Operating since 2007, Unity Charity is a hip-hop based arts youth organization that uses dance, spoken word, MC’ing, DJ’ing and graffiti based art forms to improve young people’s lives. The work we do is vital for communities 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.
For that reason, we take quality control processes very seriously at Unity. We are setting a standard for arts organizations and social service agencies to have impact in and around the GTA. Working with other like-minded partnerships and other social serving agencies is the way forward for Unity to truly achieve real impact around youth mental health.
All of our programming and arts-based services are led by many of Canada’s top performing artists who are both professionally trained artists educators and emerging youth performers.
The UNITY FESTIVAL is a four day city wide event that is our 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 drop-in community programs to present high quality performances under the mentorship of our arts educators alongside contemporary local and internationally recognized headliners. It also allows youth to engage in workshops, competitions and to encourage youth attendees to engage in new and innovative performance spaces they may not have access to.
In 2015, I took over the role as Unity Festival’s EVENT COORDINATOR. A year’s worth in the making, we kicked off the festival with an opening celebration at Super Wonder Gallery featuring graffiti and artwork by some of Toronto’s most prolific artists, music and dance performances, a social/political discussion by filmmaker and activist Paul Nguyen and a solo performance by interdisciplinary musician Lido Pimienta. Additional headliners included drumtalk-poetic-rapologist Mahlikah Aweri, R&B/soul singer Adria Kain, dance crew The Moonrunners and female beatbox duo Psyreine and Sparx. Some of the visual artists selected included graffiti artists Rock, Phade, Water, Kizmet, Emstro and Darcy Obokata alongside large scale and sculpture pieces by Sun Sun, Komi Olaf, Sara Golish, Nancy King, Setti Kidane, Katie Morton, Gilles Monette, Karla Del Cid, Shalak Attack, and Dave Setrakian.
In partnership with R.I.S.E, day two was a celebration of spoken word and MC’ing. The purpose of the event is to bring MC’s and spoken word artists under the same roof to unify both Toronto movements as they share their inspiring stories of success, struggle and survival through words and song. Headlining artists included Erik Flowchild, Faduma Mohamed, Ikeno, La-Vane Kelly, Nasim Asagari, Ohm, Simon Yannes, Tamir Holder, Tobi Aji, and Zak’isha Brown with live performances by Rahan Boxley, Amalia Mamalia and house dance group Architects.
On Friday July 22nd, UNITY DANCE In partnership with BEATBOX CANADA (known for running the biggest beat-boxing battles in Canada) hosted two epic battles. The Beatbox competition featured a 1vs1 battle with Toronto’s top 8 beatboxers for 21 years and under. UNITY DANCE’s annual dance showcase featured some of North America’s top BBoys, BBgirls, Hip-Hop and All Styles dancers both youth and professional. Live performances by Re.Verse. Paul Chin, and DJ Dopey complimented the night in-between beatbox and dance battles.
On the final day, Saturday July 23rd, UNITY presented its annual outdoor free concert at Yonge-Dundas Square spotlighting new and established performers from local and internationally acclaimed singers, rappers, spoken word performers, breakdancers, and beatboxers featuring a live graffiti wall, multi -media exhibition, on site food trucks, workshops, dance cyphers and much more.
We were extremely proud to have one of my favourite Dj’s and Live performers DAM FUNK headline the concert with a host of Toronto luminaries including Zaki Ibrahim, The Soul Motivators, Sacha Williamson, Above Top Secret, Dynesti Williams, and Rise Ashen.
– Andrew “Andycapp” Hicks.
Check out more performances at:
Unity Charity Website: