From Toronto to Jamaica: Manifesto Goes Global

September 3, 2010

The annual hip hop festival that takes over Toronto for a few weeks every Fall has expanded to Jamaica!!! In Toronto this year they’ll be bringing Jay Electronica, Jean Grae and Bilal to the city.  Peep the info re: the Jamaican edition below:

TORONTO, CANADA – Manifesto Community Projects has been engaging the city’s youth with Arts and Culture ever since 2007, not long after Toronto came to grips with widespread violence that became known as the infamous ‘Summer of the Gun’ two years prior. From inspiring town hall meetings to exciting performances at its annual Manifesto Festival of Community and Culture, the non-governmental organization has been making its presence unmistakably felt in the Greater Toronto Area. Not only that, but its steady growth has inspired the birth of a sibling organization outside of Canada.

“MANIFESTO was born out of pure and honest love.  That love is universal and it was felt by our brothers and sisters working on similar missions in Kingston, Jamaica. It is with great joy that we announce the official birth of the Manifesto movement in Jamaica,” said Founding Executive Director of Manifesto Canada, Che Kothari. “I’ve been going back and forth to Kingston for a while now building with the team and the level at which this team is operating and the depth of their experience is truly powerful.  The things they have already done in a short period are major successes for an organization still in its infancy and speaks to their capacity and connections on a grassroots and institutional level.   Their methodology, approach and activities are truly genius.  Without a doubt this team is about to set things ablaze in Kingston and its coming at a time when love must be the message.”

Manifesto|Jamaica Festival Director, Lesley-Ann Welsh explained, “We feel extremely blessed by the connection made with Manifesto Community Projects. Che’s energy is infectious and, before we knew it, we were integrally involved with his movement. The Manifesto approach truly has the potential to be a healing force in Jamaica, especially among the youth.”

Although this cross-cultural partnership comes as a pleasant surprise for arts and culture practitioners in Jamaica, it has actually been in the making since 2008. In February of that year, Kothari attended the Africa Unite Youth Symposium in Kingston, where he met Welsh and her colleague, Gavin Hutchinson; both were organizers of the symposium on behalf of the Bob & Rita Marley Foundations. He also met Reginald Bell who, along with Hutchinson, co-produced and co-hosted a youth talk show called Reasoning on Jamaican national radio. The three would soon collaborate with Che on Project Nine Mile, a computer literacy project in the rural Nine Mile community where Reggae icon Bob Marley was born and raised. Incidentally, Che also became acquainted with Marley’s granddaughter, Donisha Prendergast, at the symposium; she is currently working on her globetrotting documentary, Rasta, and is an integral part of the Manifesto|Jamaica team.

By the summer, Hutchinson was selected to be on the planning committee for the inaugural Ignite The Americas youth arts forum in Toronto. Today, he considers his experience there to be the single greatest contributor to his current passion for the arts.

“Toronto is where I first appreciated the true effect of arts and culture on youth in society,” confessed Hutchinson, Advocacy Director for Manifesto|Jamaica. “All I kept thinking about was how we could apply the Manifesto formula back home. Jamaica has the most culture per square mile and I feel like that potent and characteristic energy that we are known for just needs some positive realignment.”

With the recent outbreak of violence between law enforcement and inner city residents at the end of May, it seemed like Jamaica’s ‘Summer of the Gun’ arrived in 2010. Manifesto|Jamaica’s emergence could not be timelier. On the afternoon of May 23, as the team was in the middle of its first official community impact activity, a sports day uniting several communities in the Three Miles Development Area, the first gunshots sounded just one block away. The experience had the effect of setting the tone for the organization, putting into perspective the importance of empowering the youth with opportunities for self-expression at a time when violence constantly surrounds them. This view continues to shapeManifesto|Jamaica’s development as it grows from infancy to become a leader in Jamaica’s arts and culture revolution.

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