Last Saturday at the Ontario Science Center, a very unscientific event took place behind the daunting concrete halls on Don Mills Avenue. Local MC Junior “Jae Lejit” Lavagesse led a community initiative advocating the positive power of hip-hop.  It was an entertaining afternoon featuring hip-hop related workshops including one led by Canadian Idol judge Farley Flex, rapping performances by local artists and touching speeches. The pervasive impelling music guaranteed there was never a dull moment.

Junior Lavagesse is the founder of 16 Bars and an alumnus from Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute. He received a grant through Action for Neighbourhood Change (ANC) from United Way Toronto to make this event possible. The Reckoner got to sit down with Lavagesse and a few members of ANC to talk about initiatives in the neighborhood.

Q: Junior, what prompted you to organize this event and what do you hope it will accomplish?

A: Hip-hop. Hip-hop saved my life. I am from the hood; if it weren’t for hip hop I would have gone under with drugs and all the negative influences around me. I want to share my experience with younger kids and give them the positive experience they deserve.  Just because you grow up in the hood does not mean you have to follow the stereotypes. No kid grows up aspiring to fall into drugs.

Q: What made you choose hip-hop as an approach to connect with younger kids?

A: The beat. I feel that the hip-hop beat gets us spiritually, not just physically. Spiritual connection is important for everybody. If drugs can get you physically and spiritually, then why not hip-hop?

Q: How are you involved in the music industry? Do you produce?

A: No, I don’t produce and I don’t think I ever will. I simply have too much to say. I want to continue to MC; I want my own words to influence the kids, not words of others.

Q: Where do you hope this will take you 10 years from now?

A: In 10 years I’m going to look back from my mansion – not because it’s a mansion but because it will truly show how far I’ve come to achieve my goals.

Q: What message do you have for youth in high-risk areas?

A: Know that you’re not alone. I’m from the hood and I was able to get by all the influences and achieve my goals so I know you can too. Find a proper outlet. It doesn’t have to be drugs.

Q: Sarah and Marilyn, what would you say is the common goal of all the volunteers for ANC?

A: We just want to help out fellow members of the community. We want to let them know they are not alone and there is always hope. We want to help them achieve their goals.

Q: What separates you from other possible volunteers?

A: We are all from the [Flemingdon Park and Victoria Village] community. We believe the strongest support comes from within. Real change must come from people who live here because we can work on closer terms with the residents.

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