There’s no telling how the day will turn out, especially when Al St. Louis, spoken word artist and actor, receives the news that the Don Mills Collegiate gymnasium would not be available for the workshop that April afternoon. It is part of a ten-week youth mentoring program that Al had been holding at the school.
In a classroom nearby the school’s front doors, it is decided among the group, that they will play soccer outside on the basketball court grounds. The boys’ energy escalates; they are eager to play.
But Al does not miss an opportunity to pack some deep thought into the game. “How many of you have goals?” He asks at one point, to which only about three out of nine boys raise their hands. One by one, the three voice their goals aloud. The answers he receives: “To be successful”, and “To go to university”. Al drives their answers: “What is success?” and “What university?”
These workshops are a program that fall under ASL (Ascended Social Lifestyle) Productions. Created by Louis, it gives students opportunities to have real life discussions. Louis has conducted them in several schools in the GTA, some of which include East York Collegiate, Forest Hill Collegiate, Humber College and Ryerson University. It is one way he aims to help youth build their confidence and reach for their dreams. “When I go to the schools, I talk to them about knowing themselves. I teach them how to trust in their own self, and in trusting in their own self, then they build a worth that no one can take away,” He says. “It’s how powerful you are on your inside, so we talk about that power, and how to develop that power and where that power comes from.”
Cheryl Kydd, creative assistant of ASL Productions, says that there is an increased emphasis on reaching youth with these workshops. “What we’ve been doing, is really putting him out there in terms of mentoring youth, which is what he really exceeds at,” She says. “We know he’s a poet, we know he’s an actor. But the message that he’s able to convey to our impressionable youth, I think is something that’s really needed.”
And it is quite apparent, that Al feels the need to bring across a message in his work. He draws on history and speaks to it, passionately.
It is the art of spoken word that Al sees as having tremendous potential for wielding great influence in the community. “I believe spoken word is the medium from which change is going to come.”
Al’s eagerness to advance in the spoken word scene, would lead to the creation of When Words Are Spoken (WWAS), an organization, aiming to establish up-and-coming poets, and reinforce the importance of the spoken-word scene. It is quite apparent, that Al feels the need to bring across a message in his work. He draws on history and speaks to it, passionately.
On Tuesday, March 27, Al received an award at the Black Business Professional Association’s (BBPA) Distinguished Men of Honour event. At the ceremony, he would get up in front of hundreds and speak. He would first tell the audience, “I don’t know what I’m going to say, but it’s going to be masterful.”
It is empowering words like these, that Al speaks often. “I tell life every single time before I perform, that it’s going to be a masterful performance, and ten times out of ten, it is,” He says. “So I know there’s a power that I can create. When I turn it on per-se, it’s a direct focus, like a laser beam.”
And Al’s spirited words may be just what is most needed. “If you’ve ever seen him speak to a room full of kids, just watching their faces, it’s amazing to see it,” Cheryl says. “He literally moves you.”
- Invite Al to hold a workshop at your school, through ASL Productions.
- Seek out a local youth mentoring organization in your area, and offer your services.
- Take time to nurture a relationship with a fellow young person you may know of in your community.