Friday, 24 December 2010

Empowering Youth One Tour at a Time

Attending a largely white populated Ottawa high school was not easy, as Dawit recalls being the centre of discrimination.

Dawit, who is of Ethiopian, Ukrainian and Scottish descent, remembers being compared to children in developing countries who were being sponsored by Plan Canada.

Seeing that her peers misunderstood her background and had the wrong ideas about her culture, Dawit started a black history club with her principal when she was in Grade 11.

“We started doing the programming in high school because there were problems that we were noticing in the school system,” says Dawit. “I was one of two or three black students and I experienced a lot of discrimination and racism when I was in high school.”

After having graduated and pursued her post-secondary education at the Harris Institute for the Arts in Toronto, Dawit, 30, never thought the small club she started in high school would come back to life, let alone become her full-time job.

But it did, when it revived in 2004.

“I realized that there were a lot of other social justice issues. Not just looking at racism and equity issues, but in terms of human rights, children’s rights, and women’s rights. [Many] organizations wanted to communicate to young people about [these issues], but the organizations weren’t able to do it in a palatable or interesting format,” she says.

Joining forces with Anita Wong and Patrick McCormack, the club became 411 Initiative for a Change, a non-profit organization that uses arts and culture for young people to educate themselves on social justice issues.

“We look at and treat issues that affect young Canadians. It could be something like HIV/AIDs, violence against women, we look at children’s rights, and the stories of young people around the world who are also living in Canada,” Dawit says.

All three founding members have a background in the arts, allowing them to collaborate their skills to create arts programming, which Dawit says appeals more to students.

Dawit and Wong have worked together in international development as well as the music industry, while McCormack is an artist who has also worked in sound engineering and production.

“We were able to revive 411 because our formats use music, pop culture, and dance, which are much more interesting for young people.”

Six years later, 411 Initiative for a Change has reached over 300,000 students across Canada and focuses on other issues such as safe sex, gender equality and children’s rights.

Touring with professional musicians and artists, 411 Initiative for a Change works with students who are imprisoned or in inner city schools to give them a chance to express their ideas through their arts-creation programming that use different forms of art which include visual art, drama, and poetry.

The organization has also collaborated with other organizations such as Alicia Keys’ Keep a Child Alive, which provides AIDS care for families in developing countries, the AIDS Committee of Toronto and worked with music channel MTV to film documentaries surrounding youths living in Sudan, Colombia and Haiti.

Although, 411 Initiative for a Change has reached millions of people since it first started when Dawit was in high school, the main focus of her organization remains the same: to get students to speak out and raise awareness on social issues.

“We’re not an organization that asks you to join up with us or start a club. It’s more about encouraging discussion. So for the schools who bring us in, we’re an opportunity to get discussion started around topics that students may not have wanted to talk to their teachers about,” Dawit says.

Remembering her own experiences of sitting through school assemblies, Masia One, a Toronto-based rapper and producer, says she never felt connected to special presentations about global issues because she felt they were boring and out of touch with young people.

But after doing presentations and tours with 411 Initiative for a Change, Masia One, whose real name is Maysian Lim, is touched knowing that she has made an impact on students to make a difference.

“After tours, I’ve had kids come up to me crying. Even now and maybe six months after the last tour we did, I [still] have kids emailing me and telling me it was the best thing they’ve ever learned in school,” she says.

Having pursued an architecture degree with a minor in economics from the University of Toronto, Masia One thinks an organization like 411 Initiative for a Change is great, as it helps artists like her encourage students to go to school.

“I’m a rapper. This is my full-time job. There are a lot of kids that I meet that want to get into the music industry and want my record label to sign them, but at the end of the day, I try to put upon them that I also have an architecture degree. I have that option in case I want to go into it.”

Having had the opportunity to travel to World AIDS conferences in Sweden and Mexico as well as Ethiopia to meet and work with young children, Dawit plans to continue focusing on issues such as HIV/AIDS as well as introduce new issues such as bullying and raising self-esteem in young women.

“One of the things we are working on this fall is producing a program on girls. We’ll be looking at self-esteem, we’re looking at bullying, and especially online bullying. This is something that [many schools] have been having a lot of difficulty with.”
But on a grassroots level, Dawit also wants to focus on anti-racism, the topic that started 411 Initiative for a Change in the first place.

“It’s something we haven’t treated in the last five years and we’re going back and producing a program with MTV looking at racism in Canada and how young people experience it, where they experience it, and what you do if you experience racism.”

Masia One says that students should understand the importance of making a difference, noting that Dawit started this program at a young age.

“She took the effort to do something about [racism] and educate people instead of getting angry or becoming reclusive. I think that it’s very inspiring for these high school kids to learn and understand that Tamara started 411 in high school and now it’s a tour that goes across Canada. I think it’s one of the best arts education programs in Canada.”

Picture From:  Walter & Duncan Gordon Foundation

Sunday, 19 December 2010

HELP?!?!?! How do I take these in??

I still haven't quite finished my Christmas shopping, but I wanted to avoid the mall at all costs due to a crazy rampage of shoppers.  I told my parents that I would buy them whatever they wanted when we go to our next road trip to the States...just so it would make all of our lives easier.  At least I have made some progress.  I DID buy my sister her gift already.

So in avoidance of the mall, what better way is it than to go spend my Saturday afternoon at the Salvation Army?  It's been too long since I've been there.  There were these beautiful witchy like boots, but unfortunately they were a size too small!! That makes me sad.

I wish I could have found more treasures, but I at least came out with something nice...I think.  I found these beautiful tie dye silk pleated shorts from Rachel Roy!

Unfortunately, they are a few sizes too big. But how could I resist such a buy? They were ONLY $4 and the texture was sooo soft and smooth!  And besides, the design, is just wild enough for me.

So my question here is, how do I take these in to make them slimmer? Any tips?  I know I could easily go to a tailor, but wouldn't it be cheaper and thriftier to do it on my own? Certainly wouldn't be too hard.  If anyone knows any good tutorials and tips, please share them with me!

I have a habit of buying clothes that are too big for me. Blame my mother who used to tell me that I'll eventually "grow into it". Tutorials would truly be helpful!!

 On another note, I beat QWOP!!!! I'm a national hero!!! It is honestly one of the hardest games. But I found a way to conquer it!! Always a track athlete =D

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Let's Back Up to my China Days.

It always excites me at the prospect of being able to go on vacation. Though as terrible as it seems, I was never a big fan of trips with my direct family. Of course I love and care about them, but being in a foreign place with no one but your family to turn to can be quite annoying. Not only that, there really isn't anyone your age to associate with or to make friends with!

A year ago, in the summer of Grade 11 (this sounds ages ago!), I was given the opportunity to travel to China with a group of students...with no parents!  Well of course there were teacher supervisors, but to know how easy it was to sneak out of the honestly a joke.

 To think that didn't want to go in the beginning with fears of being the oldest student, is something I deeply regret. China say the least...the single most amazing experience I have ever had in my life thus far. I went in thinking that I was one of the oldest, and that I wouldn't make any friends. I have no idea why I do this all the time, but I always have my self-doubts.

When I found out that a friend I knew since Grade 9 was going on the trip as well, some of the weight came off of my shoulders.  I was finally able to relax, take a chill pill and just enjoy! And besides, I ended up making many friends, for which I am grateful to have met.

However, this is not a post about making friends.  Although it does have a big part in this, this post is really about taking chances to travel alone without your family to gain more experiences.

During my two week trip to China, I not only saw several tourist attractions such as the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Bird's Nest, the WaterCube, and Tienanmen Square. What came with that were fun times and inside jokes (AWWWW CORNY) and several useful lessons such as how to properly cross a street full of crazy drivers, how to bargain with the locals, how McDonalds in China is so much better than the ones in Canada, how Wal-Mart in China is amazing, and of course how to take care of myself (*CUE MORE AWWWS*)

And the food...the food was amazing. I wish I had taken more photos of the food.  I sincerely regret that. However, the taste will always remain  in my memories (hehe).

Nevertheless, I have learned my lesson. Never pass by a traveling opportunity. I believe that everyone must take a pilgrimage to their home country at least once in their life.

 More awesome in real life I tell you!  Just wish I was there a year back when Usain Bolt beat the world record!
 Carson and I chilling with the Olympic Mascots. I wish I brought one home!!
 I assure you, I didn't eat any of that!  Only in China...

Why can't Canada have such goodness?

 Friends!!!! I think we should get together soon!! ? YES?

 This was when I conquered the Great Wall!! Well there is one thing for sure, I didn't like wearing these green shirts. We stood out like Christmas lights!!!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

So you want to be a journalist?

Today my fellow journalism friend sent me a funny video making fun of the career of an aspiring journalist.

Now of course this was a bit of an exaggeration, but I couldn't help but wonder a little bit about my career.  

I have always known that many, many journalists struggle with finding jobs after graduating from post-secondary education.  However, I always thought that if I tried really, really hard, I would be able to get by.

Now of course that would be the case for every single career but I always fear that my voice wouldn't be heard. That I, would not be able to make a difference in the world. 

And then there's the money factor which worries me a teeny bit about not being able to afford my own home and enough money to raise a family. I mean, I don't want to be 30 and living at home with my parents.

It would not be ideal for me to live the hermit life behind the computer screen in my parents' basement.  Already, living at home and not being to get into residence is making me feel this way.

But maybe I should stop worrying, because I'm only 18 and there is much to come in my future.  Instead, I should really study for French, and prepare for this presentation I have to do in front of high school students tomorrow.

And besides,perhaps if I can't get by with what I'm doing, maybe I can just marry a rich man. I mean, I'm charming right??

Just kidding. 
Though one thing is for sure, I will try not to fit into the above stereotype of the poor little piggie who wants to be a journalist.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Tis the Season to go

You know what I love about Christmas?

The act of presents to my loved ones that is.

However, my Christmas shopping progress hasn't been doing so great.  I only bought one gift.  The rest, were presents for me. 

Going to school downtown has seriously affected the way I spend my time and money.  Not a week goes by where I don't end up buying a little 'somethin somethin' for me.  It certainly doesn't help the fact that I there are so many sales taking place this time of the year.  Most especially, at H&M.

There's this crazy bonanza at the accessories section where many things are priced at $2, $5, $10, $15 and $20.  Knowing what a thrifty Asian I am, I rushed towards the $2 section...hehehehe.

I usually don't feel guilty for buying things on sale, but knowing that I have been spending a bit too much, the guilt started to kick in.

So the question I have here today is:  What's the use in Christmas shopping when I only buy things for myself?

I wonder if this is a tactic to lure us Christmas shoppers to SPEND SPEND SPEND!  Probably.  Or perhaps they're making Christmas shoppers buy more things by spending MORE money. 

My GOSH, H&M is such a marketing GENIUS...they're getting richer...while I get poorer...

But I couldn't help it.  I look too cute with my new hair accessories. (VANITY)

 Honestly, how can anyone resist a flower that makes her (or him) look like an Asian princess???

EAT YOUR HEART OUT KATE MIDDLETON!! There's a new princess in town.  STEP ASIDE, I'm going to be the next MULAN!!!!!!

 I'm totally joking.....I look like a complete idiot...but a cool one, I hope. 

Seriously.  This is what I call the face of a winner. 

P.S. I went to H&M yesterday and saw that beautiful ruffle and lace shirts were selling for $7!! I was going to buy one, but I decided to resist myself.  NO MORE SHOPPING UNTIL I AM DONE EXAMS!!!!

Note to self:  STEP FAR FAR AWAY FROM H&M.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Tumblr's down= OMG MY LIFE IS RUINED.

For those of you on Tumblr, the following image must be quite familiar to you. 

 For the past 24 hours, Tumblr was unavailable due to a maintenance issue that took down a critical database cluster (whatever that means...), thus bringing down the entire network.

Now as a Tumblr user, this posed as a small irritant when I wanted to procrastinate from studying. To others, the effect of Tumblr's "black-out" was much more dramatic.

All over my Facebook and Twitter feeds, I saw status updates complaining about the site's downfall.

"TUMBLR'S down.  Means life is down."
"I've been refreshing Tumblr for three hours now!!!"
"R.I.P. TUMBLR....."

I think you get the point.

But the bigger question I have is:  Why is Tumblr being down such a big inconvenience?

To me, Tumblr is just a place to reblog and re-post pictures, quotes, and funny memes. It becomes excessive spamming and nobody cares at all what original content you decide to put onto your blog  To me, Tumblr's just a bit of a distraction (although it is fun at times!) 

From observing everyone's frustrations to Tumblr's service fail to the happiness and "Hurrahs!" of the site being back up again, it really makes me wonder what kind of impact Tumblr has had in all of our lives.  Barely anything posted is original, you see things that have been posted five times already, and things are reblogged so often that it's gotten to the point where you don't know what the hell you've put onto your blog.

I realize I sound like some bitter fool over here, but I just want to ask if all this was really necessary.

Not to rain on anyone's parade...but there IS a world (GASP) that exists outside of Tumblr (YES, a world with life that is more than looking at memes, pretty pictures, GIFS, and blogs).

Perhaps, we might need to reevaluate the ways we spend our time.

Though enough with the ranting. The resurrection of Tumblr has brought many humourous memes and quotes that I would like to share with all of y'all.  

"I survived the Tumblr blackout of 2010." 

Your life is sad. I'm sorry.

LOVE the Spongebob reference.

And my absolute personal favourite...
I honestly have no words to describe this.

Thursday, 2 December 2010


Does it ever bother you when someone tells you that you've pronounced a word wrong?

It kind of bothers me.

No, actually it bothers me a lot. Especially, when it's on video for everyone to see.

Human mistake...

Maybe I need a phonics lesson. Who knows?  I did always find phonics fun in elementary school....

Anyways, I pronounced a word wrong in this corny video, and I will give you 10 points if you guess the word!!

This video is a reflection of the Big Question feature I was stressing over all last week!