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Operating since 2007, Unity is a Hip-Hop based arts youth organization that uses dance, spoken word, MC’ing, DJ’ing and graffiti based art forms to build resilience in POC, LQBTQ, and Indigenous youth between the ages of 12-24 living in underserved communities and to give a platform to express themselves in order to create environments to better face the day to day challenges that life brings.

The UNITY FESTIVAL is a four day city wide  event that is Unity’s  most important community initiative that takes place at highly visible and accessible venues across the downtown Toronto core. The festival provides a platform for emerging youth participants who attend our after school and community programs to present high quality performances under the mentorship of our arts educators alongside contemporary local and internationally recognized headliners.

While past years were dedicated to primarily hip hop, R&B, and spoken word artists and speakers, between 2016 and 2018 I put a strong emphasis on the inclusion of LGBTQ and Indigenous performers as well as putting women front and center, not only as performers but also in major decision making roles.

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CINEMATOGRAPHY: Abid Verani
EDITOR: Andy Gavin Hicks

 

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On for the final day, Unity once again hosted a free outdoor concert at Yonge-Dundas Square featuring a live graffiti wall and a projection of Howie Shia’s film Bam: a co=presentation with the NFB.  Los Angeles native and purveyor of all things funk, Dam Funk headlined the live performances alongside Zaki Ibrahim, The Soul Motivators, Sacha Williamson,  and Above Top Secret.

Overall, we booked over 300 local and international singers, dancers, beatboxers, MC’s, and spoken word artists who collectively performed in front of over 5000 attendees at all four events.

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Through Facebook  and Instagram campaigns we reached over 9000 Facebook and 3500 Instagram users.

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On The final day at Super Wonder Gallery, we combined Unity’s signature dance event with the beatbox exhibition.

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In partnership with R.I.S.E., day two showcased Toronto youth in Emcee’ing and Spoken Word. Artists are encouraged to share their stories of success, struggle and and survival through word and song. Award winning founding member of R.I.S.E., Randell Adjei headlined the show alongside Amalia Mamalia and from San Fransisco, respected  afrohouse legend Rahan Boxley.

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2500 ten page booklet was distributed to all after school and drop-in programs, local music festivals and culturally related events throughout the GTA.

Booklet

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This year’s festival kicked off on Wednesday July 20th with an opening celebration at Super Wonder Gallery featuring graffiti and artwork by some of Toronto’s most prolific artists, music, and dance performances. Polaris prize winner Lido Pimienta headlined the event in addition to drumtalk poet Mahlikah Aweri, R&B singer Adria Kain, and the dance crew The Moonrunners.

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