The most important thing in life is
Love yourself. Love others.
Strive for equality and inclusivity.
Follow your passion.
This was the take home message from the presentations Alysha Brilla delivered in two public schools and one high school
in Owen Sound last week.
Children of all ages responded to this international motivational speaker...
with enthusiasm. These days, the term "anti-bullying" is constantly thrown around in the naming of programs and seminars as a response to the consistent problem we face in schools and in our society. During Alysha's talk, never did she use that term. Instead she used words such as "kindness," "togetherness," equality," "respect," "compassion," and "Fun." The children and teens watched and volunteered to participate in skits involving everyday scenarios that showed a variety of "isms." After the skits children identified things that were wrong and learned the terms: "racism, "gender sexism," ageism," "Ableism," and "Heterosexism." The unhealthy relationships that many of us have with some of these "isms" were discussed. Students were asked, "Put up your hand if you have been bullied." A few hands from shy people came up. "Now, put up your hand if you have bullied someone sometime in your life." Surprisingly a lot more hands went up. The honesty of the youth were supported and encouraged by Alysha and Gerima, who is her partner in these presentation. The skits were recreated involving the right responses from the direction of the audience in each of the scenarios.
While speaking with the principal of Hillcrest Elementary School Ms. Donna Farrow explained that, "The children are wonderful children and we love to share great and positive messages with them." Ms. Anne MacLaughlin, the vice principle of West Hill Secondary School, echoed these sentiments adding that it is nice to identify not so much racism but the infrequent encounters Owen Sound students may have with people of other races and cultures. Having a race-mixed family of her own, MacLaughlin loved the encouragement Alysha and Gerima gave to the students to welcome, learn from, and embrace all peoples. Another West Hill teacher pointed out that youth often are made to attend "Anti-Bullying" seminars however, these presentations with Alysha and Gerima was so much more fun while hitting serious topics. By 15 minutes into each presentation, all students where extremely focused on the two presenters, interacting and responding with a variety of emotions.
One high school student who was known for using offensive terms in referring to groups attended the presentation during his free time, lunch time, and upon leaving, mentioned to a teacher, "Now I understand why you suggested for me to come to this... I am so sorry." This young man was genuine and he has felt a connection to the impact hurtful words can be in someone's life.
Alysha and Gerima summarized each presentation with this: "In following these things, not only is it fun for others, you make loads of very good friends. You have lots of fun too. Remember, love and compassion is the key."
Alysha is a two time Juno nominee. This is a reflection on her only two albums that she has put out so far. She is a wonderful and a very engaging singer songwriter. She plays a variety of instruments. Her music, along with her seven piece band, reflect reggae and pop sounds. Gerima is one of her drummers, and he is one of the best djembe drummers one will ever see perform. Alysha's voice has an exceptionally wide range and presents rock/pop with jazz influences. This ever growing indie pop star clarified, "I used to go to schools to talk about my music and share my accomplishments in the music industry but after each time, I went home feeling empty. What I spoke of was trivial and not important. Then, I changed the presentation to focus entirely on sharing the message of equality and human rights for everyone. This is really important to me." Since then she has traveled to countless schools with Gerima touching the lives of many.
Alysha, critically acclaimed Tanzanian-Canadian music and multi-disciplinary artist, has been educating students on cultural diversity across Ontario. She recently spoke at TEDx Youth Waterloo. She is a recipient of Oktoberfest Woman of The Year Arts & Culture Award.
Alysha and her band was hosted at the Roxy Theatre at the end of the week by The Georgian Bay Folk Society. Wow, did she ever put on an amazing concert in which a lot of people couldn't resist the temptation to get up and dance.
Alysha will be coming back in the fall season and again a few times throughout the next school year in Owen Sound and the Grey Bruce area hosted by Mossy Gatherings which is a musical series and education project based in Owen Sound.
Alysha and Gerima took part in and presented at a workshop last Saturday at Mossy Gatherings' Spring Creative Symposium.
The following is a pictorial reflection of her whole stay in Owen Sound last week. Enjoy. Click on an image to enlarge it and t activate the slide show.
853 4th St. East,
Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada
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