'Much love' from Edmonton: Youth pen letters to Attawapiskat

An Edmonton youth group called Cipher5 penned words of support for young people living in Attawapiskat. The remote Ontario First Nations community has been hit by a rash of suicide attempts in recent weeks.

Young Edmonton rappers and hip-hop artists share verses of solidarity with Attawapiskat youth

Youth pen words of solidarity for Attawapiskat

6 years ago
Duration 1:14
Young rappers in Edmonton, all members of Cipher5, are writing letters of support to the youth of Attawapiskat in the wake of a rash of suicides attempts.

"To our young brothers and sisters in Attawapiskat." 

That's how many members of an Edmonton youth group called Cipher5 begin their letters.

The team of young rappers and hip-hop artists meets regularly to share verses with each other. On Tuesday, they met to write verses of support for youth in Attawapiskat instead.

Members of the Edmonton youth group Cipher5 penned letters of support to Attawapiskat Tuesday. (Zoe Todd/CBC)

A rash of suicide attempts hit the First Nations community in remote Ontario, prompting a local state of emergency. 

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde called for long-term support after 11 people in Attawapiskat, mostly youth, attempted suicide in one April weekend. Another 28 people had already attempted suicide in March.

Andre Hamilton, the organizer for Edmonton youth group Cipher5, says he hopes the group's letters can help even just one person in Attawapiskat. (Zoe Todd/CBC)
Andre Hamilton, the organizer of Cipher5, says suicide is an issue the group can relate to. That's why its members responded to Bellegarde's call for help with a bundle of letters.

"All the youth here and young adults, are all fighting the same fight," Hamilton says.

"We're all going to author a letter of heartfelt support, encouragement and our own personal insights that might spark even just one youth if it gives them something to trudge on one more day." 

Hamilton says the circle of youth in Cipher5 are word-smiths who use rap and hip hop to cope with their own pasts. That's why he wanted them to send words of solidarity to youth in Attawapiskat.

"Hey brother, you're strong for making it this far I'm proud of you for being here. I can see perseverance by everything you've been through and you're still standing tall with every resemblance to a warrior. 

"Hey sis, I can't forget about you. You're beautiful. Just the way you are. You have strength enmeshed with everlasting roots. I'm so proud of you for being here. Remember you are loved. Keep flying precious bird. Spread your wings and soar though the limitless skies because it's beautiful. You're beautiful. You're a warrior. Much love and respect to your family. You're not alone, ever. Much love."

- Unsigned

The letters were sent to the youth in Attawapiskat Wednesday morning. (Zoe Todd/CBC)

"Attawapiskat youth, I have walked through hell myself and made it through to the other side. I held on by listening to the whispers of my ancestors who told me something. Something that I never forgot when I was being swallowed by darkness. My ancestral guardians said to me with the faintest whisper, "I love you. "

Attawapiskat you are loved here at Cipher5 and I pray that when you close your eyes at night you hear our whispers to you."

- Dre Pharoh

Kayla Chantelle says she wants her letter to reach another young aboriginal woman. 

"Our girls really need to realize how important life is," Chantelle says. "We have the ability to give life and we need to continue that and not take away our own lives. And if I can reach someone with that, that would be pretty awesome."

Chantelle's friend, Angel Morningstar, sits next to her and nods. 

"These people are literally begging for help right now," she says. "We need to give them that attention and we need to show them that we as a Canadian people stand together and that we support them and that they will get through this."