Community program

Overbrook community program bringing together youth, local artists and police to fight hate crime

The program will engage young people in thinking about the impacts of discrimination and hate crimes.

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This is the ‘power of articulation’ that oral artist Jamaal Jackson Rogers hopes Overbrook youth will gain from participating in a new program focused on artistic creation to fight discrimination and crime motivated by crime. hatred.

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A $ 40,000 grant from the Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General enabled the Overbrook Community Association to set up the Youth Engagement for Safety (YES) Project, which enables local youth aged 12 to 17-year-old enrolled in a series of free workshops with Rogers (also known as JustJamaal ThePoet), Ottawa muralist Kalkidan Assefa and filmmaker Mailyne K. Briggs.

The program will get young people to think about the impacts of discrimination and hate crime –– the reporting of which has exploded in Ottawa –– as well as the meaning of diversity and inclusiveness, and to express these thoughts through art forms taught during the course. from the program.

Among Ottawa’s neighborhoods, Overbrook-McArthur is among those home to the most racialized people, Indigenous people, newcomers and refugees, in terms of percentage of population, according to the Ottawa Neighborhood Study.

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In February, the Ottawa Police Service reported that the group most often targeted by hate crime in 2020 was the black community, followed by Jewish, East and Southeast Asian, LGBTQ + communities. and Muslim.

Local hate crime reports increased by almost 57% in 2020, an increase due at least in part to the proper coding of incidents by police and more people recognizing when they are the target of a hate crime, said an Ottawa Police hate crimes investigator. this newspaper in the spring.

“I can’t wait for these young people to have the opportunity to tell their stories,” Rogers said ahead of Project YES’s first workshop on Monday.

“I follow the American art scene very closely and also the American activist scene very closely, and have seen how powerful storytelling can be in times of reform and transformation.

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“I was like, ‘How come young Canadians don’t have access to these kinds of opportunities? The power to tell stories and use it to harness change? ‘ “

While much of their time is spent creating films, spoken word, and murals, YES project participants will also be invited to a ‘community dialogue session’ with members of the YES unit. hate crimes and the Ottawa Police Service Neighborhood Resource Team.

Jamaal Jackson Rogers, aka JustJamaal ThePoet, says he has seen how powerful storytelling can be in times of reform and transformation.
Jamaal Jackson Rogers, aka JustJamaal ThePoet, says he has seen how powerful storytelling can be in times of reform and transformation. Photo by Ashley Fraser /Postmedia

According to Marjolaine Provost, co-director of the project, vice-president of the Overbrook Community Association, the police partnership on the project was one of the conditions required to obtain funding from the ministry. Other partners include the city’s Anti-Racism Secretariat and the County of Rideau-Rockcliffe. King Rawlson.

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Project YES is an offer to young residents of a neighborhood “a little ignored by the powers that be,” said Provost, who was unaware of a program like this extended to Overbrook youth in recent history.

“If you think of the Glebe, their community association and all the programming and facilities that they have… they’re in a whole different league than ours.

Because of feedback from project partners – youth workers, people from the Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Center – the organizers will maintain a background relationship with police contacts, Provost said, rather than them. involve directly from the start.

The Hate Crimes Unit will provide materials (one of the goals of the project is to learn more about hate crimes and how you can respond if there is one). The dialogue session at the end of the summer will be optional for the young people participating in the program, and something according to Provost they also hope to invite the community at large to participate.

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Rogers is aware that “sometimes the presence of the police can make things dangerous”, and said they were careful to structure the dialogue, which would include other organizations, so that the police did not have the last word.

“When it comes to understanding how… to connect communities and make communities safer, police must also listen. “

For young people who might not want to attend the dialogue session, Rogers has a consideration.

“It’s a chance for you to be here. Whereas before, laws and rules and regulations were set without even being asked, you know. So now, at least now, you hear and ask questions, ”he said. “Being able to use your own curiosity is extremely powerful.”

Briggs, an entrepreneur and documentary maker and one of the artists involved in the project, said she hopes the young people will come away with one skill, or more, that they could use for their own benefit in the future.

With cinema, for example, maybe it’s something they can use to start a business or for a new job, in addition to sharing “meaningful to them” stories.

The YES project is always accepting new registrants (who can earn volunteer hours). Those interested can contact [email protected] or the Overbrook Community Association on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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