Newcomers are Lit! brings together youth from different backgrounds to create a music video
Hamilton is far more than just hype. The Broadway blockbuster recently inspired local youth to share their stories through one of its musical numbers. Newcomers are Lit!, Edmonton chapter of the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR), is made up of marginalized immigrant and refugee youth from different walks of life. They created their version of the “Immigrants: We get the Job Done” music video to reflect their experiences moving to Canada.
The videography, direction, and production for the project is done by York University Film Production graduate, Shawn Tse. Tse has been in Edmonton for three years and spends a lot of time working on community-based projects and running a film camp every year to teach youth about using film as an art form to express themselves.
“I think art is something that is universal,” Tse says. “We don’t necessarily need to use translation in art to understand it. I think it really a powerful tool not just for the individual themselves to express and empower themselves to believe they can be heard, but also for the general population to receive it.”
The collaboration with Newcomers are Lit! grew from these film camps with Tse who worked with the group mentors and leaders on the project. One of these leaders, Su’ad Akinboro performs in the video hoping to connect people to the reality of being an immigrant.
“We help raise awareness about experiences of people” Akinboro says.” We give people a new perspective to see how our life is, or how our life was. We still have a long way to go but if we keep talking and making sure people know how everything is going for us then it’s going to get better someday.”
Akinboro immigrated from Nigeria and while the cold was a huge adjustment, one of the toughest parts of moving was reconnecting to a sense of community, having to build friendships from scratch again. Youth groups like Newcomers are Lit! are now like family to her.
“I really appreciate this group that I’m a part of,” she says. “I feel like I’m a better person than I would have been if I was not here. Before I was here I would not be able to talk or say anything in front of people but now I can stand in front of a group of people and even perform. I feel like I’ve grown so much by being a part of them.”
The project is a growing experience for both the group and everyone involved. Mentors, who facilitate and connect the group to different projects, and all those who work on the filmography take away from the group as well. It’s far from simply listening to the director’s cues and more focused on the voices of those involved.
“Many traditional models of teaching or mentorship is very much that teacher centred approach of ‘I teach and then you do,’” Tse says. “But I think this was a great of example of everything being very communal and very collaborative.”
The “Immigrants: We get the Job Done” premiere will feature opening performances by the artists featured in the video. While the inclusive event is free to the public, it serves a dual purpose to also fundraise through donations to send members of Newcomers are Lit! to the CCR’s Youth Action Gathering.