Young leading the young

More than 100 youth from Atlin to Inuvik are expected to be in Whitehorse this weekend for the 11th annual conference organized by Bringing Youth…

More than 100 youth from Atlin to Inuvik are expected to be in Whitehorse this weekend for the 11th annual conference organized by Bringing Youth Towards Equality.

Chief among the meeting’s attractions will be a battle of the bands on Saturday evening and a performance by a magician and hypnotist Friday night.

Trevor Kiitokii, a Blackfoot from the Piikani First Nation outside Edmonton, promises to share a few street magic secrets with those who attend.

Worry not: his hypnotism performance does not involve persuading those under his spell to humiliate themselves in front of a crowd, he said.

“We want to clean up the mess left by other hypnotists,” he said during a telephone interview, as he drove between reserves in northern Saskatchewan.

His act should leave the crowd “laughing at the performance, but not the performer,” he said.

Kiitokii’s act is also meant to uplift young people. He talks about his own rough upbringing and offers his take on the culture of thugs and drugs transmitted to youth through gangsta rap.

He grew up around people who took those messages to heart.

“Those people are in prison or dead,” he said.

He performs at Yukon College on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. Admission is $5.

A night earlier, on Friday, Battle of the Bands is to feature local music ranging from folk-rockers Come Eat a Cat to the heavy-metal of Minotaur to a set by DJ Kelvin Smoler. Admission is $10.

Both these events are open to the public. There are lots other events, from capture the flag to comic making and a lot more, being held at the college as part of the conference that require a $50 registration to attend.

The central point of the meeting is to have “young people teaching young people,” said Ashley Camara, BYTE’s events co-ordinator.

Besides fun activities, the conference also offers workshops on sex education and the effects of street drugs.

The purpose of these workshops is to provide information rather than preach how to live, said Camara.

“That’s kind of an old-school way of thinking now,” she said. “We just want to convey as much knowledge as possible. And tools.”

All workshops are facilitated by older youth between the ages of 18 and 29. This helps because it’s often easier for teens to ask awkward questions to someone who is closer to their age, said Camara.

Many conference activities should leave participants with something concrete to carry away with them. Those inclined to doodle or write poetry can submit what they make to BYTE’s zine — a self-made publication — Toxic Blend.

Those who participate in Battle of the Bands can hear their music aired on community radio later. And videos produced during the weekend will later be posted online.

Kids who attend should take away a lot more than new Facebook friends in far-away communities, said Camara. They may end up with a self-esteem boost and a better sense of their strengths.

She points to many of the conference facilitators, who were once teen attendees.

The conference isn’t just for keeners. Every year BYTE encourages teens from group homes to attend.

A troubled teen may not come out of his or her shell right away. But they may attend Battle of the Bands one year, then decide to stop in at a workshop or two the next year, said Camara.

“It’s kind of like planting seeds,” she said.

Contact John Thompson at