Unity Charity, the Canadian organization dedicated to using hip hop arts to improve young people's lives, will reach its milestone 10th anniversary this year.
The organization, aimed at youth ages 12 to 24 from underserved communities from Halifax to Vancouver — "works with community partners, schools, artist educators, volunteers and all levels of government to provide access to a cohesive community and a unique cultural experience; a place for self-growth, physical activity and artistic expression," the press release states.
Unity furthers its mission through school programs, drop-ins, workshops and seminars, in addition to its annual Unity Festival in Toronto, which featured the likes of Zaki Ibrahim and The Soul Motivators in 2016. In the past, names like Talib Kweli, Kardinal Offishall and members of The Roots have participated in the festival.
"After 10 years, it is so humbling to look back on everything our team has accomplished. There are so many incredible stories of impact that I get overwhelmed with positive emotion and pride just thinking about it," said Michael Prosserman, founder and executive director of Unity Charity, in a press release. "Together we have elevated hip-hop culture and this movement to impact the mental health and well being of so many young people."
In its 10 years Unity estimates it has reached over 200,000 youth across Canada with its various after-school and community programs focused on hip-hop fundamentals like breakdancing and beat-boxing.
When Samaritanmag spoke to Prosserman for a feature story in 2013, the former high-level breakdancer explained that getting vulnerable youth into Unity-related programs has long-term benefits for them.
"Unity Charity is a youth-led and youth-focused organization," Prosserman said. "Our mission is to empower youth. We use the elements of hip-hop — breakdancing, spoken word poetry, MCing, graffiti art and beat-boxing — to get kids hooked.
"It's a program that not only does the arts but important lessons about professional skills, presentation skills, leadership skills. It's using the arts as a mechanism to engage the kids, but then filling them up with all this other incredibly critical skill base because often times they would never come into a leadership program. So we're using hip-hop as a hook and leading them to something that will actually benefit their lives down the road and even in the short term."
The 2017 version of the Unity Festival will take place July 12-15 at various venues across Toronto.
Watch highlights from the 2016 Unity FestivalAir Max