Jarratt Best knows the importance of creating a positive community for youth and has the drive to make it a reality.
“If we don’t do anything today, we’re nothing for tomorrow,” says Best, a psychology and African studies student.
Best grew up in the Toronto neighbourhood of Malvern, where he saw “lots of drugs and youth dying in the streets.” He felt it was advantageous to leave and learn how to change his community.
At Carleton, he co-founded the advocacy group Black Affinity with his friend Bruce Kyereh-Addo. The goal of Black Affinity is to bring awareness to issues faced by African and Caribbean-Canadian students.
But Best had bigger ideas.
His passion for change was rooted in a desire to reach out to youth and give them opportunities and tools to achieve their goals — that’s how Rise and Flow was born.
In 2007, he organized a three-week summer day camp for disadvantaged youth. Completely free, the Rise and Flow camp allows Ottawa youth the chance to write, perform and record their own music. The camp is hosted on Carleton’s campus and will run again this summer.
“Music is something everyone does. You sing in the shower, you listen to music on the bus. It’s a stable form of expression but it doesn’t have a stable code — no one is left out with music,” Best explains.
He believes that music is the catalyst that allows youth to express themselves in an encouraging environment.
“The kids described what they saw in their community — violence and drugs. But they also saw the good pockets, people trying to make a difference.”
With a budget of only $5,000, Best and his team of volunteers arranged meals, transportation and equipment for 40 youth. He admits it was hard at times but the reward came from listening to the kids’ music and the enthusiastic response of campers and their parents.
“They couldn’t believe how happy their kids were,” he says. “Many parents thought the camp would be sub-par because it’s free. But we’re teaching these kids how to be good citizens.”
The success of the initial camp allowed for two more summer sessions to take place. Best and his team got funding from the Community Foundation of Ottawa, TELUS and E.T. Jackson & Associates. He credits Ted Jackson, associate dean of the Faculty of Public Affairs, for his advice about how to build a not-for-profit organization and promoting the camp within the university.
Rise and Flow is expanding and has a website. Two four-week camp sessions will run in Toronto and Ottawa this summer and the long-term goal is to launch the program throughout Ontario and then nationally.
Best is happy with the camp’s success but wants people to take this accomplishment as an example of what anyone can do.
“Don’t look to leaders, be a leader and follow your own dream.”