Finding his rhythm

January 27, 2023


Osani found healing and purpose at a donor-supported music program.

Help change lives like Osani’s in Winnipeg now.

Growing up, Osani had plenty of reasons to be angry.

There was the racism he experienced at school, making him feel like an outsider. And the exclusion he felt by not seeing himself reflected in pop culture and the media.

Feeling rejected by outside forces was painful. But it was when his dad walked out on him and his mom that drove Osani to the brink.

“I was being triggered all the time by not having a dad,” explained Osani. “It was the reason for my lack of self-confidence.”

Years of living with a sense of abandonment and feelings of unworthiness led Osani down a dark path. By 15, he was turning to alcohol and drugs to numb his pain.

“I wanted to let the world know how angry I was—and it came out through addictions,” he said.

The self-destructive pattern continued throughout his teens. But when one party went too far and ended in violence, Osani decided it was time for a different path.

“I knew I had a problem . . . I just couldn’t tell my mom,” said Osani. “So I went to Studio 393 instead.”

“I finally stopped battling the world and learned how to be in it.”

A place to become—and heal

Ever since he was 12, Osani would regularly drop in at Graffiti Art Programming’s Studio 393*, a youth-led arts studio supported by United Way Winnipeg donors.

With a newfound love of rapping and writing music, Osani could access Studio 393’s music production technology at no cost and learn from skilled mentors who showed him the ropes of beat-making.

But Studio 393 was so much more than a building to hone his craft. It was a place of refuge. A place he could form meaningful connections—and even ask for help.

Courageously, 17-year-old Osani opened up about his struggles with a Studio 393 staff member, who helped him register in an addiction treatment centre.

During that difficult time, what held Osani steady was his passion for music, especially mixing and mastering.


“Studio 393 was a big part of my healing journey.”


With the guidance of his therapist, Osani discovered music was so much more than a hobby. It was a lifeline—a way to turn his anger and pain into art.

“Music keeps me afloat. It’s a form of self-care,” said Osani. “Without music, I think I would’ve given up a long time ago.”

Osani left the treatment centre with a new sense of purpose. He returned to Studio 393 with deepened gratitude to have a safe place to keep growing—both as a musician and a human.

“They gave me a place to feel whole.”

Now 23, Osani has evolved from student to performer and from participant to staff member at Graffiti Art Programming.

Building a music career is a dream come true for Osani—a dream he wants to leverage for good. As a Guyanese-Cree musician, Osani draws on both of his cultures to inspire and connect with his community, all while advancing better representation of diverse artists.

“No matter how I was doing, no matter how my world felt, whenever I’d go to Studio 393 and see people creating art, it was really nice to see that life still goes on, to see movement in a positive way.”


He’s also passing down the skills he sharpened at Studio 393 to the kids he mentors. Recently, he landed an artist residency, teaching music to youth on reservations and in small communities across the country.

Looking back at the past decade, Osani is proud of how far he’s come and grateful for the support he received along the way.

“Studio 393 was a big part of my healing journey,” said Osani. “The people, the mentors, the space, the art—all these things kept me going.

“They gave me a place to feel whole.”


*Since 1998, Graffiti Art Programming has provided youth with a safe and accepting space to build artistic skills, confidence, and character. United Way Winnipeg donors support a range of services, including free after-school art lessons, youth leadership development, and exhibit space for emerging artists.


Similar Stories

2023 Campaign kicks off with the Walk This Way Finish Line and message of our critical need to work united this year.
After a devastating accident in her teens, a donor-supported agency helped Yvette navigate her disability and turn her life into a work of art.