Movement to end violence in North End celebrates 4 years
Meet Me at the Bell Tower holds weekly meeting on Selkirk Avenue to support youth, build community
Meet Me at the Bell Tower, a weekly meeting on Selkirk Avenue outside the Indigenous Family Centre, got started in 2011.
The group, led by indigenous leader Michael Redhead Champagne, comes together every Friday night to discuss issues affecting the community and to highlight the positive things youth are doing in the North End.
"Meet Me at the Bell Tower is a place where we are able to teach the broader community about the great leadership capabilities of our urban indigenous youth leaders," Champagne said.
"I'm a little bit in disbelief I think, because four years ago my dreams came true and my life changed," Champagne said. "It feels like now the bell tower has been able to do for others what four years ago it's done for me."
The meetings began about a year after the creation of Aboriginal Youth Opportunities, another of Champagne's projects. Frustration also played an important role.
Important role of frustration
"I was in the process of doing more and more public speaking presentations and I was getting increasingly frustrated working within established institutions trying to get the messages of indigenous youth leaders heard," he said.
There are more helpers at the bell tower being born every single week, from children to elders.- Michael Redhead Champagne
"It feels like after Meet Me at the Bell Tower began, there was now a platform for aboriginal youth to take a solution-oriented leadership role in the North End for all of Winnipeg."
Champagne said since the meetings began, indigenous youths have been given valuable opportunities to listen to the concerns of people in the community and to practice their leadership and public speaking skills. It's also given them a chance to learn how to work together to help build brighter futures for indigenous people in the North End.
"When we started it was really our knee-jerk response to say we love our family and friends too much to let another one be lost without a response," Champagne said, adding the gatherings have far surpassed his expectations.
"Going to Meet Me at the Bell Tower now is my most refreshing moment of my week, because it's a place where everybody knows it's all about responsibilities to protect all of the children all of the time."
Champagne said he can see new leaders forming at every meeting, and that provides him with a personal source of inspiration to keep on growing the movement.
"There are more helpers at the bell tower being born every single week, from children to elders," he said.
"Sometimes I can feel discouraged or kind of exhausted, and so going to Meet Me at the Bell Tower on Fridays is always my reminder that there is a village standing with me and working just as hard."
The meeting this Friday will be the most diverse Bell Tower event to date, Champagne said, adding his dream is to see 1,000 people attend the anniversary celebration.