Reztore Pride Artists Create Awareness With Diabetes Rap

by Donia Varghese
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Reztore Pride Artists Create Awareness With Diabetes Rap - Fresh Print

Artists rap about diabetes and its dangers to raise awareness among youth (Image courtesy: Reztore Pride)

Reztore Pride artists don’t rap about money or relationships. Instead, they rap for a cause – to spread diabetes awareness among Aboriginal youth. With their catchy beats and powerful messages, the songs grab the attention of young people and make them want to lead healthy lives.

The Reztore Pride Youth Program is a division of the Southern Ontario Aboriginal Diabetes Initiative (SOADI), which started in January 2010 after SOADI decided that young people need to be more actively involved in their annual events.

The board of directors at SOADI came up with the idea of using music to encourage the younger crowd to participate. They realized that a lot of Aboriginal youth were big fans of RnB and Hip-Hop music with a real talent for Spoken word poetry, Rap and dance.

With the help of youth coordinator and rapper John Henhawk, SOADI put out a call to Aboriginal youth interested in creating a Hip-Hop album that talks about the issue of diabetes.

A handful of youth responded and together with Henhawk, they began to discuss ways to create lyrics that promoted the message of healthy living with healthy choices.

Not a lot of the young people knew about the causes of diabetes but they were aware of the distress that their families had to go through due to amputations and being poked by insulin needles. They drew on their experiences and used them to come up with the lyrics which made the songs more hard-hitting.

Reztore Pride Artists Create Awareness With Diabetes Rap - Fresh Print Magazine

Aboriginal youth discuss their ideas at the Youth Focus Group
(Image courtesy: Reztore Pride)

A Youth Advisory was formed to help give feedback and suggestions regarding the Reztore Pride project. Some of the Elders were also present to help guide the project with their years of experience and knowledge.

The idea for the name Reztore Pride came from the youth as did the logo of the microphone and the feather above the words Reztore Pride, Reztore Health. Everything about Reztore Pride was ‘from the youth, for the youth.’

Talented young rappers, poets, visual artists and DJs were gathered and an album of 12 songs entitled Reztore Pride was released in May 2010. Songs such as The Plague by MC Sage and Strong Enough by Rex Smallboy talked about the dangers of diabetes and the benefits of healthy choices.

After the first album was produced, the Reztore pride artists received funding to go on tour and do shows in various Aboriginal communities, schools and health centres across Ontario.

The artists would perform their songs and SOADI’s diabetes prevention coordinator, who also accompanied the artists during the tour, would talk to people about healthy eating and ways to prevent diabetes.

A lot of the artists themselves wanted to learn more about the disease and talk about it during their performances. SOADI realized this need and provided training to some of the artists to share more knowledge about diabetes.

The success of the first album led to the release of a second one called Type 2 Survive in 2012 featuring some of the artists who worked on the first CD.

Alongside rapping, break dancing was also brought in to help people understand the need for physical activity to reduce the risks of developing diabetes. The artists are also key facilitators in the workshops on poetry, visual arts and dance that help young Aboriginals be more expressive as well as physically active.

The Reztore Pride Youth Program uses the four elements of the Hip-Hop Medicine Wheel as the basis of its teachings and workshops and these elements are connected to the traditional medicine wheel which comes from the First Nations people. The youth program has been bringing Reztore Pride back to Aboriginal roots by sharing traditional drumming, dancing and teachings.

The youth program has helped in bringing Reztore Pride back to its roots by sharing traditional drumming, dancing and teachings.

Reztore Pride Artists Create Awareness With Diabetes Rap - Toronto

Artists using traditional hand drums during a workshop (Image courtesy: Reztore Pride)

This means that the rappers are like the traditional storytelling, the DJ is like the beat of the drum, visual art is like the native art and the break dancing is tied to the traditional dancing.

Because of limited funding, the artists at Reztore Pride perform shows based on requests from native friendship centres, pow-wow communities or schools.

According to Marie Bowering, youth coordinator at SOADI – Reztore Pride Youth Program, youth are becoming more aware of how to implement a healthy lifestyle after attending these workshops.

“One artist would say they drink water with fresh lemons instead of pop while another would talk about what they would do to stay active and fit. A lot of the youth look up to these rappers and so they follow their advice and stop drinking unhealthy drinks,” said Bowering.

“The growth and development of the artists over the past three to four years while they’ve been part of this program has been phenomenal. Some of them have quit drinking, gone back to school, have careers and are continuing to do mentorship. That’s been a great inspiration,” Bowering added.

You can enjoy the songs on the Reztore Pride album which can be downloaded for free here.

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