WRITTEN BY: Kasra Koushan
UNITY, which stands for Urban Non-Violence Initiatives Through Youth, is a charity dedicated to empowering youth. It provides opportunities for expression through art forms like dancing, beatboxing, rapping, and more. As an umbrella organization, UNITY operates throughout the country, with chapters in Ontario, Alberta, and Nova Scotia.
I joined the UNITY chapter at the University of Toronto last year as a freshman, and have continued my involvement in the organization this year. Our local chapter runs several activities throughout the year, including weekly workshops in dance and beatboxing. It brings together students with similar passions and provides a communal space for us to express ourselves and develop our skills. But among the various things our chapter does, the most exciting and inspiring is our biannual Open Mic Night.
In the fall and winter semesters, we organize an Open Mic Night at Hart House in which students from across the U of T and UNITY community come together to perform, spectate, and cheer each other on. Every time we run the event, the room is bustling with energy and excitement. We learn more and improve with each edition of the Open Mic that we hold, and it seems the talent keeps getting better every time.
Most recently, we had our Open Mic for the 2016 Winter term on March 22. The night was filled with surprises and mutual support between all performers and spectators. There were witty rappers, soulful singers, lively dancers, and incredible beatboxers. I was inspired by the passion and talent my peers were displaying. There was tremendous love for all the performers, as each act was followed by a loud round of applause and cheers, and almost everyone stayed until the very end of the night.
Choosing to perform in a relatively big venue like this is no easy feat. It takes a lot of courage and leadership to put yourself and your art out there. But it was uplifting to see how many students and artists were willing to do this, and were also willing to support their fellow performers. UNITY has helped me realize the incredible talent and passion that the U of T community has. Outside of academics, the school is full of brilliant and creative artists willing to take the leadership to present their talents to the world.