Masia One visits 20 Ontario schools with 411 Initiative [Article]
Toronto, ON – Young people across Ontario are now more educated on women’s image issues after another school tour by 411 Initiative For Change reached twenty schools. From March 21 to April 1, a multimedia presentation led by rapper/singer Masia One and actress/playwright Anita Majumbar travelled the province in hopes of enlightening young girls on topics such as body image, self esteem, racism, careers, healthy relationships and bullying (including cyber bullying).
411 TV: Girls is the latest tour organized by 411 Initiative For Change, which has worked to open dialogue with our country’s children for over a decade. Previous topics included human rights, women’s rights and HIV/AIDS. Specific calls by teachers and students for discussions on domestic issues that affect girls provoked this latest shift in programming.
50% of the world’s female population can’t read and write, while 1 in 3 women will experience abuse or violence in their lifetime, according to Masia One. And she points to such statistics as part of her reasoning for joining the tour.
“When I was a kid in high school you had these programs come into the school and you were like ‘oh God it’s going to be this cheesy assembly talking to you about drugs,’” explains Masia One. “With 411 school tour you have people who are relevant to a lot of these kids…People that are actually working in the field that sometimes these kids look up to, talking to them about issues that kind of affect them as well. And in this day and age everything online is relevant so it’s cool this tour is addressing that.”
Playwright and actress Anita Majumdar also anchored the tour, performing a dance infused piece focusing on integration and self esteem. It is actually an abridged version of her one woman play “Fish Eyes,” which explores the pressures on an Indian Canadian teenager balancing home and school life.
Masia created music specifically for this tour and used her experiences behind the scenes of the entertainment industry to talk of true beauty. She points to experiences meeting some of the most “beautiful” women who were really “miserable people” and raises the question: what is beautiful? Being a Chinese woman who raps and is heavily influenced by Reggae, Masia explains she is far too familiar with stereotypes.
“Hey, you’re Chinese you shouldn’t rap, you should be a car model,” Masia said mockingly as an example of a common stereotype she’s faced. Part of combating image pressures for Masia is not being too hard on herself, a lesson she tries to explain to her students. She points to a staggering survey which asked grade 7 girls if they’d rather be stupid or fat. She says almost all the girls said they’d rather be considered stupid than fat.
Cyber bullying is another specific topic broached on this tour and is increasingly relevant in a world driven by online activity. Unlike other forms of bullying, no physical dominance or social status is necessary, which means abuse can be rampant. With so little consequence to the person typing a hateful comment, cyber bullying is on the rise. And Masia even points to Hiphopcanada.com message boards as a prime example.
“Masia One is so ugly she looks like a female version of Jay-z,” is an example of the types of comments she’s come to find on YouTube and other online destinations. She even compares the focus of comments on male and female artists, saying most comments on her videos are about how she looks, not her music.
“I just encourage these kids to think about what they write because it’s easy to be brave behind a keyboard but someone receives it on the other end,” says Masia.
On top of her time in Ontario schools, Masia actually just released her latest single “Alright, OK!” which was written in Jamaica during the man hunt for Dudas Coke. As authorities seeked to extradite him on drug trafficking charges, locals aided in his hiding due to his numerous investments in the community (schools, hospitals, etc). The single highlights the difficulties of such a situation where both the authorities and Dudas could be considered to be good and bad depending on which side of the fence you’re on. “Alright, OK!” preaches peace regardless of which side you stand on and is the lead single off her forthcoming album Number One.