Home News A hip-hop artist and an activist walk into a classroom

A hip-hop artist and an activist walk into a classroom

by The Concordian September 13, 2011
Two people shared the stage to speak of their experiences working with youth on Thursday.
One is a hip-hop artist and aficionado with an international upbringing and an interest in helping kids find themselves through art. The other is a 30-year-old activist who grew tired of ‘‘preaching to the converted’’ instead of reaching out to the unengaged.
Nomadic Massive’s Lou Piensa and Ilona Dougherty, executive director and co-founder of Apathy is Boring, spoke back-to-back about youth involvement Thursday evening to a group of about 30 in the H-110 auditorium in the Hall building on the downtown campus.
The two Concordia alumni were invited to speak as a part of the Concordia Student Union orientation week, which is placing emphasis on local and Canadian people and initiatives.
Art and social work are joined at the hip for Piensa. He works in youth centres across Montreal, particularly in Côte-des-Neiges, and has expanded from his initial contribution of offering workshops on writing, beatboxing, singing and graffiti. (In his words, graffiti constitutes “using art as a pretext to encourage moral development and eventually professional development.”) Teens are also offered courses in music theory and stage performance, and access to recording facilities.
Piensa is 1/10 of Nomadic Massive, a Montreal-based hip-hop collective. He lived in Ecuador, France, Algeria and Winnipeg, Man. before becoming a permanent resident of Montreal.
“When I came to Canada, I definitely had a sense of being a bit of an outcast,” Piensa explained. “Hip hop essentially [allowed me to] find the space to be myself, to form an identity other than the one I already had,” he said. “Art is not an ultimate solution but is a great way to make a person get in touch with who they are.”
Canadian non-profit organization Apathy is Boring, on the other hand, uses art to get in touch with disengaged youth. The organization, founded in 2004, works with about 40 Concordia artists like Piensa and Nomadic Massive “who are really engaged in their communities and really involved,” according to Dougherty.
The Yukon native spoke to the reality of starting a non-governmental organization and investing in an idea you love. “Doing what you love is going to be hard work,” she said.
It took Dougherty two-and-a-half years to get AIB off the ground, working 70 to 80 hours a week. She suggested creating projects, not organizations, that are supported by existing NGOs.

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