By: Anna Kazi, Peak Associate
World record-setting rapper, Duane “D.O” Gibson, kicked off the year with the Black Music 365 tour which teaches youth in BC about the musical contributions of Black Canadian talent. Gibson spent the second week of January speaking and performing his songs at schools in Chilliwack, Langley, Aldergrove, Maple Ridge, and Port Coquitlam. This past week, he delivered presentations in Burnaby at the Michael J. Fox Theatre. Before he heads to Toronto for the next leg of the tour, Gibson sat down with The Peak to talk about why he’s on a mission to empower youth and Black Canadian talent.
As a Black Canadian from Nova Scotia, Gibson has always been interested in learning about his family history. “What I noticed when I was living in Ontario is that a lot of people weren’t aware of Black history.” He added, “I think it’s really important, especially as a Canadian, to talk about our country.”
Gibson has visited over 1,000 schools since he started delivering presentations to youth back in 2001. “When I tell kids about how Black hockey players in the NHL was from Canada, and that there was the Coloured Hockey League in the 1800s — 22 years before the NHL — I think it makes people realize that there is a rich history of Black Canadians playing hockey,” said Gibson. “For people to say things like ‘Black people don’t play hockey’ is an ignorant thing. I hope that by giving kids that knowledge, they can come back and stand up to racism.”
In 2014, Gibson wrote a hip-hop curriculum for the Toronto District School Board. “Hip-hop music is a part of youth and popular culture. It’s a way to engage students,” he said.
Gibson’s extensive discography boasts impressive wordplay, groovy rhythms, and inspirational hooks. His anti-bullying anthem, “I stand up,” features a music video filmed in an Ontario elementary school. Students were filmed dancing and mouthing the lyrics along with Gibson.
Gibson is also working towards raising the profiles of Black Canadian musicians. He will be attending the Grammys in LA, where he’ll be organizing his sixth annual Canadian artist and industry networking event, Northern Power Summit.
“I love showcasing Canadian talent. One of the things that I noticed coming up as an artist was that there didn’t seem to be as many opportunities for hip-hop and racialized artists, and I realized for myself in my career, that I had to take charge of my career,” said Gibson. “I couldn’t wait for a label or manager to come along and help me. So I want to provide an opportunity that was never given to me to help that next generation of artists.”
Gibson also reminisced about his childhood influences. “I loved hip-hop music and I remember it being an outlet for me because when I was getting picked on in school and being bullied. I didn’t fight back with my fists, but I used hip-hop as my outlet,” said Gibson. “By writing raps and expressing myself, there was a way for me to get things off my chest. And that’s what I loved about hip-hop is that it’s so much of your personal story. It gave me a chance to express myself. Tell my own story.
“One of the things that I tell kids in every presentation, and I get them rapping along to this phrase as well, is ‘can’t nobody hold me down.’ I think that’s an important thing for young people to learn is that you can’t let anybody hold you down or hold you back.”