One of the most prominent modern discussions surrounds bullying – how it affects people and how to put an end to it.
In late March, a group of youth singers from the Adams Lake Indian Band teamed up with the songwriting powerhouse N’We Jinan to tackle this issue head on with their song Worthy.
Worthy was written and performed by a group of nine girls: Lola Thomas-Purdaby, Selena Davis, Angel Cameron, Jada Michel, Sasha Johnny, Cece Thomas-Jules, Lana Thomas, Hannah Willis and Brooke Stensrud. These girls all have their own part to play in the song and video, as does the Adams Lake Indian Band for their work making this project possible.
“I thought it would be a good memory for all of us girls, because we’ve known each other for a long time,” Davis says.
“Making the video was the best part, just cruising around with all of your friends and shooting video,” continues Thomas.
While the process was fun and rewarding for the girls, the song itself takes a more serious tone.
“There is three different parts to the song, they’re about anxiety, depression and suicide,” Thomas-Jules says. “A lot of people don’t think people actually go through that, but it turns out a lot of people do suffer from it and it could be hidden so well.”
The girls sing of how this affects their lives in very real ways and, perhaps more importantly, how to overcome these feelings.
“Some of us went through this stuff we sing about, so basically the whole song was about what we’ve been through, and just letting each other know that we are worthy and that others care as well,” Thomas says.
They hope their song can give some kind of comfort to others, spreading the message that everyone is worthy — even when they feel otherwise.
“I hope it makes people feel happy, and that they’re actually worth something,” Thomas-Purdaby says. “It makes me feel a lot better knowing that this song is making them feel good about themselves and that they’re getting more positive.”
N’We Jinan is a music initiative founded by David Hodges and Joshua Iserhoff in 2014 with the goal of visiting First Nations’ communities in Quebec and working with their youth to create music. The word N’We Jinan in the Cree language means ‘we live here, we belong here,’ and represents their goal of giving First Nations youth a voice and sense of belonging.
After the success of their first projects, N’we Jinan branched out of Quebec and into communities across Canada. So far, they have produced six albums featuring First Nations’ artists.
“The initial goal of it was really just to provide artistic opportunities to First Nations’ communities,” says David Hodges, one of N’We Jinan’s founders, also noting it has evolved in many ways since they began.
In its current form, the N’we Jinan crew visits First Nations’ communities to work with the youth and pack the entire process of writing a song, recording and filming a music video into four days.
Worthy has generated a positive response over social media, with many thanking the girls for sharing their message.
“In my mind I didn’t really think that it would go this far,” Thomas-Jules says. “I didn’t think people would actually be like, ‘this helped me… I’m still here today because of this song.’”
Hodges admits he was impressed by the wisdom and maturity of these girls.
“Worthy kind of showcases a bit of that, because those kids have been through some tough times,” Hodges says. “But the deeper we dove, the more I realized that these girls are very wise, kind of beyond their years, because they have to be. They didn’t want to give up on themselves.”
“These are real issues these girls are going through,” he continues. “It’s not just a song, it’s actually their life transposed into a song. They also know there are other kids out there that can relate to the way they feel. They saw themselves as positive voices that could speak to people on these issues. That’s what we do with N’we Jinan, is just giving kids a voice, and that’s the ultimate goal.”
Recently the girls travelled to Vancouver to perform during the launch party for the latest N’We Jinan album, and they say getting up on stage was a great experience for all of them. Their performing days may be just beginning, with plans in the works to take the stage during an upcoming Aboriginal Graduation ceremony in Enderby and 2018 Canada Day celebrations, along with performances at their schools.
The girls are proud yet humbled by the fact their song has impacted people in such a positive way. This experience also taught them how honest discussion can make them stronger.
“I learned that I was more brave than I thought I was,” Thomas-Purdaby begins.
“I learned that actually coming out with what has happened to me to the people I care about helped me learn that I can trust them,” Davis continues.