My family’s from Haiti, but I was born here / Because of Club 310 we have no fear / The Nights might be scary, but I’m safe in the light / And I’ve got my friends / Yeah, I’ve got my friends / We’ve got Lowertown

LT We’re the Next 2 B

Originally published in the Lowertown Echo on November 15, 2022

What does home mean to you? For the past ten years, MASC’s community program Awesome Arts en folie has felt at home in Lowertown, having hosted our eight-week residencies and festival event in partnership with the Lowertown Community Resource Centre. Through this program, our professional artists have had an opportunity to meet, collaborate and create with hundreds of Lowertown children, young people and seniors in all different art forms, and to explore what it means to belong to the Lowertown community.

Music videos have served as a powerful medium for expressing the complexities of Lowertown youth’s relationship to their neighbourhood. In collaboration with spoken word artist JustJamaal The Poet, the young people involved in the creation of these videos pen lyrics that address poverty, violence, discrimination, and isolation, while maintaining a sense of hopefulness and pride about their surroundings and their neighbours.

Videographers Craig Conoley and Randy Kelly capture the Lowertown geography from multiple angles, reflecting the perspectives of outside observers as well as the people living and working there. Locals will recognize the housing complexes, the schools, the parks, the community spaces, the street names and the businesses that make up this community.

Music videos The H.A.T.E. (Humble Ability To Empower) and SUPERGIRLS explore themes of empowerment through words and images; the former includes choreography from Bboyizm Dance Company performed by the youth, and the latter features stop-motion animation led by media artist Tina Le Moine.

Another of these videos, LT We’re the Next 2 B, has over 7000 views on MASC’s YouTube channel and was presented to a live audience at the 2016 Awesome Arts Festival. The video received a lot of meaningful feedback, including from a superintendent from one of the Lowertown apartment buildings:

According to the video description:

He said that he’d seen it all, the violence, the drugs, the cycle of poverty. But then he said that after seeing the video, the passion the youth put into the lyrics, and the love they had for their community, he said it made him resilient. He said that he wasn’t going to give up. And that he was going to go back and keep trying to make a change.

What does home mean to you? For this person, perhaps it means recognizing the reality of his surroundings–positive and negative and everything in between–and despite the challenges, choosing to stay.  Perhaps it means to embrace his community as his home and do whatever he can to ensure that others feel at home there, too.

We at MASC are looking forward to returning to Lowertown in 2023 to celebrate our 11th year of Awesome Arts en folie in the community. Together we’ll create even more works of art that reflect ourselves and our community, in all its forms.