Michael Redhead Champagne, aka North End MC, describes himself as “a 24-year-old Cree guy.” Hailing from Shamattawa, Michael was born and raised in the North End of Winnipeg. By night, Michael organizes AYO! (Aboriginal Youth Opportunities)—a youth-led anti-gang organization committed to breaking stereotypes and creating opportunities in the community. MC is also active in the community serving on several boards and committees, including North End Community Renewal Corporation, Mount Carmel Clinic, United Way of Winnipeg’s Aboriginal Relations Council, and the 595 Prevention Teem Peer Secretariat. TEDxManitoba is delighted that Michael will take the stage at our 2012 event.
What motivates you?
I’m motivated by injustice. As a young Cree person, the injustice I see around me every day can be overwhelming sometimes. But more than the injustice, I’m motivated by the potential that our young people hold, and by the firm and unwavering belief that when we stand together, we can move mountains. I have seen this potential realized in many of the young people I know and love, which is why I can speak so strongly about it. I’m empowered by the youth I work with, and in turn, I’m motivated when I get to watch them be successful, to realize and share their own gifts.
What do you do for a living and why?
I’m an occupational health and safety presenter in my day job. But in the evenings, I volunteer with community coalitions. I do this kind of work because I believe that armed with the right role models and the right information, our community of Aboriginal youth is unstoppable. I do this work because I believe that these young people will take the words and the example I share, and they’ll up the ante and continue to fight for their identities, their families and their communities.
Which TED talk do you think everyone should watch?
Mark Bezos’ A life lesson from a volunteer firefighter
Why are you excited to speak at TEDxManitoba?
I’m excited to speak because I want to bust stereotypes. I want to be able to share my example as someone who survived the child welfare system, the inner city of Winnipeg, life as a young Aboriginal man—and I am still standing and smiling today. I’m excited to be able to share some of my thoughts in a very accessible and internationally renowned forum. I’m excited to share the things that our little anti-gang has achieved in the short year-and-a-half we’ve existed.
What is your idea worth spreading?
There is a common misconception in society that the dominant culture must “do” something to the Aboriginal people and youth to “save” them. This is a colonizer’s attitude, and it’s accepted and perpetuated within the media, the education system, social work and the justice systems. In our AYO group, the young people already have many of the skills needed to turn around the negative realities they face on a daily basis. They have the leadership, the dexterity and the technological skill to take over right now as leaders in their communities. We believe that when young people are provided with love, positive role models and opportunity, they can and will successfully provide a “fresh” and sustainable alternative to current methods of community action. We want to share our example. We’re young Aboriginal people that have faced the challenges and systemic abuse that plague our nations (colonization, child exploitation, gangs, suicide, violence etc.) and have survived. We’ve learned to take these inequities, and through relationships and supporting one another in positive choices, we have been able to leave lasting impacts on our community.