February 9, 2018 1:18 pm
Updated: February 9, 2018 1:19 pm

Promoting social change through the arts during Black History Month

WATCH: Overture with the Arts is reaching out to high school students across Canada for Black History Month. Omari and Akilah Newton tell Global's Laura Casella about why this is so important.

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Overture with the Arts (OWTA) — a West-Island non-profit that brings arts and culture to youth — is embarking on its eighth annual school tour in celebration of Black History Month.

The theme of this year’s production is Triple A, which stands for artists, athletes and activists.

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Omari Newton’s interactive one-man show explores the lives of select black artists, athletes and activists including, Mary Ann Shadd, the first black woman to publish a newspaper in North America, Montreal’s own jazz legend Oscar Peterson, as well as Rosemary Brown, who was the first black woman to be a member of a Canadian parliamentary body.

Newton describes his interactive multimedia show as a hybrid of a TED Talk, a stand-up comedy show and a hip-hop concert.

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He says he drew his inspiration from former NFL player Colin Kaepernick’s anthem protest to create the show.

“Kaepernick was in the media because he took this peaceful protest to raise awareness about police brutality and I felt like the way that his protest was being represented in the media wasn’t completely accurate,” he said.

“I thought that was a good bridge to talk to youth about the history of athletes and other artists and entertainers using their platform to speak truth to power social change.”

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The show will tour Quebec schools from Feb. 5 to 20 before heading to Alberta and then British Columbia.

Newton said he hopes the kids come away knowing they can effect change, that “they can use their voice and they can use forms of peaceful protest to raise awareness about causes that are important to them.”

OWTA was created nine years ago, by Akilah Newton, Omari’s twin sister.

“I had this idea where I wanted to make the arts accessible to youth in Montreal and almost nine years later we’re still here and growing and doing exciting programs with kids and with schools, I’m so happy,” she said.

READ MORE: Dynastie Gala recognizes accomplishments of black Quebecers

The organization offers a variety of in-school and after-school programs for kids who wouldn’t otherwise have the financial means to participate in classes.

“We do stuff like music programs where kids get to go to the recording studio, dance workshops, some spoken word programs, and we really like to use the arts to educate about social injustices,” she said. “So arts for social change.”

For more information on upcoming events and activities, consult the OTWA website.

WATCH BELOW: Akilah Newton talks about Overture with the Arts’ low-cost programs aimed at helping young people pursue their passions in the performing arts.

 

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