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Local2SaultYouth: Why I Wear Pink

by Rihkee Strapp, Sault Youth Association for local2 sault ste. marie
June 24th, 2011 at 12:45pm

This article is a column or editorial.
The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of LOCAL2.

When I was in high school I did not have a connection to my community, who does at that age? I felt isolated in my school by grade levels and confined to my district by a lack of affordable transportation. I never heard anything about events in Sault Ste. Marie aside from the “Don’t say there’s nothing to do in the Sault list,” which implies the sense of cynicism I was already encountering with my peers.

pink 1

Credit: Sault Youth Association

I went to youth forums that were usually a handful of people, and we outlined our concerns. We wanted a publication that would connect us, not just with youth events, but with each other through articles any youth could write.. We also addressed our need to get off our couches and connect with each other, and suggested a special youth fee for public transportation. Although these meetings gave me a sense of accomplishment as these concerns were eventually addressed with Fresh Magazine, it did not yet feel like a community I could connect with at 15 years old.

My introduction to local culture began when I was solicited to buy a $5 ticket to a punk show at Koolies and Cues. As well Odd Fellows Hall, who remains an integral all ages venue in Sault Ste. Marie, was a youth hub once or twice a month when bands would play inside. It is evident by the innumerable amounts of graffiti that illegally grace the Odd Fellows alleyway, that us youth were desperate for these creative outlets.

It was within this community that I met a wonderful woman who recommended me for my first job doing what I am passionate about, making art. She was volunteering for the Algoma University’s Food Bank during its inception and offered me a cause that I could stand behind and support artistically. Her involvement with her community did not stop there; I saw her at every youth forum, every political rally, and sometimes she sat as a model for local drawing collective, the Underground Group. It was not just her massive community involvement that was so attractive, but she had beautiful mile long florescent pink dreadlocks and made me feel more confident about being different in that sense. The power she carried encouraged me to empower myself and to share that power with the youth younger than me, because of Arlene I wear pink.

The loss of a leader is felt deeply in our small community and when Arlene left the impact ran deep. It is a continuous problem when youth leaders leave for better opportunities; they leave with their fresh ideas, and their exuberant energy. If it were not for the efforts of youth, we would not have our variety of summers festivals: Art in the Parking Lot, Clusterfolk, Sault Zombie Walk, or the newly created Awaken Arts Festival. The Sault Youth Association has continuously lent their insight and support to many of the youth leaders who wrote grant applications, and organized these events. The Sault Youth Association is a great resource for us, they want to hear our ideas and help them come into fruition, but if we want something to change it is up to our own initiatives to transform our ideas to actions. It is also up to everyone, not just the youth, to create opportunities and safe spaces for all members of our community to feel at home. When we empower each other, we empower ourselves.


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