We sat down with Matte Black, the founder of Heroes in Black, to swap stories, talk passions, and plan impact.
SKYN: Matte, it's so great to have you here. Thanks so much for meeting up with us. We've been absolutely fascinated with you and all that you've been doing for some time now. For our readers who might not be so familiar though, could you tell us a bit about who you are?
MB: I am Matte Black. However, that's not my name. It's what I am. I am the new man in black. An un-glossed version of the late Johnny Cash's legacy to wear black in mourning for the suffering and poverty that exists in the world in hopes to raise awareness. Johnny Cash also goes on to say in his song titled "Man In Black" that "Just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back, upfront there aught to be a man in black". So when he passed away I took that role on myself and so Matte Black was created.
SKYN: That's amazing. Love the Cash throw back, and definitely fitting to carry on that Black legacy. So now we know you're the "man in black", but what is it exactly that you do?
MB: I do a fair bit. I own a recording studio business that's been booked months in advance since 2010, which has allowed me to create the life I always dreamed of, and now I'm trying to leave a path for others to follow through creating Heroes In Black. It's a charity aimed at rebuilding, inspiring and employing homeless and at-risk youth with a new aged approach and insight, as I myself was homeless for almost ten years.
SKYN: That's amazing. Really. It must be so great to be able to offer that insiders perspective to the organization, really being able to hone in on the realistic wants and needs of homeless and at-risk youth. We've gotta say, 'Heroes in Black' is a pretty epic name, how the heck did you come up with that? What does it mean exactly?
MB: The name Heroes In Black is inspired by Johnny Cash.
SKYN: Makes sense. You've got some pretty phenomenal things going on with this organization, what are some of your current initiatives?
MB: One of our current initiatives include Hunger Heroes, a monthly event open to the public of all ages to feed and clothe people in need across Toronto and soon the nation. Then there's Hero Camp, an initiative to give the gift of a weekend camping trip to youth in shelters. It's filled with professional motivational speakers, self help programs and lots and lots of fun to recharge them for their journey and give them tools that can help them find their way in life. We also have Holiday Heroes, an initiative open to the public to come together on Christmas morning and give Christmas to others before having our own filled with brand new gifts and food. Last year we did over 1300 brand new wrapped gifts all over downtown Toronto.
SKYN: Oh my gosh, that's amazing! Anything else?
MB: Then we have Heroes In Black Apparel, a clothing line that acts as a two for one deal. So you get one and a homeless youth gets one brand new for free.
SKYN: Ok, so you've actually thought of nearly everything. Is there anything else that you do?
MB: We also have Hero Training, a motivational seminar filled with motivational speakers and entrepreneurs inside a double decker lecture hall at U of T to inspire them to start there own business and follow their dreams.
SKYN: Holy cow. Ok you've floored us. You're actually covering so much. This is incredible! These are all the pre-existing ones, are there any new initiatives coming up?
MB: This year we are rolling out 5 brand new initiatives that we're really excited about as well, so stay tuned to our website for those as they are getting set up in the next month or so.
SKYN: Amazing. Why is helping homeless youth so important to you?
MB: Helping youth in those situations is so important to me because I personally was in that exact situation and know how hard it was to get out. But, if I can do it, anyone can.
SKYN: Absolutely. You're a living inspiration for these kids and a great real life example that they can break the cycle. What do you feel are some of the biggest misconceptions about homelessness in Canada today?
MB: The biggest misconception about youth homelessness is people thinking they are just spoiled runaways as apposed to the truth that 70% of youth on the streets are there because of physical, sexual, emotional and mental abuse. So the truth is there actually refugees fleeing from harmful situations. They're the ones who said no and took a stand by walking away.
SKYN: Wow - that's wild. That's definitely something that so few people realize. You work with so many incredible youth on the daily, we'd love to know if you have any most memorable moments? Any particular stories or people who stood out for you or who had a message that really spoke to you?
MB: My favourite moment so far was at last years Hero Camp when the youth were going through the caves and someone got a little stuck. All the youth were from different shelters and didn't know each other but they pulled together as a team and cheered him on until he made it out. Then I told them that sometimes life will make us feel stuck, but next time just close your eyes and remember this moment and all the people cheering you on to keep pushing forward.
SKYN: That's incredible, and adorable, and amazing all at once. Sounds like you've been able to craft some really meaningful experiences for these really great youth, and from the sounds of it, they're crafting some special moments as well. Where do you hope to see 'Heroes in Black' be in the future? What do you hope it's legacy will be?
MB: I believe there is a need for Heroes in Black internationally and hope that the legacy it leaves will provide positive solutions to people in need worldwide. Directing them to the future they always dreamed of but didn't have the resources or guidance to get there.
SKYN: So neat. We love the passion, the idea, and the passionate initiative that you're taking with this all Matte. Really, you're such an inspiration. Finally, if people wanted to volunteer, donate, or just check out your site, where can they head to?
MB: If anyone needs to get ahold of us our website is www.heroesinblack.ca
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