A Short Story On Our Humble Beginnings

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in summer 2007 i was invited by rea mcnamara on behalf of art starts to co-facilitate a group of emerging artists from across ontario. the result was a collective collaboration we titled PN numero uno: jinch malrex. the piece featured the voices of young people residing in various toronto communities designated as ‘priority neighborhoods’ who were learning how to give and receive love within a microcosm of violence, generosity, loneliness, hope, self-esteem and self-awareness. the fictitious neighbourhood of jinch malrex has heart and soul, strengthened by its community centre and the youth trying to build a better life for themselves and their society.
in the summer of 1993 I moved to canada. I was fifteen years old. my mother enrolled me in the fresh arts creative writing program (a province-wide summer arts initiative that included programs in theatre, dance, music, visual arts, and creative writing). it was here that I received my first exposure to mentee-ship in the arts in toronto. I enrolled in the same program the following year, and the year after that. I can think of a few of canada’s prominent young artists who were mentored in that program including: trey anthony (da kink in my hair), kardinal offishall (international hip hop artist), and j wyze (national radio disc jockey). by 1997 the program was cut.
fast forward to the dub theatre program of summer 2007. i followed the same concept as fresh arts: provide training and teaching opportunities for young people and they will excel as future leaders in society. pn numero uno: jinch malrex was a dub/rap theatrical piece developed collaboratively by da urban griots of t-dot: a collective of storytellers who first came together as learners in the art starts summer dub theatre program. the ten week long exploration was conceptualized and co-ordinated by rea mcnamara and I designed and directed it. we followed a program based on the then four elements of dub poetry: language, rhythm, political content and orality. this program was crucial in the expansion of the four main principles of dub into the eight principles of the sorplusi method. theatre/music practitioners such as weyni mengesha, amina alfred, joseph pierre and nation gave willingly of their crafts to lead the young people in training workshops.
the emerging artists involved in the program excelled as creators and storytellers, writing and performing from a place of personal experience. all the writing they produced was original. their courage was evident in the piece and was a testament to the tenacity of the human spirit.

in this moment the seed for The Watah School was planted.

– d’bi.young anitafrika

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