My name is Calvin “Kalvonix” Tiu and I am a rapper, writer, public speaker, creative and Mental Health Advocate. Growing up with Cerebral Palsy,
I have first-hand experience of feeling unworthy and useless due to bullying. While I did not see it initially, I realize now that these hardships have had a tremendous effect on my creativity and how I carry myself as a whole. While being whipped with skipping ropes or being called “Cripple” every day was extremely taxing on my mental health, I have learned to appreciate my painful experiences as they have given me the drive to push forward. Discovering Eminem at a young age around the same time the bullying started, I quickly connected with how he wrote about his struggles and put it into words that others connected with.
Wanting to capitalize on this inspiration, I picked up a pen, a journal and a cheap computer mic and began to write and record rap songs that served as artful reflections of my life’s journey.
Over fifteen years later, I have many self-produced solo albums, garnered over 2 million streams on Spotify and do lots of public speaking work to youth in which I share my story and encourage others to find their passions.
As someone who lives with a physical disability as well as struggles with anxiety on a daily basis, I hope that those who encounter myself and my work will be able to find their own inspiration and help spark their own ideas to advocate for mental health as well as pursue their passions.
Why are you a Stigma-Free Champion?
I am a Stigma-Free Champion because I believe in the power of working together to make a change. I believe that everybody has a story worth telling but sometimes, we need a spark to give somebody the encouragement to tell their story and help others. Mental health is something that we all have and all experience on a daily basis and yet it is still somewhat of a taboo topic. Society has come a long way even since I was in high school in regards to mental health, but there is still more work to do. I think in order for stigma to be reduced and mental health struggles to continue to be taken more seriously, we have to reach the youth in fun and creative ways that they can relate to.
With this in mind, I hope to use my voice, music talent, and passion to reach as many people as I can to help continue the conversations surrounding mental health.
How have you used your experiences to make a difference?
I try to always use my creativity, voice and platforms to push my advocacy for mental health. For instance, in 2015 with the help of the English Department at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, my friend and I embarked on an Outreach Workshop tour where we went to high schools in the Richmond, Langley and Surrey School Districts. The workshop focused on our life stories and journey in finding our passions for rap and poetry and using it to inspire others. We then used the second half of the workshop to focus on getting the students to focus on exploring their own individual passions and how they can incorporate them into their everyday lives just as myself and my friend did. I still do my own solo version of this workshop as a private contract to this day.
I have also spent the past few years as a speaker for jack.org in which I also visited high schools and presented on mental health including ways we can support ourselves and each other.
As for my music, a common theme that runs through much of my work is mental health as I use my music as a creative outlet to release my feelings surrounding my life experience and passions. I have music for all moods and by no means am I saying every song has a deep message, but the music that means the most to me is the ones that truly deal with my inner emotions and the hardships that I have experienced. When I receive messages or when students come up to me and tell me that a song of mine has inspired them or made them feel better during a tough time, it is such a satisfying feeling as I think back to my younger self who did not have a voice.
Why do you think it is important to talk about mental health and stigma?
I think it is important to talk about mental health and stigma as we all deal with it. We are all here on this one planet and are all dealing with our own struggles on a regular basis. When you think about it like that, there is no reason why we shouldn’t be able to talk to each other and help each other find ways to cope. If we normalize these types of conversations and realize that we are all trying to figure out a way to navigate our struggles, I believe that the stigma will naturally decrease day by day. It can be as simple as that, but we have to keep putting in the work.
In one sentence, what is your message to the Stigma-Free community?
We all got our passion, love and commitment to mental health so what are we waiting for?!