By: GEORGES BOSSOUS, JR.
EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada—[UNVEIL MAGAZINE]—For the past couple of months I’ve been having series of phone conversations with Robints Paul (better known as Vox Sambou), a childhood friend. Often, two major topics always dominated our conversations: First, my joy of working in the field of Psychology for over five years.
Second, my idea of developing a program called “Strengthening the Family,” which is a new approach to sexual abuse prevention. As a matter of fact, the subtitle that I retained for the program is: “A Culturally Sensitive Approach to Sexual Abuse Prevention.” “Word and Action (W&A)” is the organization that is going to implement Strengthening the Family in Miami.
Vox was so excited about the idea that he wasted no time to invite me to come and be part of the “Ignite Change Now! Global Youth Assembly (GYA) 2009,” which was going to be held at Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on July 31st, 2009. He told me that the event was going to be hosted by the Governor General of Canada, Her Excellency, Michaëlle Jean. “You have to come, Georges—just come,” he insisted. “You’ll have a chance meet several individuals who will be interested in your program,’ he added. I discussed the idea with the Assistant Executive Director of W&A, Marie-Carline St.-Hilaire who encouraged me to attend that event.
Thus, I decided to travel to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on July 30th this year. I intended to network and create some contacts for “Sexual Abuse Prevention,” a cause dear to my heart. However, my trip turned out to be a transformational journey that changed my perception about global youth exchange and culture.
After several minutes of a bizarre questioning by an Edmonton’s immigration officer, I was finally able to see Vox. My joy was immense to regain contact with him after nearly 20 years. We quickly grabbed a cab to Grant McEwan College, where we’ve stayed for three days. Few minutes after arrival, we took a shuttle to the gymnasium of the college where the GYA 2009 was going to be held.
Not only is Vox the Director of “La Maison des Jeunes, Cotes-des-Neiges,” he is also a prominent rapper of Nomadic Massive, one of the most recognized groups in Canada. Thisgroup was to perform at the closing of the event. He introduced me to every member of the band. The group composes of young professionals, such as doctor, teacher, social worker from different countries, ethnic, religion, and background. It was amazing to see their deep idea and clear vision of reclaiming the real essence of Hip Hop and Rap. In fact, they use Hip Hop as a medium to reach out for the youths globally and encourage them to stay away from drugs, alcohol, violence, and other problems that are weakening families in our inner cities. Another good thing about those artists is that their music carries positive messages and children of all age level and adults can be inspired by them.
Further, Vox walked with me around and the premise. At the same time, we checked out the booths of several organizations and talked to their representatives. The place was filled with more than a thousand people from over 30 different countries. They came to share their stories, experiences, pain, joy, and hope. Not even one individual that I’ve accoutered left me with the slightest negative feeling. Although of different parts of the world, everybody seemed to speak the same language: The language of love, compassion, empathy, friendliness, and peace. You could just look into their eyes and vividly see the genuineness of their soul. After a few moments of chatting with people basically from all over the world, I was already convinced that my trip to Edmonton was going to be an unforgettable experience.
The next day, we went to meet the Canadian Governor General at the ihuman Youth Society. Jean was greeted by a group of youths and volunteers and young rappers, Ryan Yost and Blouty Sandy. She was very eloquent during her short speech. When she saw the members of Nomadic Massive, she instantly recognized them. The Governor shook their hands and said “I’ll see you all later.’
One of the most poignant points of her time at the ihuman Youth Society was a seemingly planned recording session during which Jean was singing “Simbi nan dlo w-ale,” a piece from the Haitian Vodou. “This is a song form the Vodou mythology of my birth place, Haiti. This is a gift. This is my gift to you,” she proudly said. As I stood there taking pictures of her, I was stunned by her grace. Her voice was so powerful, yet so enchanting like Source Martino in Jacmel, Haiti. It was a very moving moment. It was almost spiritual to listen to her voice on that digital beat. Then, the Governor General sat with several young volunteers for a “mask painting” session. “I love red, this is the color of victory, it is lively, “she revealed.
After the discussion with the youths at the ihuman Youth Society, it was time for the Governor to go to Grant McEwan College. We went ahead of her to attend several workshops and await her anticipated speech. Several minutes later, the audience busted with joy as Jean made her entrance to the gymnasium, like a rock star. It seemed like Barack Obama on the stumps during the last US presidential campaign. “We love you,” some people were shouting out. As she made a way to the podium she was dancing, clapping, and smiling.
I was particularly pleased to hear one of the Governor General’s speeches in which she committed to work with youth organizations in Canada to make drastic social changes. “Sharing that space and being together and knowing that we can ignite very positive and constructive change in our lives and other people’s lives it’s major. It’s very important,” she stated at ihuman Youth Society. Her office is really vested in “Youth Dialogue”, not only in Canada but around the world.
The Governor marked her presence with a little Hip Hop dance choreographed by Stephen Leafloor (Buddha), a social worker, founder of BluePrintForLife. Buddha used what he referred to as “Hip Hop Therapy” to address issues of aggression, violence, self-esteem, sexual abuse, and anger among the youth in our communities.
After her speech, the Governor left the podium and sat in the reserved front raw below. I was thrilled to seat next to her. That offered me a unique opportunity to closely look and observe this magnificent lady. She was simple, genuine, and soft spoken. She would look at you straight in the eyes, remember your name and call you by your name. After a few minutes you forget that you were actually next to the Governor General of Canada. I couldn’t help but admire her class and gentleness as a genuine human being.
As planned, it was the time for a panel discussion. When they reached the moment for the Q&A, I felt compelled to make a few comments. I congratulated the Governor General for her commitment to the youths’ issues in Canada. “Never have I seen such dedication from someone is such a high position like herself,” I stated. I precisely thanked her for her courage and her “daring” attitude to expose the culture of her place of birth, Haiti. Then, I let the audience knows how proud we all should be of her. I concluded with a promised to share this experience with the rest of the world.
After the panel discussion, right before several groups including Nomadic Massive performed, I went to the Canadian Governor General and briefly talked to her about the sexual abuse prevention program (Strengthening the Family) that I’m working on. I explained to her about the silent cries that I witness daily and the nightmares that I experience during my work with those gentle hearts that have been sexually abused. She appeared enthusiastic about my project and encouraged me to move forward with the program. Jean also suggested me to invite Nomadic Massive to play in Miami. “They are amazing,” she said. “Mwen kontan ke nou tout la,” (I’m happy that we are all here) she added in Creole. “I will do my best,” I replied.
Later the same day in his hotel, Peter Flegel, Special Advisor, Youth for the Governor General asked me, “what are you going to do when you get back to Miami?” As I said in my earlier intervention, I will share what I’ve learned here with my colleagues and friends,” I confirmed.
Furthermore, two things grabbed my attention during the GYA 2009. First, those young men and women I saw there were the children of the Hip Hop generation who were influenced by this culture worldwide. Those kids seemed to avoid all negative behaviors and bad habits. Instead, they were promoting healthy eating, healthy life style. Some of them were wearing clothes made of organic materials. It was breathtaking to see the passion and the commitment they had exhibited.
Second, among many great stories I’ve heard there, one of them has particularly marked me. The story of that young woman from Sierra Leone, Mariatu Kamara was rather remarkable. Her West African country is a place that has endured the one of the worst wars the world has never seen. It was conflict fuelled by “blood diamonds.” Kamara was kidnapped by the rebel soldiers who cut her two hands—she was then a 12-year-old girl. She candidly told her stories that brought many people from the audience into tears. ”Although I will never forget what they did to me, but I have to forgive my aggressors,” she said under the loud applause of the audience. Not only she decided to put her story into her book, “The Bite of the Mango,” but she also created an organization that works with young girls in her native country. From being a victim of war, she becomes an activist of peace.
Attending the GYA this year and especially hearing and talking to the Canadian Governor General enabled me to find a fresh source of inspiration. It also provided me with greater encouragement to work even more against sexual abuse of children by completing and implementing this program, “Strengthening the Family.”