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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Friday 4 October 2013

Play It Again, Ford!

Yes, there is more than one Casablanca reference that applies to Rob Ford.

And on this matter of music, he's bang on.

Many of the marginalized youth I talk to in this city from "Priority Neighbourhoods" (or whatever designation they go by these days) are really into The Arts.  They want to be the Next Big Thing with their singing, their dancing, their mixing.

It's all well and good to brush these kids off as going through an idealistic and unrealistic "garage band" phase of their lives - not everyone gets to be the next Drake, after all.  But it's way too simple a message to tell marginalized youth to "get over" their dreams and focus on reality, i.e. getting a real job.

For many of these kids, that's not an option.  They face postal code stigma, lack the soft skills (how to read body language, how to manage deadlines, corporate communication, etc.) and networks/family connections that really help land the good jobs out there.  To take away their music is essentially to leave them without hope.  When you can't succeed by playing the rules and are made to feel like you don't belong, crime and gangs become a tantalizing option to have somewhere to belong and get respect.

More to the point - there is a lot of untapped talent emerging from these communities.  Like Ragtime emerged from the dark corners of New Orleans, there truly is something artistically special emerging from neighbourhoods like Lawrence Heights and Flemingdon Park.  Perhaps it's because they aren't being forced into less rewarding but actually financially sustainable paths that these kids are pouring their energy and efforts into honing their artistic skills.  Whatever the case is, the kids' got talent.

I imagine that through his involvement with youth through football and other activities, Ford's gotten wind of this, too.  Which is probably why he's pursuing this musical dream in the first place.  There's more to this picture than just music, though - because the really passionate, focused youth are taking their love of music to the next step.

These emerging leaders aren't just pursuing ways to turn their talents into careers - they're looking for ways to empower their peers to do the same thing.

Youth with dreams and drive like Hopeton Latouche and Nikoletta Parousis are finding partners, crafting business plans and project and honing their voices while building their networks.  These kids have a powerful mission - to empower their peers with the tools they need to succeed.

See, "The Arts" isn't some frivolous waste of sociology-committing time; it's a conduit, a prism that focuses passion and talent into direction and planning.

The youth that we really want to reach in Toronto don't get in to crime because they're bad seeds - it's because they lack alternatives plus the steps to get on more sustainable paths.  

By channelling their passions and using their artistic dreams as focal points to develop soft skills like planning, presentation and brand-building, we can help turn their aspirations into tomorrow's reality.

Which is what the Mayor's job should be about in the first place.

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