The first day of the Bridging the Gap National Youth Forum has come and go and it was such an amazing day. The image above is taken from Canadian Roots Exchange’s twitter account. The Forum kicked with prayers in the indigenous culture and speaking about the land that we are on. This was followed by few speakers including the mayor of Winnipeg, Brain Bowman. He welcomed us to Winnipeg and also talked about the recent report published by Maclean magazine saying that Winnipeg is the racist city in Canada. The Mayor mentioned how he gathered community leaders in order to talk about the report and how the city can best move forward. A representative from Truth and Reconciliation Commission then spoke about visiting different communities in Canada and aboard in representing and learning more about the history and how people can best come together.
The Forum then officially kicked off with a great Youth Panel with young leaders from Winnipeg, Nunatsiavut, Toronto, Kenora Ontario and yours truly, from Edmonton. It was humbling and an honor to be part of the panelist in order to share my experience doing community work and youth leadership. We were asked a series of questions such as where we come from, the work we are doing in the community and our experiences and how youth can better participate. I talked about how I started volunteering with different organizations and at different events in the community. Many youth tend to wait to be on the big planform or be given a mic before they can start making change but one of the message that I drove across is the small actions are what matter and lead us to other opportunities in life. There was also a question regarding what we are doing to bridge the gap in our respective communities and to this question I proudly talked about Diaspora African Youth Association (DAYA) of which I’m the current president of. Please click here for our Facebook page and learn more about our vision, mission and goals. I spoke to the crowd that we are trying to bridge the gap by taking pride in our history and culture and then see how we can make positive contribute to the community of Edmonton. I touched very heavily and encouraged the youth present to take great pride in their culture because it is what makes them who they are. I gave an example of how a tree without its root it cannot stand. I then applied that it is same with us, without our roots we are nothing. In order to contribute to society and bridge the gaps that lays between us, we first have to not only learn about who we are and where we can from, but always proudly represent and share with those around us, from different places. We are the change that we seek and the time is always right to do what is right. Will Landon, one of the youth panelists spoke of the importance of learning from people like Malala Yousafzai, Nelson Mandela and the elders from our communities. He touched on the importance of asking for support and learning as you go along which is a point which I fully agreed with. We need one another.
The above image is taken from CBC Winnipeg which was one of the media that covered the first day of the Forum. You can read more about the story by clicking here. After the Youth Panel it was now time for breakout sessions and I attended one which highlighted Aboriginal Students in Post-Secondary Institutions. This Session was led by a young Aboriginal lady by the name of Kerri Tattuinee. She started by speaking about her culture and the way of life and then talked about the sense of pride having Aboriginal students in post-secondary education and highlighted the fact that she’s the first from her family to go to a university. Other Aboriginals also shared their experiences and talked about the support which is received and much needed by the Aboriginal students from post-secondary. Among the key issues highlighted are; having Aboriginal centres, mentorships and programs which they can relate to.
After lunch our Keynote Speaker was a young gentleman, Michael Champagne from the Aboriginal community who spoke about a great organization which he foundered called Aboriginal Youth Opportunities (AYO!). AYO focuses on breaking stereotypes of Aboriginal people and create opportunities for youth to positively contribute to society. This is such a great initiative because it is the same work that we are trying to achieve with DAYA in Edmonton. Michael travels across Canada sharing his story and the awesome work he advocates for in communities. After the keynote speaker it was lunch time and after lunch we went to more breakout sessions. This time I attended a workshop by Teen Talk titled Appreciating Diversity. The group did exercises which showcased our differences and how there are many stereotypes out there. I then joined with others for another great session called “Trading Indigenous and Non-Indigenous stories through poetry and spoken word led” by Wesley Simon-Solomon and Angel Panag, my roommate. This was a powerful session where the two gentleman spoke about the true meaning of Hip Hop that it started as a way of healing and connecting with others. Everyone in the room then had the chance to write down some lines which we all had to share. Some delegates had some amazing and interesting stuff written down.
I am always joyful to attend these kind of youth mission and the first day of National Youth Forum here in Winnipeg, Canada was truly amazing, fantastic and felt a great sense of peace within. I so much love networking with fellow young leaders in exchanging ideas of how we can move forward together and share about what we are doing in our communities. I kindly ask you to stay tuned for the blog posts of the second (March 6th) and third (March 7th) day of the Forum which I am sure will even be more awesome!!! You are the change that you seek and it is up to all of us to join force and work together toward a better Canada and the world. We need to appreciate each other’s culture, history and what everyone brings to the table because there’s great strength in our diversity.
Love, Peace & Unity
One Seed At Time
Gerard Mutabazi Amani