Matthew Jonathan Derrick-Huie – does the name of this 22-year old Mississauga youth sound familiar? Probably not. He grew up in the Woodlands area, and has already gained years of international exposure as a professional soccer player in Italy and France, and is now rapping Mississauga as an up and coming rapper with features of various artists on his mixtapes. Maybe this name may ring a bell: John River.

Above and beyond the limelight, John River has faced many challenges in his life. We had the pleasure of hosting John at our afterschool and drop-in program, where he shared his life experiences and learning with passion, wit, and lots of humour! John captivated our regularly talkative and energetic youth in a small room, with all eyes and ears on him and a couple dropped jaws as he told his story. There is power coming from a young black male who has faced experiences of racism, lost family members to violence, and went through some very isolating times.

John River is an example for youth today to immerse themselves in their passion. He spoke about being a successful rapper and the countless hours of studying lyrics, poetry and the process of self-discovery which sparked the fire that can be felt in his music.

The greatest words of advice from John River this day: “If you can’t be better than the 7 billion people in this world, try to be a better listener, scholar and doer in every room that you are in. Position yourself in strength and work hard, study your passion, and strive to be the best version of yourself.”