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Hip-hop activism for First Nations youth

Thursday May 1, 2003

David Dacoine of the Vancouver hip-hop music collective Tribal Wizdom is using his brand of music as a way to raise social consciousness among youth.

May 1, 2003: Volume 30 #08

Dacoine, a member of the Saulteau First Nation in B.C., hosted a workshop called "Hip Hop 101" to introduce the art and culture behind rap at a regional youth conference in Sioux Lookout, April 24-27.

Hip-hop, which often features politically-inspired raps, originated in the black community of New York City but Dacoine is encouraging First Nations youth to take it up as a way to express themselves, as he has himself over the past five years.

"It's using contemporary tools to empower young people," he said. "They're not going to listen to politicians, they're going to listen to musicians."

"Hip-hop sometimes has mixed messages of violence and hate but when you put it in an indigenous format it's much different. Then it's about sovereignty and self-determination."

With a second workshop in Sioux Lookout, "Hip Hop How2," Dacoine planned to teach conference delegates how to write and perform their own rhymes.

"What we're trying to do is create resistance (against social injustice)," said Dacoine, who has recorded two singles that haven't been released commercially.

"Hip-hop is about picking up a pen instead of picking up a gun."

About 70 youth, ranging in age from 13 to 19, participated in the conference, which was titled "4 Days 4 Action" and hosted by the Sioux Lookout Anti-Racism Committee and the Sioux Lookout Youth Council.

Visiting participants included youth from Lac Seul, Pelican Falls First Nations High School, Grassy Narrows, Winnipeg, Kenora, and Thunder Bay.

In a workshop called the "Brown Book Project," young Muslim-Canadian activists provided background information on Islam, as well as the struggles that Islamic people have faced with racism and media bias in a post-Sept. 11 world.

In "the brown book" distributed at the workshop, "You found stories dedicated to activists working at places like the Red Cross and community organizations dedicated to positive change," said conference organizer Diane Adams, 18.

Those profiles were contrasted with negative stereotypes associated with Islam, such as terrorism, dictatorships and backwards thinking, she said.

Other workshops featured former Sioux Lookout Anti-Racism Committee staff member Gillian Roy sharing experiences of her work with street people in Winnipeg and Sarah Habinski talking about her time in Sri Lanka with Canada World Youth.

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