conversations, connections, communities through art

École Secondaire Catholique Monseigneur-Bruyère is the first official school in London that has welcomed just about everything that is offered through “School of Hip Hop.” In my time with the crew over the past 11 years, we’ve visited hundreds of schools and dance studios all across Ontario. However, this venture with the teachers and students at ÉSMB definitely allows for a fresh take on our approach in art education and community development. Though every pilot program faces various challenges – safety being one of the biggest concerns and budget cuts (especially when it comes to art education), our friend Cynthia (Mme Nakeyar) has been a huge support and driving force behind co-facilitating these incredible opportunities for us.

I am just hoping to simply reflect and document the journey through hip hop… the journey and the process that I go through as I lead conversations with the students, connect more deeply with myself and other guests that I bring to the program, and watch the community come together through art.

all of this … through hip hop.

where it began for us…

From the initial conversation about “what would it take to bring some hip hop to our school?” we were excited about brainstorming the how and when, but more importantly about what the potential outcome might be once we wrap up our initial run of the programs. We just didn’t want this to become “that awkward hip hop/breakdance thing I had to do at school, just because I’m being graded on it.”

In the month of September, we hit the ground running right out of the gate into the Fall season of 2019. We got the approval from the principal and had lined up a series of cultural education talk “Hip Hop 101” to all of the gr. 7 & 8 students, followed by a dance workshop “1, 2 Step” for each of the 9 classes. This was definitely a fun challenge to work with 25-30 students per class, but I am beyond grateful for the outcome this has created. 

Upon the completion of the succesful run of the in-class visits & dance workshops, I stayed busy contacting many other schools and teachers to ensure that more students ultimately had access to hip hop at their school. About 3 weeks after my last visit to ÉSMB, I was invited back – to help a group of gr. 7 & 8 boys start up a dance team! I had dreamt of something like this happening at my school when I first came to Canada and fell in love with breaking. About 15 years later, I am seeing this becoming a reality – with much of the hard work over the past decade finally unfolding itself to something substantial. Something bigger than #hiphop.

Of course, I’m excited that I get to do more dancing and more teaching to keep me busy. And of course, teachers are happy to see their students becoming engaged with something totally outside of their comfort zone.

But the real victory here is about the small group of students who chose to come back for something more.

So what’s up now…

We now have a group of boys who are part of the ÉSMB Lunch Break Break Boys. They bring such character, creative energy and hunger to learn every week. These boys have been putting in work learning more about hip hop culture, the art of breaking, popping, freestyling and developing their own style through musicality.

OH! And you can catch their first performance next month at the holiday show in a few weeks!

Monday December 9 @ Wolf Performance Hall, 251 Dundas St.

Christmas In New York!

So much potential from every single individual I’ve come across on this journey of School of Hip Hop, and it’s only just begun.

Jim | Just Freely Xpressing | IG @jfx987iaw