Free concert aims to inspire youths

Peggy Revell

The public is invited to attend a free concert and meet-and-greet with musical artist and Anishinabe role model Wab Kinew this Saturday (Aug. 14) at 6 p.m. at the Couchiching multi-use facility.
“Wab Kinew is a band member from Onigaming First Nation, he’s a journalist with CBC, he’s a cultural, traditional man, and we think he’s an excellent role model,” enthused Ed Yerxa of the Couchiching Treatment and Support Services Program, which is organizing the evening.
Now based out of Winnipeg, Kinew is both a rap artist and sun dancer. He also holds a BA in Economics and training in the traditional medicine ways of his people.
His 2009 debut album, “Live by the Drum,” won an Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Award for “best rap and hip hop CD.”
Kinew also was named the #1 artist in Manitoba to watch by the Winnipeg Free Press in 2009, and won the 2009 Imaginative Film Festival award for best radio documentary.
Yerxa hopes young people will see Kinew as an excellent role model, and that he will motivate them in their own careers and future path, stressing the importance and need to provide outreach, education, and role models for local youth.
“We just did a Rainy River District-wide ‘Aboriginal Needs Assessment’ for treatment services, and right now the statistical data that we collected regarding substance abuse [shows] there’s a huge concern for our young people, the age group 24 and under,” noted Yerxa.
“A lot of our young people are turning towards alcohol or drugs, and if we don’t begin to respond and address that issue, I know the future—it will be pretty bleak,” he warned.
“So right now we’ve got to provide as many opportunities for our young people to learn in ways that they feel comfortable,” he stressed.
“I know Wab Kinew certainly can reach out to that age group,” added Yerxa. “And that’s what we’re hoping from providing this opportunity for them.
“It’s all about education and awareness, and we just want everyone to come out and enjoy a clean, sober night, and we hope to have a lot of people there.”
Open to everyone, the concert actually is a wrap-up to a three-day workshop that some Couchiching youth have been participating in, Yerxa explained.
“As a community, we’ve employed a lot of our students—high school age—over the years,” he said.
“And part of their employment with the First Nation requires them to participate in these youth workshops, where they get some practical as well as educational awareness about the stuff that they struggle with.”
Topics for the workshops—substance abuse and addiction education, healthy relationships, HIV/AIDS education, and money management—were identified last year from a youth leadership group in the community, noted Yerxa..
They’re hoping for a good turnout to the concert, he reiterated.
“Summer students are planning and co-ordinating the concert, and from what they’re reading on Facebook, they say there’s certainly a lot of discussion,” said Yerxa.
“There seems to be a lot of interest out there,” he enthused, welcoming and encouraging people from other communities to come out and enjoy the concert.