A month ago, DAREarts artist-as-teacher Cathy Elliott travelled to the Aboriginal community of Attawapiskat, Ontario, to empower the children and the community through the arts. The following post is her written report from the preparation for her DAREarts journey:
I can’t believe that only three months ago I wrote a song about Attawapiskat called “Cup of Kindness”. Just before Christmas. I said then, when I first sang it, “I hope this song becomes old real fast.” At that time, Attawapiskat was all over the news. The poster child of shame, poverty, charity, the little guy against the big government. Charlie Angus hammered away at the injustice of the education system’s inequality of funding for Aboriginal Education. Then the Gathering in Ottawa happened, with our Aboriginal Leaders saying one after the other that profound changes need to be made to help Attawapiskat and so many other communities like it.
And now, DAREarts, a wonderful organization that ignites change through the arts is sending me there to work with the teachers and community members to write songs with the kids. These are pretty amazing kids. They’re fighters. They’re adamant about having a say in the outcome of their future. They’ve been under a lot of stress lately.
Today, as the sun spills through my window, I am hopeful that the Attawapiskat I see will be somewhat improved from the one I saw in the media. That those much celebrated houses from New Brunswick will have a place to take root. The school that has been promised is still waiting for the financial go-ahead. Maybe, while I’m there, history will again be made in Attawapiskat as the funding starts to flow, closing that gap we’ve all been hearing about down south but don’t really understand.
Spring is in the air. The temperature should be above zero for most of the time I’m there. There will be rain. If I remember from Webequie properly, (DAREarts has been visiting that community for five years now) that means the roads will be mud. The geese must be close to arriving if not already. The kids will probably have spring on their minds.
I can’t wait to hear what they have to sing about. I am so excited about sharing ideas with them. What kind of songs they’ll come up with. I’ve been already receiving warm greetings from folks who want to introduce me to their musical siblings. I feel already like I’m going to be taken care of. I like this place already.
I just love that when people down south ask me, “Where’s that? What are you doing there?” I get to tell them where it is, why I’m going, and what we’re going to come up with at the end of a crazy week. On top of writing the song, the kids will take turns documenting their process on video and still photography. Those images will accompany their songs in a Karaoke film we’ll put up on YouTube when I get back. That way, other kids get to see what they’ve done, and they get to see what other kids have done. People respond with enthusiasm. That’s good. That gives me hope for this country, for these kids. Aboriginal and non. Because, when we bring those kids up to the standards that other Canadian kids enjoy, they’re going to be such an amazing resource. A force to be reckoned with. Just you wait and see.
Well, gotta see how much I can cram in one carry on suitcase and computer bag. And my guitar case. Yes, I’m packing food in my guitar case along with my instrument. I have one hour to get off one plane in Timmins and on another tiny plane to Att. Wish me bon voyage! I’m flying with the geese!
Cathy’s personal blog can be viewed at http://cathyelliottcom.blogspot.ca.