Bout du Monde: Defying Stereotypes

By the Bout du Monde collective

The Bout du Monde (edge of the world) collective was formed in 2014. Its five members, Nicholas, Max, Melvin, Sasha and Evans, today 16 to 19 years of age, have been accompanied by their mentor Ricardo Lamour as they’ve journeyed to places where, as young Black persons, they weren’t expected to go. Their goal: using imagination, and their very presence, to get people to think more inclusively.

The following text presents the characteristics and the vocation of the Bout du Monde collective. It was sent to the editors of The Social Eyes and Reflet de Société by the members of the group:

Our collective’s goal is to get people used to our presence in the cultural milieu. We want them to make a place for young Afro-Quebecers, to make it normal for them to be included. As we’ve pursued our journey, we’ve met lots of interesting people. We’ve participated in digital storytelling, conferences, consultations, awareness-raising…

We’ve developed some great expertise, and we’re proud that several recognized institutions have reached out to us for our advice on accessibility and inclusiveness.  But we’ve encountered obstacles on our road, three of which have stemmed from the intersection of our age and our Afro-Quebec identity: objectification, exotization and adultification.


A group of young people advising adults on matters of accessibility and inclusion can seem a bit uppity and arrogant. But in reality it’s not rare for young Afro-Quebecers like us to be used as symbolic capital by adults. Quite a few have invited Bout du Monde to come up with recommendations for their institutions – recommendations that were never sure they’d follow up.

Talking to people around us, we found out that this is a common practice, these adults who tell a young minority that they’re in sync with their causes: “Join a committee, write up a petition, become a member of a board, present a workshop…” And then, radio silence. Adults find ambition among the young to be cute, but they don’t have time to listen to them. That makes us think about people who put #BlackLivesMatter in their bio, but don’t take concrete steps to get involved in the cause. Things go better when words become deeds!


To give a first example of the view of a “gang of exotic guys” some people have of us, take an incident that happened in a restaurant. The staff reserved a different type of treatment for us, and had us stereotyped: “Do you guys play basketball?” Why did they ask us that? Because of our tint? Because of our braided hair?

A second example: since we play music together, people expect us to perform rap with violent lyrics. But we’re the first to say there’s too much violence in the streets, and we show up at vigils. It makes no sense.

In response to all that, our collective helps raise awareness. We switch the trend because there are still those who think that street violence is cool. We present other options: sports, music, fashion, networking, entrepreneurship, activism… That’s what interests us as young people, so that’s what we’re trying to get other young people hooked on.


We are interns, consultants, panelists. We’re present at all sorts of cultural events. Sometimes we stand out from the crowd because those who doubt us ask: “How did these guys get in here?” That brings us to another bias that influences the development of young Afro-Quebecers like us: We’re generally seen as doing things that we aren’t old enough to do yet.

When we mingle among friends, police sirens often show up. We’ve done nothing wrong, but cops watch us nonetheless, and people are stuck between saying hi to us and ignoring us. Once we found the street barred to us by several police cars. One guy from Bout du Monde was taken off his bicycle and made to empty his pockets. The police didn’t believe him when he said he was a minor.

He had to call several members of his family to attest that he was telling the truth. Their justification afterwards was: “You don’t come across as a 16-year-old.” And if that had been a youth less well brought up and less disciplined than us, what could have happened? We read the newspapers, and it makes us think. We’d love to have the same privileges as others, to not fear going from being a victim to being a suspect, to be able to say: “If I get in trouble, someone will look out for my safety.”

The Voice of Youth

We don’t want to get into a big discussion about victimization, except to say that as we see it, silence can be a form of denial. It’s complicated to represent our experience fairly.

As much as it hurts when we’re treated like children, just as much do we denounce it when we’re mistaken to be adults too soon. In speaking out and taking our place as a collective, we hope to get certain people to realize that there are factors that play against us, and that we need adults who will listen to us and to support us.

There are those among our adult mentors who challenge us, and we like that. It’s a form of internal conflicting power that enriches the conversation. Recently we saw quite a few reports whose main argument was: “Talk to our children.” That generates enthusiasm. Also, we’ve seen the emergence of initiatives by other young people, such as La voix des jeunes comptent.   

Bout du monde is making its way assuredly in Québec society.

French version on the Reflet de Société website

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