Buddha blesses UDEF

UDEF is good for our soul!!!! (On many levels)

buddha

What’s good everyone! Greetings from Canada.  It’s Buddha, one of the founders of the Canadian Floor Masters and executive director of BluePrintForLife.ca. We celebrated our 30th anniversary this past year and, for those of you who don’t know, we are part of the Floor Masters familial, having our name passed to us from the New York City Breakers back in the 80’s. Shout out to my crew and Floor Masters worldwide.

My journey through life so far may resonate with some of you and I hope that the words and video below may inspire you to think about what is next for you as a bboy or bgirl in the larger sense of your life and the world.  Having the non-profit UDEF also thinking about creative ways to give back and change our communities is of great interest to me and I am proud that bboys and bgirls old and young are thinking in this direction.

I’ve been dancing since age 15 and, with me turning 55 this coming summer, that makes 40 years in the scene. In the mid-70’s, I used roller skating and dancing to funk music as a way to heal myself from a lot of crap in my life and, like many old school bboys, when I saw Flash Dance, I needed to grab some of that swag. Here’s my Ted talk with some of my journey.

Buddha’s Ted Talk

Buddha dancing over the years

In 1983, I started the Canadian Floor Masters together with Kid Quick. Hard to know who was the dopest Canadian crew in the early 80’s, as many of us never had a chance to battle, but we were certainly one of the most visible having opened for James Brown, IceT, GrandMaster Flash, Public Enemy, George Clinton, Russia’s Kirov Ballet and La La La Human steps.  Sounds like bragging, but you can imagine the sense of family and crew we built doing such shows and road trips together. We were there for each other through all of life’s hardships.

Original Canadian floor Masters – mid-1980’s

I’ve got a saying that we have been using for a while now: “They come for the hip hop, They stay for the Healing.”  Or, as this seems to apply to many of us: “We came for the bboying, We stayed for our own Healing.”

buddha and bam sm

I want to congratulate all of those involved in the UDEF initiative as I see it as making moves in the right direction, with a philanthropic focus on the bboy and bgirl community – I am a big advocate of building communities and figuring out creative ways to inspire others and give back; particularly giving back through an art form as beautiful as hip hop, which helped many of us manage our anger and get some of our demons behind us.

And, if it was such an important thing in our own lives, shouldn’t we spread this love and passion? Shouldn’t we move “Each One Teach One” away from the pile of easy slogans that draws peeps to hip hop because they so desperately want to be a part of something, into something richer in meaning?  I get this, but at some point in our lives we need to realize that it’s bigger than our personal ego. Once that starts to heal, let’s move things to the next level.

I am particularly interested in how we can use hip hop to engage youth with passion at the front end, but transition to deeper mental health healing that will help cats throughout their lives over the longer term.

There are a ton of self-confidence building classes already out there, and this is good, but in my opinion it is time we dissect the magic of our culture and move it forward with more sophisticated outreach. I’ve been around for a long time and I earned my Master’s degree in social work back in 1985 — trust me, the big systems of the world aren’t working so well for us. Justice, healthcare and education all need to be reworked for a modern age and yes, in my opinion, hip hop can play a huge role to lead in all of this.

Back in 1985, I did my graduate thesis on hip hop as a nine hour video documentary (VHS editing with the rainbow glitches between cuts). This thesis focused not just on what we were living and breathing in all of the elements, but more importantly on what all meant in terms of  doing real work to empower people in the hoods that are so often forgotten by society.

This grew into my involvement as one of the organizers of “Freestyle 85” in England, where we wrestled control of hip hop from promoters and gave it back where it belonged – to the artists — with the process of accomplishing this being the social work and empowerment in young people’s lives. To this date, the Freestyle 85 event is recognized as having been pivotal in Europe’s hip hop evolution, and many of the cats I worked with went on to have lifelong careers pursuing their art and passion in the elements of hip hop.  It was important insight for me at an early age. We can think out of the box, do stuff on our terms, and not only change individuals’ lives, but also impact wider communities.

Over the years of my professional career beyond dance, I have had some of the toughest front-line social work jobs, such as doing child abuse investigations, running group homes, doing street outreach, running wilderness programs for youth involved in the courts, being a probation officer and eventually forming BluePrintForLife.ca, which I have been running full time for eight years now.  In that time we have worked in over 50 remote communities in Canada, including the Arctic, delivering over 80 powerful, week-long intensives, where we become the entire school for a week (with teachers, police, social workers etc. all actively participating as equals with the youth.)

BluePrint in the Arctic

KRS-1 iand buddha 22 smOur BluePrint team represents approximately 40 of Canada’s top bboys and bgirls from right across Canada, together with some American brothers joining us, such as Waak and Nemesis from Breaks Kru and Frankie from Supreme Beings. What’s dope is that we are not only creating good employment for our brothers and sisters, but that with the intensive experience of our work, many of our team have chosen to return to school to pursue social work-related careers. I cannot begin to describe how we all continue to heal in our own deep ways by doing such work. Many of my team have now spoken publicly for the first time about the scars in their lives which drew them to our dance. How cool is it that we have created a workforce that cares, shares, and mentors healing in one another’s lives? Imagine a corporate megalith caring in this way — I’d like to see that happen. We are creating new models of work and leading by example.

Recently, we have begun doing intensive work in youth prisons with youth involved in gangs, many of whom have committed extreme violence such as murder and rape. In Canada our prison work is being talked about as revolutionary and many have stated that it is the most healing of anything that has ever taken place in the history of Canada’s corrections system. We are now mapping out how to do this in every facility in Canada, eventually moving from youth to adult prisons. My goal is to bring our model to other countries, including the USA, where prisons have unfortunately proliferated.

What never ceases to amaze me is how adaptable the hip hop art form is to working with different groups and cultures.  It is a gift to the world and it is exciting to see youth in Canada’s Arctic blend ancient Throat Singing with BeatBox or use their Arctic sports integrated with bboy movement. We also use it to connect generations as the family is important in every communities healing – check out these Elder DJ’s in the Arctic.

Arctic Elders DJ’s on the ones and twos

How cool is it that bboying is used worldwide to do creative outreach!? Shouts out to the worldwide bboy family doing this important work,

But I think we are at a new point in our history. Now we can make new allies and partners with Social Workers, Mental Health, Education, etc. Not to water down who it is that we are and what we do, but to show them that what we do and who we are is really a healthy metaphor for building resiliency and how to engage life. In moving to this next level, it is on us to connect the dots at deeper levels to mental health and use tools such as hip hop to open the door, while exploring deeper counseling and mentoring.

This is what we do in Canada. Our programs are not just about dance, we engage on all the difficult issues going on in people’s lives, such as sexual abuse, addictions, suicide etc.

Buddha talks about Sexual abuse

Anyway, we all have a lot of work ahead of us. We need to mentor each other and create real bboy soldiers in the world who are not just focused on winning comps, but on leading by example and changing the world -one hood at a time.

Good on ya UDEF on moving towards outreach as an important part of your mandate.

“They Come for the Hip hop -They stay for the Healing”

Here’s a final treat for ya…

Me getting down old school style at an event in the fall of 13’

Bboy Buddha at age 54

One Love !

Buddha

 

Bboy Buddha (Stephen Leafloor), Canadian Floormasters Crew
BA, MSW, Ashoka Fellow Canada
Founder of BluePrintForLife.ca
Ontario, Canada

Website: BluePrintForLife.ca

Video: http://vimeo.com/84702915

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/81033302853/