The Degrassi Kids Rap On Rights (found Degrassi/UNICEF video co-production; 1989)
A still from the video that inexplicably appeared in an Instagram post by Retrokid promoting a line of Degrassi merch. Amanda Stepto, narrator of the video, is wearing a UNICEF shirt in the center
Date found: 04 Nov 2022
Found by: Balmz (Degrassi Preservation Project)
The Degrassi Kids Rap on Rights is a ten-minute video starring the cast of the Canadian television series Degrassi High. It was produced in late 1989 by Degrassi High's production company Playing With Time, for UNICEF, coinciding with the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The video is presented by Amanda Stepto, who played Christine "Spike" Nelson (a teen mother whose daughter Emma would become a main character in a future installment).
The video helped explain children's rights using the three P's system (Provision, Protection, and Participation) to students across Canada, who would ratified the convention in 1991. The video was presumably made around the time the United Nations opened the convention for signatures in November 1989. The video also features recollections from three cast members who were refugees as children. While rapping is mentioned in the title, most of the video is spoken.
The video was distributed to schools throughout Ontario and nationwide. While the video was confirmed to exist physically in an Ontario university library, very little evidence of it existed online aside from passing mentions found in an official Degrassi book and in newspaper archives until its discovery in November 2022.
Background[edit | edit source]
Degrassi is a long-running Canadian teen drama franchise that primarily focuses on an ensemble cast of middle to high schoolers confronting various coming-of-age issues. It has gone through several iterations since 1979, two of them including Degrassi Junior High (1987-89) and Degrassi High (1989-91), which aired to large numbers on the CBC and kickstarted the franchise's success and notoriety.
In 1989, UNICEF director of communications Srinka Wallia approached the Degrassi producers, hoping that one of its actors could become an ambassador for UNICEF's Ontario branch. However, she was offered the entire cast (which comprised a repertory company) instead. The Degrassi cast appeared at public events, helped promote literacy, and did televise PSAs.
Content[edit | edit source]
The video, which runs for ten minutes, takes place in the Degrassi High cafeteria and allegedly consists of multi-ethnic extras from the cast speaking about their experiences in their home countries. It was narrated by Amanda Stepto, who played the spiky-haired teen mother Christine "Spike" Nelson.
Availability[edit | edit source]
The existence of the video was mentioned in a Playing With Time newsletter, and in the book The Official 411: Degrassi Generations, written by Kathryn Ellis and released in 2005. However, despite the video allegedly being distributed to Canadian schools, the video has never been uploaded online, or available physically, except for one copy at the Queens University Documents Library in Kingston, Ontario.
A brief excerpt, featuring character BLT (Dayo Ade) rapping about being the "number one dude on Degrassi", is seen in The Degrassi Story documentary, that aired on CTV in 2005 and was hosted by long-running Degrassi actor Stefan Brogren. The documentary was uploaded to YouTube by 'Degrassi Tour', a channel run by Degrassi actor Pat Mastroianni, in February 2021. In June 2021, an article from the Toronto Star dated October 31st, 1990, surfaced that mentioned the video, and claimed Amanda Stepto to be responsible for the video's narration.
2022 saw a series of developments that culminated in the video's discovery. Two stills from the video inexplicably surfaced; the first in the July section of a 2022 calendar sold by Degrassi Tour (a business run by actor Pat Mastroianni), and the second in an Instagram post by Toronto-based company Retrokid promoting a Degrassi merch collab (fifth image in the referenced link).
On November 2nd, 2022, a member of the Degrassi Preservation Server on Discord received screen-recorded footage of the full video from a contact, which was later posted on YouTube as a premiere .