the light”. The youth then created a music video: LT We’re the Next 2 B which has over 2400 views after only two weeks on Youtube. The song and video were created as part of the 6th MASC Awesome Arts en folie program in Lowertown.
This community-engaged arts program provides community residents an opportunity to explore issues and to express themselves through the power of the arts. After a 3-month program, over 100 participants aged 5-95 shared their creations at the Awesome Arts en folie Festival on March 24. Councillor Mathieu Fleury was at the Festival. He was so impressed with what the youth had created that he requested a meeting with them. That meeting will take place at the CDF Learning Forum event at City Hall on May 31, 5-8pm where the youth will perform their song and screen their music video. This year, the Learning Forum’s theme is “Celebrating Positive Change in Our Community”. Councillor Mathieu Fleury will be in attendance as may Mayor Jim Watson.
The song was written during workshops led by professional MASC artist Jamaal Rogers. The music video was filmed by youth who worked in collaboration with Craig Conoley of Dan Rascal, a local video production company and recorded by Dean Watson of Gallery Recording Studio. This is the 4th year that Jamaal and Craig have worked with youth in Lowertown to create powerful projects combining words and video.
According to Jamaal Rogers “Awesome Arts provides a safe and creative space for youth to learn and appreciate the value of how their artistic talents matter in the world around them.” The youth felt empowered by the writing experience. 15 year-old participant Stephie Mbokoli said “At times the writing was very competitive because we all wanted to have the best line, but we all had each other’s backs to make each other succeed because we all come from the same struggles.”
At the end of this year’s Festival, one Lowertown resident spoke about being very frustrated with his neighbourhood. He said that he’s seen it all, the violence, the drugs, the cycle of poverty. He shared that before the Festival he was ready to give up on trying to make the community better. He said many times he had to break up fights and he spoke out to improve things but that lately he felt defeated and that things would never change. He spoke about how he had planned to fight people in his building. But after seeing the music video LT We’re the Next 2 B, the passion the youth put into the lyrics, and the love they had for their community made him resilient. He said that the video inspired him and that he wasn’t going to give up on Lowertown. He decided he was going to go back and keep trying to make a change.
2016 marks the eighth Awesome Arts en folie program and festival in Ottawa and the sixth annual program and Festival held in partnership with the Lowertown Community Resource Centre. This year we are proud to have also partnered with the Centre de services Guigues to reach out to the senior residents. Awesome Arts en folie was funded by the Ontario Arts Council, Community Foundation of Ottawa, Seniors Ontario, the City of Ottawa and an Anonymous Donor.
Awesome Arts en folie is a program of MASC, an Ottawa non-profit organization that aims to provide communities with experience of artistic excellent and creative process that awaken creativity, deepen awareness, encourage understanding and give vivid demonstration of Canada’s cultural diversity.