I work with Inuit who suffer from addiction and trauma, here in Ottawa, at Tungasuvvingat Inuit’s Mamisarvik Healing Centre. Our clients fly down from Nunavut for 8 week treatment cycles. I lived in Nunavut for about 4 years and managed a youth center in Cape Dorset, a small community of 1200 people. I developed educational and cultural programs for elders and youth. I am working on my social work degree at Carleton University, and I’m all about positivity, healing, social justice and aboriginal rights movements. (Idle No More) The song I just released yesterday, “My Life (Hey, Alright)”, By Cody Coyotee, Hyper T and Myself, is very much about having a hard time with poverty, depression, and touches on many issues that are prevalent in the North, as well as other aboriginal communities all over Canada. The two rappers, Cody and Hype are aboriginal as well. (I am not). Cody is Ojibway and Hype is Inuk from Nunavut. Cody also works with at-risk youth here in Ottawa, and we are beginning to mentor some young artists, assist them with song making, and introducing them to recording in a studio. The producer we’ve been working with, Kemyst, has worked with the likes of Ghostface, Killah Priest and Raekwon from WuTang, as well as other super well known rap/ hip hop artists. Getting the kids into this studio, and having them use the same mic as the GREATS, is very exciting. Also, although the song is about the tough stuff, the verse I sing is about overcoming obstacles, taking control, being resilient, becoming empowered to change and move forward.
We Inspire Change:
What inspired you to create such a program?
It’s really Cody’s project. He has a special interest in the Youth as he struggled a lot with gang related stuff as a kid. He asked me to collaborate with him, make visits to the communications class at a high school in Orleans, ON (Outside of Ottawa), and work with a few kids who have incredible talent. So far, they’ve written verses for the first song that will be a part of Cody’s “Unity” album, that features several local Ottawa artists. It’s a project in progress. I’ve been focusing on wrapping up my semester at Carleton, so I haven’t had the time to write my verse or accompany the kids to the studio yet, soon, though.
Can you tell me about your experiences in Nunavut?
In September, Cody and I performed our own sets individually, as well as many other local artists from Ottawa to raised money for youth programs in the Vanier community (a neighbourhood in Ottawa), as well as another that raised money for a music program for youth at an Aboriginal Friendship centre in Montreal. I went to Iqaluit, Nunavut right after highschool with a taste for adventure and found a lot of it there. I started off working at the Frobisher Inn hotel, then a gift shop, then managed to get a job as the Director of a daycare. I eventually moved to Cape Dorset Nunavut, a small community of 1200 people, and worked as a substitute teacher at the elementary school, and managed the Hamlet’s Qavavau Aningmiuq Sikusilaaq Youth Center. We created several educational and cultural programs for Youth, Elders and the community such as soapstone carving classes, throat singing workshops, themed parties, sleep overs, and cooking classes. There isn’t a lot of activities for kids and youth to be positively engaged in a lot of the smaller Nunavut communities, so it was great to be able to provide a range of interesting and exciting events for them. I feel that it helped to reduce the crime rates, boosted self-esteem within the youth, and gave them something positive to be a part of. The kids at the youth center were like a family who all supported each other with tough issues that they faces including poverty, abuse, suicide and addiction. Many of these issues are prevalent in Nunavut communities and they are all effects of inter-generational trauma that’s been produced from Residential Schools, the Inuit Dog Slaughter, forced relocation and many other oppressive historical acts by the Federal Government.
We Inspire Change:
What was it that inspired you to make such change in the community?
The community is what inspired me. The Inuit in the North inspired me with their tremendous strength and resilience. The injustices done to the people in the past were something awful, but yet they continue to survive. They’re survivors. Every one of them. Because the communities are so small, everything that happens affects every single person, whether it be a tragedy or success. The Inuit just have such humbling values and views of the world. Their connection to the land and the rich culture was something I didn’t experience growing up outside of Toronto. Seeing the amazing amount of creativity and artistic expression within the people and the close family bonds, the preservation of culture and the unique lifestyle, I fell in love. There were kids who would come to the youth center without having anything to eat all day. Food security is also a huge problem in Nunavut, so having cooking classes to provide them with a meal, or activities to keep them off the streets and avoid using drugs, alcohol or violence was enough inspiration for me.
We Inspire Change:
Wow it sounds very inspiring. What is the story behind your new track?
Well, Hype (Hyper T) is a rap artist from Nunavut, and he recently moved to Ottawa to go to production school. We became friends when he moved here. He’s been pretty popular in the North for many years. I met Cody Coyote at a fundraiser, and we became friends. Cody had the idea for all of us to work on a song together, so we got on it right away. Cody and Hype wrote their verses based on their personal experiences with issues of depression, poverty and trying to rise above their struggles. After hearing what their ideas were, I wrote my verse. I wanted the verse to be uplifting and optimistic, hopefully to inspire anyone who listened to the song to identify with the struggles that Cody and Hype speak of, but to keep your head up and see the “positive light.” Onward and upward. That’s the message I think we all wanted to get across to the listeners.
What message would you tell any new artist or person who would like to inspire or would like to make a difference?
Write from your heart, and about your experiences. Your feelings, your goals. If it doesn’t mean something to you, it probably won’t mean something to anyone else. I think that a lot of popular music is clouded with less-than-savory messages, and is filled with a lot of shallow content that lacks real meaning or importance. Music is a really great way to reach people, so if you can stuff it full of positivity and inspiration, your time is never wasted.
We Inspire Change:
Thanks so much. Is there anything else you would like to add?
I would like to add that we’ll be working on a lot of projects in the future, so if people are interested they can follow us on Facebook. There are links to our Soundcloud songs on our Artist’s pages, too.