Catalyst Spotlight: HEARt* Radio Mixtape Project – with AaleemRM

Sun Park Phoenix



Impassioned through conscious storytelling and his love for music, Aaleem’s purpose is deeply rooted in his commitment to the youth within his communities, as well as honoring the oral traditions of music making to encourage and affirm the spirit and collective energy of those who are finding their voice. 

When asked to consider and define himself as a human, Aaleem hesitates for a moment, and speaks honestly, saying “Who am I as a person? I’m ever-evolving, ever-changing, ever-growing, ever-learning”. A testament to this, is his own journey as a musician, artist-educator and community animator. 

“When I do music, it’s almost like talking to my inner child”. He goes on to explain that in this day and age where spirituality and artistry are intertwined, that he’s had to learn how to find the value in his own shadow. “It also equates to [finding] value in death. The things that I’ve been through, the things I’ve seen… it could overtake me or I can be that light in that darkness”. 

Community work and music, for Aaleem, is very integrated within his practice. He goes on to say that working on music without community work and working within community without incorporating music, feels out of balance. 

Voice of Purpose has had the honor to work alongside Aaleem as part of our Catalyst Incubator, a cohort that supports a small group of artist educators by holding a 6 month supportive container which includes mentorship on their 8 week program design and development. While in the Incubator, participants become co-researchers as part of Voice of Purpose’s Engaging Artists in Digital Learning Environments (EADLE) research. Birthed through the mission of igniting a movement of artist-educators and arts organizations to embody their purpose to deepen their impact, the EADLE research initiative addresses the complex and at times inaccessible nature of a reality that is more and more digitized. The connection between Aaleem’s program and Voice of Purpose’s EADLE initiative is a special one, as his program will also serve as a case study for the larger research project.  This research project is a partnership initiative led by Voice of Purpose, Art Starts and several transformative arts organizations across Canada and the US, funded by Canada Council for the Arts

When it comes to his personal growth, Aaleem opens up about his past struggles with imposter syndrome, and strives to arrive at a place where doubts and fears aren’t a factor in deterring opportunities or his hyperawareness and complicated feelings about belonging. Through his time spent engaging with his co-researchers within the Catalyst Incubator, Aaleem says he’s proud to be able to notice his own evolution, and has begun to build a “tool kit” of faith and safety in himself. He connects to the “Creation” element of purpose the most, as his creative self has been such an integral part of his self care and self-understanding practices. 

As an intuitive person, he talks about his observations of people he’s encountered within his sector and communities. “We walk around with distorted root chakra energy, so it automatically doesn’t feel safe”. This connects to Aaleem’s passion for working with young people, and the importance of affirming youth as they develop into adults and enter into worlds that might not always feel or be safe. “I want to be that which the community needs, I want to be what I needed when I was kid”.

A true artist, Aaleem talks about some of his core philosophies as an elder in the youth community, and as an arts educator. “The most negative thing that has happened to us, I feel like the opposite is our life’s purpose.” He explains “so if the most negative things that happened to me were abuse and destruction, then the opposite of that would be construction and healing. Aaleem says, simply, that he is here to build up the spirits of the youth in the community. 

Aaleem is Toronto based, with roots in the Rexdale youth community. He shares that growing up, he would see images like trash overflowing, or people visibly struggling, and how he internalized a lot of social messaging about his worth and value as a person and as an artist. These are the foundations of his passion for working with young people. While reflecting on this, he poses the question: “Where do the youth go? How do they feel in this society, when they’re always outcasted?”

This is one of Aaleem’s driving forces for his upcoming 8 week music and mix-tape based program called the HEARt* Radio Mixtape Project, for 8 youth ages 15-19. His hope is to help expand the horizons of youth, as well as introduce them to beloved mentors and fellow artists that his participants will form genuine and long-standing connections with. 

His hope is to help expand the horizons of youth, as well as introduce them to beloved mentors and fellow artists that his participants will form genuine and long-standing connections with. “It’s a cool ‘hiding the carrots in the cake’ type concept with the youth”, Aaleem explains. “It’s like yeah we’re doing an arts project, it’s a mixtape, it’s going to be dope… But it’s not just for show, it’s for glow. It’s for your growth”. By integrating activities with a deeper purpose and meaning underneath, Aaleem strives to use the shared passion of music-making as a means to affirm and support youth, their dreams and their sense of self-esteem.

When envisioning his future as an arts educator, Aaleem dreams of creating holistic spaces of expression, where the multiple layers of a person are welcomed and encouraged. 

Aaleem’s program is officially seeking participants, and will officially begin on February 21, 2023.  Know any youth who may be interested? Click here for the registration form. Slide for more details on the program, and make sure to share with youth in your networks!