No matter what the season, we grind daily - @hardknockleader

No matter what the season, we grind daily - @hardknockleader

This month marks one year since the soft launch of the Hard Knock Leadership initiative. What began as a platform for me to share the different types of community based work I have been taking on has shifted to creating a vision to support change makers around the world.

A Year In Review

In review, the past year has been an eventful one since the HKL kickoff in 2013. The brand has carried me through the different aspects of programming I've decided to take on and learn about. I ended last year with a visit to Panama to connect with Alley Cat Fitness Foundation, a non profit MMA camp & gym that has been engaging youth from the barrios and also helped produced one of the first Panamanian UFC fighters who has come from those humbled barrio beginnings. I started 2014 with my first international photography exhibit "Suenos de la Calle" in the Dominican Republic, where I facilitated a workshop with a local youth organization on how photography can be used as a tool to empower. 

This year as I ended my seven year campus community life term with post secondary education, I delivered a a full day community building workshop to close off the Live 2 Lead program which I activated to support racialized students. Amongst the many other talks & workshops I've facilitated this year; the opportunity to sit on Art Reach Toronto's jury as a guest artist for the 2014 youth pitch contest, I've seen myself make a transition into arts education by apprenticing in a photography program and and co-curating an outdoor exhibit of community portraits in my home of Scarborough, where I was raised.  

I look back at the year one of HKL and realize it has been some of the most moving and valuable experience that I have taken on to build dialogue on creating change in the places that need it the most.

The Reason 

We may all live through moments that will define us, make us or break us. They are the raw life experiences that make our story, one of hard knock leadership. 

I grew up in the east end of Scarborough not seeing the type of programming that kept me and the people I came up with off the streets. It's been fifteen years to when I first immigrated into Canada with my family, only to find the acceptance and assimilation of young people in under resourced neighborhoods is task still commonly taken on by gang culture. There was a lack of safe spaces where young people could express themselves without being targeted and my life purpose is driven go build those spaces.

Before I immigrated to the boroughs, I was raised living through the gulf war in the Arabian Gulf. My parents would take me to supermarkets where I remember the store shelves empty and almost cleared out from the tin cans of food that was being rationed. Boxes and bins that would contain reduced price items on sale over here, were filled with gas masks for purchase. I look back at those moments that my parents raised both me and my sister who was born during the war and I realize that I must be here for a reason.

Some times it will take you years before you reflect and actualize what you have lived through. Today Hard Knock Leadership stands as a reminder that the path we take is one that we are suppose to be on. It's a path that is not paved and one that only you will be able to map out for yourself, before being able to show others the way. 

2015 Vision. 

Looking back at the past year of HKL and my own path to community building, I've decided to dedicated my life's work towards creating the needed change in underserved communities and through Hard Knock Leadership I hope to engage the disengaged. 

The next five years will focus on the building of Hard Knock Leadership both as an agency and administrative platform for change makers to create and serve their visions to the world.  

HKL will be focusing on the following change maker platforms to build a stronger collective identity 

1) Storytelling

2) Community Organizing

3) Arts Education

4) Global Advocacy

The building of a collective around storytelling with be one of our major priorities for the upcoming year. While community organizing, arts education & global advocacy projects will continue to be taken on throughout the year; it's the storytellers platform that I will be focusing on creating, to invest in the growth of other hard knock leaders on their personal journey. is transitioning to a new template that will start to curate the work of the collective. As an artist my photography work will be moved to its own portal ( & HKL will serve more to highlight the collaborative projects that connect art to community building. I will still continue to be sharing my experiences and personal journeys on this blog but will also invite others from the collective to share their own thoughts & perspectives as change makers. 

For everyone that's supported me on this journey to more, I thank you as I look forward to building the next generation of leadership. 

Photographer, Community Organizer & Founder of HKL - Siddhartha (Sid) Naidu