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Eternia one of many strong voices at Women’s Worlds 2011 in Ottawa July 3-7

by greg macdougall

See video

article originally published on apt613.ca

Eternia, proclaimed by Exclaim! Magazine as “Canada’s dopest female MC,” was born in Ottawa and spent the first part of her life here. She later moved to Toronto, and at 15 she says she “started to take [hip hop] more seriously.”

Her latest album, “At Last” with producer MoSS, was nominated for a Juno and has made the long-list for the 2011 Polaris Prize. She’s performing in Ottawa this coming Thurday as part of the international Women’s Worlds 2011 conference.

“I’m really really excited and honoured that they would even consider me a voice for the Women’s Worlds conference. It’s actually a lot of responsibility, I think about it and I’m like, it’s kind of a big deal, especially when I go to the website with all the different programs they have going on.”

Women’s Worlds 2011 is ‘a global convergence to advance women’s equality through research, exchange, leadership, and action’ that is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. It takes place from July 3-7 and will feature over 1600 women from around the world participating in some 300 presentations and panels. There is also an arts & culture schedule open to the public featuring 25 events and 10 exhibitions (mostly free admission).

Eternia is performing at the Women’s Worlds 2011 Farewell Street Party, taking place Thursday July 7th from 5:30-9:00pm at Tabaret Lawn at the University of Ottawa (corner of Laurier and Cumberland).

Greg Macdougall: What was it that got you starting to rap?

Eternia: We listened to Tom Green’s group [Organized Rhyme] in the ‘80s. My brother brought home hip hop when I was like 8 years old, and the rest is history. I just started rapping and never stopped, I just ran with it.

GM: So what keeps you doing it?

E: It just feels like it’s a part of me, so it’s pretty much as natural as someone getting on a bike or whatever they do everyday…  It’s a form of expression, it’s a form of therapy, I’d say my raps are writing letters to the world. It’s also a form of responsibility – as I get older, I’m more responsible with the messages I’m putting out there. It’s really a tool; the pen, and the vehicle of hip hop, is a tool for me to disseminate certain information, whatever that may be. I don’t have a very specific agenda, other than keeping it as honest as possible, so it’s not like I have some sort of political platform or anything like that, but definitely I’ve found that hip hop’s been there throughout the years no matter what I was going through, so I wouldn’t really abandon it, you know what I mean, it almost seems like a relationship with a person.

GM: Reminds me of that Erykah Badu song with Common, and the one the Roots did too.

E: ‘Love of My Life?’ Yeah. It’s true, and every once in a while, you want to leave it, it’s like the boyfriend where you’re like, ‘you ain’t treating me right’ you know, every once in a while you’re like ‘why?’, but then you work it out, you have your fights and then you move on. It’s literally like a relationship, and I have spent two-thirds of my life now in a relationship with hip hop, so it’s not one of those things that I would ever think about leaving. I mean, could I see myself doing it in a different capacity, for example facilitation or teaching or the non-profit sector? Absolutely. But I don’t think it will ever not be a part of me, I don’t think I’ll ever not be in relationship with hip hop.

GM: Do you see feminism as having an impact in your music, or a part of where you’re coming from?

E: There’s this quote that Rebecca West said once, something like “I never really quite figured out what feminism really meant, all I know is that I was referred to as a feminist whenever I chose to differentiate myself from a doormat.” And it’s like a really drastic statement, but it’s kind of how I feel. And what I mean by that is, if feminism means that I inherently just represent my voice as a woman, especially in a male-dominated field, then sure I’ll take on the word ‘feminism’ proudly. However, I don’t actively seek that, it’s just by virtue and by nature of how I’m living my life and what I am doing. So the kind of social change that I advocate specifically in my music, is literally a trust in your own struggle, be honest to your own voice, social change. So coming from the inside out – this isn’t something where I find out that something’s going on in the world that is unjust, and I want to do something about it, which is also very valid and should be done – this is something where I’m literally excavating the depths of the crap that I have personally seen and experienced with my own eyes, offering that to the world, and then saying ‘hey, everyone else has experienced something like this, why don’t we get free together?’ So if in that regard, that is some sort of feminist thing, then I’ll take on that word proudly, it’s just it’s very organic, it’s very innate, it’s not strategic.

Greg Macdougall is an educator, writer and activist based in Ottawa, who is covering the Women’s Worlds 2011 conference. His writings, videos and more can be found at www.EquitableEducation.ca .

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