Finding the rhythm through COVID-19 - Intercultural Youth Scotland

Every month, we shine a light on an organisation or project that the Youth Music Initiative (YMI) supports, and that works with one of their priority groups of young people.

These features will give a space for the organisation staff and participants to tell us their stories, and we are really looking forward to sharing these with you.

This month, we hear from Intercultural Youth Scotland.

A girl stands wearing a COVID-19 mask outside using electronic music equipment

Intercultural Youth Scotland (IYS) has a reach into Scotland’s BIPOC young (11-18 year olds) communities unequalled by any other organisation. At this time of huge social disruption, young people are among the most neglected in society.

By taking our proven services into the digital domain we have connected with more and more young BIPOC people who engage with our online channels to deliver a range of support and engagement. While the organisation started in Edinburgh, we also now have participation from BIPOC young people in Glasgow, Inverness and Aberdeen.

One of the key ways in which IYS has continued to engage our young people is through the use of the performing arts. We aim to provide young people with options to explore their creativity as a tool to get them involved with social change as well as to express some of their own anxieties and feelings through a creative outlet.

This outreach has taken different forms which include:

The Block Live

A weekly virtual youth club onto which we invited and interviewed 65 BIPOC artists including UN Decade of African Decent workshop leaders, Lighthouse bookshop, Rappers, Spoken Word Artists and performers. This has been an opportunity for isolated BIPOC young people to carry on participating in our weekly session, be part of an open mic session with live performances.

The session was an opportunity for young people to have something to look forward to, and prepare to ask questions, sing, dance, rap and recite spoken word. Without these services, many participants would have had no regular group and activity to look forward to.

We also made sure to compensate our guest artists, this was due to the fact that most of them were BIPOC youth themselves aiming to break their own barriers in the entertainment industries.

The Block really gave an opportunity for us to support young BIPOC creatives with both a platform to promote themselves and interact with other aspiring young people, as well as a chance to gain useful advice from people who have broken into their industries and learn about social change.

“The music industry itself is corrupt and unfortunately, systemic racism also occurs within that field as it seems to with many others. However, being able to have a creative space that is safe from tokenism, microaggressions and culture appropriation enables a new wave of creativity to emerge that allows the young artists within Intercultural Youth Scotland to freely explore and express their own talents.

Not only that, it has created a huge network of BIPOC artists which is something not often seen in Scotland and creativity in this sense truly is another way of empowering young black and brown artists by giving them a platform to use their voice in whatever way they want.” Afrika

IYS Girl Group

IYS provided a weekly Young Women’s Gender Equality Safe space girls group focused on Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards and general quizzes, get togethers and general support for BIPOC young women. The sessions brought in a total of 120 participants.

The IYS girls group also encouraged these young women to find creative avenues of expression. From urging them to try different things like art and design, writing songs and poems, and even helped one of the young women to learn to DJ which is an area so severely lacking in women of colour.

“Music is one of the key things about IYS, so many of our young people can celebrate and express their culture through it. I don’t yet make music myself but when the Block Beats Studio opens I am eager to learn about producing beats. But as a DJ music is important as I need to play something for everyone. I learned to DJ with IYS, they provided a mentor and all the support I needed to get started.

It means a lot to me as I was someone who enjoys listening to music all the time and creating playlists , I can now share that with everyone. Seeing everyone enjoying themselves at our annual Scotland in Colour Youth Festival last year made me happy as I was the DJ for the day so it was my job to keep the energy going. As IYS is youth led, we know what the young people want to listen to.” Nisha

Mental Health

There are consistent relationships shown between race-based discrimination and negative child and young people’s health and wellbeing outcomes such as anxieties, depression and psychological distress. In many BIPOC communities, mental health problems are rarely spoken about and are seen negatively.

This can discourage people within the community from talking about their mental health and may be a barrier to engagement with health services. COVID-19 & the murders of innocent black people will have a lasting effect on Young BIPOC Scots as they don't just see this, they feel it.

Research has shown that BIPOC communities and especially young people are less likely to seek support for ill mental health and if they do engage, quality of information, training, and resources devoted to those services are more likely to be of low quality or ineffective as there is lack of Anti-Racist education & cultural consideration training in many of these fields.

Music has proven a great way to keep some of the young people balanced mentally as it has kept them engaged in various activities across our platforms during COVID-19. We held our first outdoor performance since lockdown a week ago - keeping in with the youth work COVID-19 guidelines.

The young people were eager to perform and all clearly had missed the opportunity to interact like this - the energy that we experienced on that day reaffirmed exactly why we work with young people in the way we do through performing arts.

What does music mean to us?

Don’t let us answer that, see what some of our young people have said:

“Music making is a good way to express myself without having to be too vocal and serious. It is useful in terms of content in the words I use.

There are times when I may be angry or happy and this makes my song writing process quicker because I regularly have the words to express what I’m feeling more clearly. It's a great stress reliever as well." AD

“Performing arts is so important to me to express myself and it helps me really look at and understand how I’m feeling and put that out there to the world. I need music in my life, I need it to be.” Asha

Visit the Intercultural Youth Scotland website for more information on their services, and follow them on Twitter for all the latest updates

This article was published on 04 Aug 2020