“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” – Albert Einstein
I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to speak and perform 24 presentations in two weeks at middle and high schools in the Okanagan Valley/Kelowna district, B.C.
At these performances, we play three songs from my new album; “No More Violence”, “Changing The World” and “Bigger Than That”. I introduce each song with its story and the meaning behind the lyrics. I introduce myself and my background; the mixed family I was born into, how that has influenced my music and my life. I talk about my interest in music production from a young age and the fifteen year journey that has brought me here today. I try to distill nuanced concepts into memorable melodies and singable lyrics. I want to inspire the youth in seeing an adult who dealt with being severely bullied in school, oppressive experiences in the arts industry and now addresses bullying and inequality in our schools and societies on a larger platform. Given the recent tragedy of blatant racism, sexism and other isms within the impending American leadership sphere, now more than ever, going into these schools entails a large responsibility and a large opportunity as well.
When speakers would come into my school as a youth, one thing that always stood out to me was that they would often end up repeating the same line; “You are the future. You are the generation that will change the world”. It always caused friction in my mind as I questioned what it was that was preventing the speaker from changing the world, also. “Well…what about you?” I would think. “Can’t you do something, too?”. The philosophy of delegating the ominous task of ‘fixing our world’ being put onto the shoulders of the younger generation just seemed so evasive and as a young girl, having an adult look at me, inferring my beacon-of-hope-ness seemed, well, altruistically insincere.
With that in mind, I acknowledge that each person in the room- myself, students and teachers alike, we all share a responsibility in the trajectory and shape of our society; whether in its microcosmic form as the school community, or in the larger outside world.
In 2016, with everything going on in the world, we cannot pretend we aren’t preparing ourselves for big changes; ones which require all of our minds, young and old, to be well versed in critical thinking and open to radical new ideas; ideas which are actually often not new at all, but concepts which have been buried underneath our colonial history.
For all of the challenges I’ve had navigating my love for art with chronic auto-immune disease in a male-dominated, capitalist society, I’m also incredibly fortunate. I’m able-bodied, cisgendered, not visibly queer, light-skinned (not empirically a ‘good quality’ by any means, but valued and given social capital in a world of white supremacy), I grew up in a middle class family without any drug or alcohol abuse and my mom always told me to follow my dreams. I’ve also had the one in a million chance of getting a major record deal and having it fall apart, but get up, dust my boots off and start again independently.
One word I bring up a lot during these school performances is a term many scholars and non-academics alike have introduced me to, “intersectionality”; the theory by which we take into account the ways our identities offer us privilege or cause us to face obstacles in any given society. Examining the complexity of our identities, respecting the fact that we aren’t ‘all the same’ and really seeing what it is that paints humanity with such a broad spectrum of colours… I think it is with these tools we begin to assemble a clearer idea of how to appreciate the things that we do have in common and how we can learn so much from the things that make us different.
I don’t have all of the answers. I don’t believe one single human does. I am proud of my mistakes and my growth. It is a continuous cycle.
What I have to offer is my gift of song and communication. This I know to be a calling for me since I was a child. We all have a calling. You have one too. In these times I hope that the voices of those who have been historically silenced are given platforms to bring balance to the world.
I am constantly learning. We all are. I just record my questions and lessons in song.
Now is the time for all of us to sing out, speak up and make our hearts shine.
Navigating the systems we are in, in whichever ways we can, while being brave enough to speak up and incite positive change.