For rapper, performer and journalist Brad Bellegarde, life changed the day he took a high school music class.
Growing up in Regina, Bellegarde, a Nakota/Cree member of the Little Black Bear First Nation, said he never felt like he fit in, the only First Nation student in his classes. While friends travelled abroad for summer holidays, Bellegarde spent his summers with his maternal grandmother on Carry the Kettle First Nation. As classmates rode roller coasters in Disneyland, Bellegarde picked berries each morning.
Moving from an elementary school of 300 students to a high school of 1,000 didn’t negate the feeling.
“I felt like a smaller fish in a bigger pond,” he said.
But then Bellegarde, an aspiring hockey player, took a music class. Without even an introduction, Bellegarde’s classmate challenged him to a rap battle, encouraging the fellow student to go home and write a rap to bring back.
That night, Bellegarde worked on his rap, presenting it to his classmate the next day.
Before an audience of all ages at the Lumsden Library Feb. 27, Bellegarde recalled the day. He recognized that with rap, he found a sense of belonging.
Bellegarde described it as a time when few people listened to rap. But when teachers asked what he wanted to be, his answer was the same — a rapper.
The artist pursued his dream, working odd jobs after high school, waiting for his big break.
And then one day he received a call from the Saskatchewan Arts Board inquiring if Bellegarde “the rapper” would be interested in performing at the Vancouver Olympics, the trip fully paid.
“I’m all in, I made it. This is what it’s like to be a rapper,” Bellegarde recalled thinking.
During interviews in Vancouver, Bellegarde said he was asked if as a First Nations person he ever thought he would perform at something like the Olympics and if, as a First Nations person, he ever thought he would make it to Vancouver.
“I felt as if I didn’t belong again,” Bellegarde explained.
The questions inspired Bellegarde to attend university to pursue journalism.
Bellegarde summarized that his persistence to become a rapper took him to the Olympics, and being interviewed at the event led him to become a journalist.
“My point is my persistence created my story,” he said.
The rapper, performer and journalist recognized that there are times in life when different opportunities arise, and while it might be scary, a person has to ask themselves what is the worst that can happen.
Bellegarde reiterated the opportunities in his life came because he followed through on what he loved, and he encouraged others to do the same.
“I didn’t let anyone tell me I wasn’t going to get anywhere,” he said.
The artist shared his inspirational message at the Lumsden Library as part of Aboriginal Storytelling Month. Throughout the month of February, storytelling events were held in libraries, schools and community centres across the province, promoting the rich oral history and cultural traditions of First Nations and Metis people.
Bellegarde said looking back now, rap for him relates back to storytelling.
The artist is using his music to help others connect with First Nations culture and history.
During his time at the library Bellegarde shared his music.
Through his song I Remember, the artist shares his family’s residential school experience.
The event marked the second year the local library has hosted a speaker for Aboriginal Storytelling Month.