Spoken Word Artist / Writer / Creative Services Consultant / Musician / Social Activist / Arts Educator, Ottawa, ON. Born: East York, ON.
Greg Frankson (a.k.a. Ritallin) is a spoken word artist, writer, creative services consultant, musician, social activist and arts educator based in Ottawa.
He is the past National Director and current Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors for Spoken Word Canada, organizers of the annual Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. In the local arts community, Greg was the Spoken Word Curator for Westfest for four years, and is currently a member of the artists in schools roster for MASC, Ottawa’s non-profit arts education organization. Greg was the executive producer for several spoken word compilation CD projects and co-founded Capital Slam, the second longest-running poetry slam series in Canada to date.
Greg has participated in major conferences and small gatherings alike in North America and internationally, penning poetic reflections on the current state of global mental health systems. He is the Poet Laureate of the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL) and was the Poet-in-Residence at the Into the Light conference in Vancouver, hosted by the Mental Health Commission of Canada in November 2009. That same month, Greg launched the Artists’ Alliance for Mental Health, an international initiative building parallel organizations in Canada and the USA to address issues that confront people living with mental health concerns, through the transformative power of the arts.
In addition to his artistic achievements, Greg holds the distinction of being the first African-Canadian to serve a term as President of Canada’s oldest undergraduate student government, the Alma Mater Society of Queen’s University (1996-97). Since then, he has been a vocal advocate for the on-campus recognition of Robert Sutherland, Canada’s first known university graduate of colour and the first Black lawyer in British North America, and advised a student-led initiative in 2008 to name a building on campus in his honour. In October 2009, Queen’s University officially rededicated its Policy Studies Building as Robert Sutherland Hall.
Through his creative services consultancy Cytopoetics, Greg works with young people in schools and community settings as a presenter and performer, and with businesses and social services organizations as a facilitator, keynote speaker and creative services consultant. Past clients include the Ottawa Police Service, the Ontario Federation of Labour, the Ontario Music Educators’ Association, the Canadian Conference of the Arts, the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the Council of Canadians, the University of Ottawa, Georgetown University, the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health (U.S.A.), and the IIMHL.
Works: Self-published political poetic memoir entitled, The Halifax Chronicles (2006); two poetry chapbooks, Coast Poems (2008) and Mindfull (2010); debut book of poetry, Cerebral Stimulation (2006); inclusion in an anthology of spoken word poetry, Mic Check (2008); spoken word EP recording, Capital Thoughts (2005); first volume of a three-CD project Poet Psychology (October 2010).
Other: Ritallin appeared on the track “Can You Feel It?” on the 2007 CD It’s Great to be Fine by jazz-ambient band Antizario, and the track “Uncomfortable” by Inuit hip-hop and spoken word artist M.O. (2009). Greg started the poetry/music ensemble Instant Release in the Fall of 2008, and is the group’s lead vocalist and songwriter.
Favourite book? The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill is my favourite book. The style and skill of the writing is tremendous and the book tells a Canadian story filled with power and importance. Hill took the approach I often take in my poetry – illuminate the dark corners of our history, of our experience, and put it out there in an accessible way in the hope people will take something positive from the experience. A brilliant work of art.
Favourite quote? “True peace is not merely the absence of tension, it is the presence of justice.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Given the chance, what would you love to do that you haven’t done yet? I would love to go to Africa. I haven’t had the opportunity and I would love to go.
Who inspires you? Young people inspire me, as do other people in my artistic profession who have made it work for them. Being a full-time artist is a path few are able to take and I admire those who have. And youth bring an energy and a fresh perspective to everything I do. I learn far more than I teach when I work with youth.
Why do you do what you do? I am an artist because I have no choice. I am compelled to write, to communicate, to work with others. It is a burning passion that can only be dealt with through doing. In the process I hope I help advance positive messages and uplift people. I thank God every day for blessing me with the ability to do what I do, and I don’t take it for granted.