At some level, we’re all looking for a place to belong. For the last five years the Just TV program at the Broadway Neighbourhood Centre has provided exactly that: a safe space for people aged 16-24 to express themselves and learn how to produce their own media.
“[Two] things that every youth have in common are that they want to belong to something, and they want people to genuinely listen to what they have to say. It is often easier to share your story or express yourself through [the] arts,” says Laura Johnson, program manager.
The program encourages youth “to express themselves through multimedia in a safe, fun, creative environment as an alternative to negative influences such as drugs, gangs, and violence.”
Every year they have an opportunity to showcase their work for their friends, family, and the broader community.
Just TV’s annual showcase is being held on Dec. 11, and “will feature all of the videos and music that the youth have [created] over the year – including music videos, cultural videos, public service announcements, [and] hip-hop performances,” says Johnson.
“[T]his program and the showcase are inspiring; and it’s because of the talented young people who have worked so hard to make their own dreams a reality.”
The youth who participate in the program learn technical skills that can lead to career opportunities and skill development in related areas such as public speaking. Youth from the program have received awards, and have had opportunities to share the fruits of their labour at other events and conferences.
Engagement with a program like Just TV isn’t only about building a career, though.
“Music/the arts are something you can bring into your life and take with you no matter where you go. Creative expression gives youth many of the elements gangs do in a positive way – a place they belong, a place to hang out, validation of their perspective of the world,” says Johnson.
The program also encourages past members to stick around as volunteers “mentoring and supporting new participants – developing their leadership skills and paying it forward,” says Johnson.
The mentorship role is clear in videos like “Summer Time,” produced by Just TV and featuring younger members of an after-school hip-hop program rhyming and singing about the joys of summer in their neighbourhood. The enthusiasm of the kids comes through clearly in a highly polished, well-directed professional video.
“The energy at [JUST TV’s annual showcase] is contagious – we look forward to seeing you there!”
JUST TV’s 2013 annual showcase is being held at the West End Cultural Centre on Dec. 11. Doors open at 7:15 p.m., and the show is at 7:45 p.m. The event is free. To request tickets, please call 204-421-9253. For more information on the program, visit www.thebnc.ca, or check out some of their work at www.youtube.com/user/Justtvbnc/video