Kailha Winter-Smith’s 14-year-old stepson, Logan, has been taking part in activities at Autism Connections Fredericton since he was six years old.
She was asked to share her and her son’s story as part of the Songs of the City concert, which takes place on Jan. 18 at the Fredericton Playhouse.
United Way New Brunswick hosts these concerts annually across the province as an opportunity to showcase the impacts of community organizations on everyday people. Community members are paired with a songwriter who hears their stories and writes a song and performs it.
When Winter-Smith was young, she was diagnosed with a disability, but her mother gave her the tools to learn how to advocate for herself.
Logan was three years old when he entered her life. Winter-Smith felt equipped with the tools to help him build confidence in himself. She said Logan is now a junior leader with Autism Connections and helps others advocate for themselves.
“[Autism Connections] helped me realize that mine and Logan’s story is a full circle starting off with me … but now he has started to step up and be his own advocate and help others,” said Winter-Smith.
At first, she was nervous about meeting the rapper and songwriter Tristan Grant, who she was paired with, known on stage as Wolf Castle, but said there was an immediate connection.
“We had a great conversation … I’ve never had an experience like this. I love the idea of somebody building a song and music around what I’m talking about, about my journey, about my son’s journey,” said Winter-Smith.
Grant is a rapper from Pabineau First Nation, near Bathurst, N.B. It is his second time being a part of the Songs of the City concert and describes both experiences as a “privilege.”
He said he resonated with Winter-Smith’s story.
“One thing I took away from talking to her was the importance of a chosen family and being together,” said Grant.
“Not only were she and her husband championing Logan, but he was doing after school programs, and these groups were also there for him. It got me thinking about how it takes a village to raise someone.”
Grant said there is often pressure to be able to represent someone else’s story in a song, but he feels excited by the final result.
Winter-Smith explained that before Grant performs his song, she will be able to go on stage and share her and Logan’s story.
“The best way for people to understand the stories of individuals with disabilities is … the first person account and getting to know their stories,” she said.
She also said first-person accounts are a great way to understand the impact that the participating organizations have on the Fredericton community.
The Fredericton Playhouse will present this free concert in partnership with the Shivering Songs Festival and St. Thomas University. It will showcase stories from Autism Connections, Meals on Wheels, Partners for Youth and Under One Sky Friendship Centre.