The Halifax Central Library was filled with music and dance last night as it launched a new partnership with UNITY Charity to allow youth between 10 and 18 to dance, rap and sing at weekly sessions at the library.
Beatboxers, breakdancers and singers showed off their talents at Paul O’Regan Hall. Their performance was part of a launch party that featured free pizza, T-shirt giveaways and audience participation.
UNITY reaches out to young people through school and community programs. According to their website, the charity seeks to empower young people art.
Michael Prosserman, UNITY’s founder, told spectators he was looking forward to seeing new artists develop in the space provided by the library.
He said breakdancing helped him express himself as a teenager.
“I used the dance to get rid of some of the stress and anger that I had as a teenager just beating up the floor and getting rid of that energy that I couldn’t describe in words,” Prosserman told the audience. “It really helped me focus not only in school and my day-to-day experience, but also life. I’m so happy to be able to share my outlet with other people.”
Angela Gladu, also known as Lunacee, danced in the circle of performers at the end of the evening.
“My exact thoughts were, I wish this wasn’t going to end, because this seems a little short. I’m a dancer and I love cyphers especially when the energy is like that,” she said after the event.
Gladu says she works with UNITY whenever they ask.
“I’m down with what they stand for and empowering kids to do what they want to do through the urban arts,” she said.
Branden Taylor knows a little about empowerment. He’s the program leader for UNITY in Halifax.
“When I was in high school a few years back I was really looking for attention in any way I could get it,” he said in a phone interview. “I was always disrupting classes and being a nuisance. Through UNITY I found a positive way to grab attention.”
It was Taylor’s idea to create a partnership with the library.
“I know that the library in Halifax right now is widely used by a lot of youth…so I knew being in a space where the youth were already going to go would be a good way to get some numbers out,” Taylor said.
Jessica Prince is the teen services librarian at the library. During her opening speech at the event, she thanked Taylor for being so persistent in reaching out to the library.
“A lot of people consider the library to be where you go to study or do research and read and that’s true. But it’s also much more than that,” Prince said in an interview afterward. “We want to make [the] Halifax Central Library a community hub where you can come and experience all kinds of things.”
Taylor said youth who come to the drop-in on Mondays will learn from each other and from experienced teachers.
“Everyone there teaches everyone new moves or different things that they’ve learned,” he said.
Taylor said he sees a big change in the young people who participate in UNITY programming.
“The biggest change I noticed in the youth was the confidence levels. I see them come in as a shy individual who doesn’t really have friends or really isn’t willing to put themselves out there,” he said. “[They’re] leaving as role models and leaders in the community.”
Special thanks to Sara Ericsson from Signal TV for the video footage.