One Night at the World Youth Congress

Here I am at the World Youth Congress, where over 550 youth from over 125 nations are gathered.

Let me start by saying how immensely proud I am of our country- Canada. It can be said that all nations have issues–except maybe the Scandinavians (it’s pretty sweet to live there). The question is how a country, made up of its citizens, chooses to deal with those issues. Through my travels, I’ve been fortunate to root my national pride in many examples of how this country rocks and represents my ideals in so many ways. I’d like to speak to one example I experienced last night using the Canadian arts scene as the backdrop.

Last night, I was standing in the middle of the crowd for the Governor General’s youth dialogue. Here we have a head of state who is a refugee, of african descent, a woman and a journalist, spending time with the youth of the country in a meaningful dialogue. We were also fortunate to have the presence of major icons within the Canadian music industry. It is my opinion that the current emblems of youth culture, mainly derived from US influences, are individuals who contradict many of our aspirations towards a better society. These artists promote violence, gender disempowerment, materialism and really lack substance in their art forms. However, this was not the case last night–I’m sitting in a crowd where 4 major Canadian icons exist. The evening began with the insightful lyrics of east coast hip-hop artist Jordan Croucher. The evening continued to feature artist Samian, who spoke of the power of language, integrating his native Algonquin language with French rap.

Following the discussion, we were treated to an incredible concert by K’Naan and Jully Black. Again, I’d like to look at these two emblems of proof that Canadians not only seek substantive and talented art emblems, but also find them in individuals who represent all that Canada has to offer. The first performer was K’naan. There are a few moments in my life where I’m sitting in a concert and the music profoundly moves me–this was one of those moments.  K’naan, a refugee from Somalia, is truly a Dusty Foot Philosopher. A Dusty Foot Philosopher is someone who speaks truth and wisdom which is grounded in time immemorial.  His story and integrity are a tribute to Canadian culture and multicultural vision.

Jully Black wrapped up the concert and really began the idea for this cultural comparison/Canada Ra Ra session. While most female musicians (a la Pussy Cat Dolls) speak towards the only female empowerment mechanism being that of sexual depravity, I found it interesting to see Jully Black belt out, “I’m a girl, I’m a lady, I’m a woman, I’m a queen, I’m everything I can dream.”

Although this somewhat narrow look at the Canadian music scene seems simplistic and trivial, I think it speaks to overall success of Canada who has nurtured these artist- with many more needing spotlight. Moreover, I think it represents a major front of youth culture and an inhibitor to building ourselves as global citizens.

For a further comparison of Jully Black and Pussy Cat Dolls check out the lyrics here:


-Danny Richmond