A rose from the concrete: My reflections on National Aboriginal Day
National Aboriginal Day recognizes and celebrates the cultures and contributions of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada. To honour this special day, UNICEF Canada invited an Aboriginal youth to share his thoughts on what Aboriginal identity and reconciliation mean to him.
Written by a guest youth blogger
“Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature's law is wrong it
learned to walk without having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.”
- Tupac Shakur
This is a poem that I learned back in the 7th grade. It has always stuck with me. But as I started to get older, my mind obviously did get older too. The lyrics of these grown men in my mind went from talking about violence and drugs to being a reflection of my actual harsh realities. The rose symbolizes being able to strive to success through all the static factors that are holding you back, such as discrimination, racism, inter-generational trauma, etc. It means that if you put in the time along with the perseverance, you will be able to rise above the expectations that are put before you.
For me personally, it’s the idea about achieving all that you can, and being all you can be, so you can beat the cycle plaguing our people. The idea about the rose coming from the sidewalk is to prove that while so many people may not be doing anything with their lives, if you work on yourself and strive for greatness, others will notice and hopefully follow along. But also know that we are all human, and we will mess up sometimes. But that’s the beauty of accepting ourselves, our rights, our wrongs and learning while we’re on this journey of life.
I learned this all through my own experiences, growing up as a teen in a city that has high murder rates, drug abuse, and more. I admit it was very difficult to retain a path on the red road. When I wanted to powwow, my friends wanted to party. When I wanted to ceremony, I was always working. But at the end of the day, I see what I don’t want, and I see where I want to be 15 years from now. I want to be able to help my people.
Reflections on Aboriginal identity
For years and years when I was younger, I was blind to so many injustices around me. They were the norm. I was one of the very few Aboriginal students at these various schools I attended. I’d know that because the other Aboriginal students and I all stuck together. No one wanted to be our friend, they were scared of us. Also we were scared of them. With differences in lifestyle and sometimes racism, it was very challenging to go to school on a daily basis having to face that. But if there’s one thing that poem taught me, it is to be that rose. In a metaphoric sense that rose represents potential in one person who was able to beat the stereotypes, the outside influences, and achieve greatness. I want to be able to do that; I don’t want to be another statistic relating to Aboriginal people. I want to be an astronaut or a business owner, maybe both. But at the end of the day it’s about what you put into it, that you’ll get back. So with that being said, break the system, reach for the stars, and set no limitations.
Historical discrimination against First Nations peoples in Canada has led to poor outcomes for Aboriginal children, including their inability to fully enjoy their rights to health, education, housing, and clean water. Understanding how this inequity shapes the lives and views of children and youth is an important part of reconciliation, the healing of relationships between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. UNICEF Canada is committed to playing its part in reconciliation and in improving outcomes for Canada’s indigenous children.
To learn more, please read Creating a better future life path for children on National Aboriginal Day
Photos are credited to Odile Nelson at the Office of the Nunavut Representative for Children and Youth.