Love Your History, Love Yourself – A Night with The Love Project [Article]
Toronto, ON - Quick, without looking anything up, name at least three organizations that have offered you the opportunity to change your life, if not, someone else’s, the freedom to express yourself, and the chance to feel like you belonged to a group regardless of your ethnicity or gender.
Were you able to? If you were, consider yourself extremely lucky. Toronto is, without a doubt, one of the best places to be stationed when you know where to go, especially when you’re still bracketed in the youth age group. I’m sure I can speak for many when I say that finding something to do as a teenager is hard. Hanging out in the mall or in the parking lot of a coffee shop is only fun for a minute. A lot of us are looked at as “hoodlums” or misguided youth, when the reality of it is, we really just have nowhere to go, or so we think. That’s why I was so grateful to have the chance to attend the gala that honored Black History Month as it came to an end, and supported a new initiative called The Love Project.
Continue reading the rest of the story after the jump.
Founder of The Love Project, successful producer and current announcer for G98.7’s Steps After Dark, Kerry Lee Crawford, hosted the evening that was held at the beautiful Glenerin Inn located in Mississauga. The dining room was filled with welcoming faces as members of the black community stepped forward to share their stories of adversity and reiterated the importance of celebrating black history and culture, as well as the significance in finding strength in the community for our youth.
Ray Robinson, Toronto R&B artist, was one of many performers that evening. He stepped forward to sing The Black National Anthem, which truly put the evening into perspective. During musical, dance and poetry performances, images were projected onto a screen of historical black figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Bob Marley who were all advocates for equality and worked hard to contribute to our present day situations.
“Black History Month is Canadian History Month and the history of humanity, and humanity’s triumph over oppression, over suffering, over racism, over hate.” says Crawford. He, among many other people that I spoke to that night all agree that it is extremely difficult to know where you’re going if you’re not familiar with where you came from.
Dwayne Morgan, a Toronto poet and author, was in attendance that evening. “I think it’s very important for young people to be involved with events around Black History Month,” says Morgan. “I think what happens is that we feel as though we don’t have anything to offer and when you start telling your story, you realize that your story is connected to stories that came before you. You realize that you’re another runner in the ‘relay race’ and someone has given you the baton.” Morgan believes that getting involved within the community can help propel you forward. He says getting involved with movements, like The Love Project, is a great way to boost self-esteem and create personal awareness.
The Love Project is an initiative that Kerry Lee Crawford started to highlight programs that are offered to youth that may not have been as publicized as they should. Crawford never knew how he was going to give back to the community until an incident during his childhood occurred, which resulted in the shooting of his brother and best friend. “We were battling something as a community, as a culture, that we shouldn’t have to battle,” he says. Referencing the violence within Toronto over the past 15 years, Crawford remarks that the ongoing issues with violence are the results of issues with self-love.
Crawford has been able to produce and perform with artists all around the world. He has sold platinum and gold records, and is also responsible for the development of artists like Kardinal Offishall and Jully Black, just to name a few. Still, he does not believe that any of it that matters. “Success is only as good as those who we have to share it with, so my focus was surrounding myself with great people,” he smiled. “I learned and was exposed to some fantastic things and the same experiences I had, I wanted it for others.” He urges everyone who’s striving to make a difference in the lives of others to surround themselves with like-minded people and attend events that would help you understand other people’s perspectives.
An example of someone who will benefit from ,em>The Love Project’s movement is Jordon “JV Da Poet” Veira, who is the director of a group called Spoke N Heard. He saw The Love Project as an opportunity for his own organization to spread its wings. The Love Project resonates so strongly with Veira because he watched his mother (Nicolle Coco LaRain) and father overcome obstacles, which in turn, taught him to appreciate the value of hard work. “The Love Project is a great step to moving myself towards success.” he says. Through this movement, he will be able to network with others who are also on board with the project, as well as bridge the gap between where Spoke N Heard is and where it needs to be.
Nicolle CoCo LaRain, award winning motivational speaker, vocalist, poet and founder of Inspired by Coco (a youth development organization), also performed that evening. She sang for all of the guests and shared an inspiring story about her life as a teen mother. She notes that Black History Month is filled with so many stories and though some are painful, they are about resilience and overcoming adversity. LaRain believes that the youth of today are enslaved mentally rather than physically. She says that we can learn from those who came before us in order to push through the problems we are faced with, especially through organizations like The Love Project. She also notes that it is important to ask for help when faced with something you may feel like you cannot handle.
“The Love Project found me!” LaRain laughed. “I guess that’s what love is like, it finds you when you need it.” She says that a lot of kids have a misconstrued vision of what being involved with the community is actually like. Some youth have this idea that being apart of an organization is boring, but LaRain says it is because they are not there. “Get yourself involved and make it something! Everybody is better together than they are apart.”
Ray Robinson can agree with LaRain. “There are so many different entities that do things for the community, but they’re all separate. We all have the same goal, so imagine how powerful we would be if we bond together and move as one force. We can really make change.” He hopes to include youth that are interested in music in his upcoming shows as his contribution to The Love Project.
Kerry Lee Crawford hinted that there are several events scheduled in support of The Love Project with many notable celebrities, but for that, you must stay tuned. In the mean time, remember to surround yourself with positivity, and just like Crawford always says: There is no defense against love.
HipHopCanada would like to thank Audrey Hlembizky for inviting us to be apart of such a wonderful event and to help bring more awareness to The Love Project.
Article written by Tia Gordon for HipHopCanada.
Tags: Black History Month, Bob Marley, Coco LaRain, dwayne morgan, g987.fm, Jordon “JV Da Poet” Veira, Jully Black, JV Da Poet, Kardinal Offishall, Kerry Lee Crawford, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Nicolle CoCo LaRain, Ray Robinson, SpokeNHeard, The Love Project