Youth are all the buzz

Youth are all the buzz

October 30, 2006

Group PhotoA lot of hard work was recognized this month, when youth participants from the buzz project had their unique storytelling pieces published in The Walrus, a national general-interest magazine.

The buzz project was launched by Jay Pitter, a provincial funder, long-time artist educator and professional writer. Pitter grew up in Toronto Community Housing's Cataraqui neighbourhood and felt compelled to create an outlet for youth from TCHC neighbourhoods to creatively challenge negative stereotypes, celebrate their communities and tell their own stories.

"Over the past decade, a huge spotlight has been placed on the challenges, barriers and issues of people who live in public housing communities," said Pitter. "This is especially damaging and demeaning to young people who are in the process of making life-altering decisions, constructing their identities and finding their way in their community and the world."

Funded through Toronto Community Housing's Social Investment Fund, the buzz project engaged over 60 youth from TCHC communities across the City. The youth spent the past five months with Pitter and special guest mentors.

The well-known mentors included:
  • Nick Davis, Senior Producer of Toronto's #1 radio show, CBC's Metro Morning
  •  Mark Strong, formerly of the Flow 93.5 Morning Rush Show 
  •  d'bi young, award winning playwright and actress, who starred in the Mirvish production "The Kink In My Hair," and "blood.claat" her latest one-woman performance 

Having had the opportunity to have her first play produced at the age of eight and going on to work for CBC, TVO, Nightwood Theatre and others, Pitter ensured the stories created by youth would also have an audience.

This month, The Walrus has published the stories online as a special feature. Buzz participants will also have their work featured on CBC Radio, The Canadian Immigrant Magazine, The Toronto Sun and The Canadian Storytelling Journal. The Toronto Storytelling School has also agreed to create their first ever youth stage featuring buzz participants in their next annual festival. Although this first phase was a small pilot project, the youth stories will be heard and read by hundreds of thousands of people across the country.

"It is important for all people to have the opportunity to tell their own stories; it is one of the ways we createGirls Dancing thriving, civic and inclusive societies where people build and travel across class, cultural, generational and philosophical bridges," said Pitter. "These ideas and values are the driving force behind buzz."

Buzz has gained support from Tenant Reps, Youth Lead Staff, Summer Youth Staff, and the Toronto Community Housing communications team. A number of youth from the project have become members of the buzz youth advisory and will continue to develop their skills and work with other Toronto Community Housing youth to create a positive buzz around their communities.