One Young World summit attendees get out to experience Pittsburgh's offerings
One Young World delegates gather for dinner at the home of Grant and Aradhna Oliphant (not shown) in Squirrel Hill on Saturday.
Share with others:
In the past three days, One Young World delegate Megan Hooper, an ecologist from England, has unexpectedly found herself in a classroom full of inquisitive students at Sto-Rox High School, parading around Downtown behind cheerleaders and a marching band and salsa dancing with locals at a bar on Penn Avenue.
And on Saturday evening, she was mingling with Pittsburghers and other delegates at the Point Breeze home of Grant and Aradhna Oliphant. Mr. Oliphant, who heads the Pittsburgh Foundation, was part of a roundtable discussion earlier that day.
"We've seen a fine bit of Pittsburgh and now we're in somebody's home," she said, sitting on a plush leather couch in the living room. "This is not what I expected at all."
On Saturday, One Young World attendees fanned out across the city for home meals like the one in the Oliphant home and for a series of "breakout sessions," interactive classes on a range of topics.
In a mind-boggling miracle of logistics, One Young World loaded all 1,000-plus attendees onto buses and delivered them to sessions in a wide variety of venues, from university classrooms, to PNC Park, to the Hill House. They were then taken to homes and restaurants for meals.
In its totality, Saturday's events were meant to get attendees -- who are all under 30 and hail from more than 180 countries -- out of the sprawling David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown, where they held massive "plenary sessions" on broad topics like human rights, and into more intimate settings in surrounding communities.
Ms. Cooper said she had never been to a conference where the host city played such a role. Typically, she said, she sees very little of the host city outside of the conference halls.
"I think the stories I'll have to take away will be much more complete," she said.
At East End Brewery, delegates learned about "sustainable beer." At Ya Momz Recording Studio in East Liberty, they were schooled on hip hop activism and methods of using music to engage youth by local artist Jasiri X.
One Young World also commissioned Hip Hop On L.O.C.K. group, SCR Scream Team, to write an introductory song that leaders may make the official theme song of the conference.
Hip Hop On L.O.C.K., started by Ya Momz House founder Emmai Alaquiva in 2001, teaches leadership and business skills to youth by turning them into artists and executives of their own hip-hop label. Mr. Alaquiva and Jasiri X have traveled the country to teach workshops and participate in forums about hip hop as a catalyst for change.
"There are 180 countries being represented here and when you think about it the fact that they're using the umbrella of hip hop to bring things together, it speaks volumes on where we are today with this music," said Mr. Alaquiva.
The diversity of those interested in taking part in the workshop was one of the most energizing features for participants, said Hip Hop on L.O.C.K. volunteer Farooq "A-Jaxx" Al-Said. Participants represented countries that included American Samoa, Czech Republic, Ireland, and Saudi Arabia.
Mr. Al-Said, a native Canadian who speaks four languages, said he was excited to help participants craft rhymes in their native tongue but even more excited to see with his own eyes how far the genre has reached. "Hip hop transcends in all forms, it's more than music, it's a culture," he said.
While there's no arguing the existence of violence and misogyny in mainstream hip hop, encouraging youth to use hip hop to spark positive change has potential to change not only the genre, but the world. "Hip hop has played a role in the recent upheavals young people led in the Arab Spring and with Occupy Wall Street," he said.
In the Swiss Nationality Room at University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning, nine female delegates sat down to discuss equality in women's athletics. But before they took their seats in the room's stiff wooden chairs, they got a warm greeting from Agnus Berenato, the head coach of Pitt's women's basketball team.
"Hi! I'm Coach B," she said, stooping to shake each delegate's hand. In this small room, she seemed especially tall.
There was a true element of surrealism, as the women discussed their frustration with the lack of equity. A former synchronized swimmer from Brazil lamented funding cuts for sports that did not do well in the Olympics and a runner from Mexico spoke of the lack of athletic resources for youth in Mexico.
An esteemed group of local panelists walked them through the history of Title IX, described by Pitt Senior Associate Athletic Director Carol Sprague as the law "that made it OK for women to sweat over something besides an oven."
Thato Choma of South Africa, who complained women's sports get far less attention in the media than do men's in her country, worried that Title IX changed the law, but "not hearts."
"Social change is slow," cautioned Ms. Sprague, who has been with Pitt for nearly four decades. "Some people you can't change. You just have to wait for them to die."
Back in the Oliphant home, delegates and Pittsburghers conversed on the enclosed front porch, munching on salmon pizza and spring rolls.
Delegates from France, Australia, the United States and Mexico talked about the perception of America in Europe, and about the role of social media in Mexico's presidential elections before sitting down to enjoy a local delicacy: pierogies, piled elegantly atop sauerkraut.
First Published October 21, 2012 12:00 am