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Inspiration Comes to the Inland Empire

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By Briana Boykin

Hope is not so far away for this generation. In fact, if you listen closely enough, you will hear it in the melodic sounds of eighteen year old Andrew DeBarge of Riverside, California.

It began on the bleak, notorious Sigsbee Street of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Total poverty.  Drug dealers.  Crack houses. Chaos and crime. Homicide rates that supersede your typical hood.

This was DeBarge's environment, but it would not become his reality.

Andrew DeBarge
Andrew, son of April and Tommy DeBarge, the bass player of the American R&B group "DeBarge," was born into a musical family whose career peeked in the mid 80's just before the harsh realities of the music industry robbed them of financial stability and left them in poverty.

After years of hardship and struggle Andrew's parents decided it was time to pursue a different dream. So they packed up and headed for California where Andrew might receive a better chance at making his music known to the world. They ended up in Riverside, California.

But even after the three exhaustive days of traveling in a packed sedan and finally arriving in the state that promised them new beginnings, their dream seemed even further away. They had no place to stay; their car would become their home for the next several days.

Yet even under such severe circumstances, Andrew and his family would remain faithful and count it a blessing when, a week later, his mother's friend discovered shelter for them at the "Come on in Motel." It was still not a home, but the DeBarges honored the welcoming gesture of its name and trusted that home would always be a place inside of them. 

Through constant prayer and determination, their faith would see them though and bring them out of the motel and into the two bedroom apartment where they currently reside.  Andrew says it was his music that kept him strong.

"Many people underestimate music," DeBarge reveals. "Music is one of the strongest forms of communication; it holds a great deal of power. My music is about my relationship with God."

For this young man, what most would consider extreme conditions of social injustice and despair has become the fabric of the multi-talented teenager's undaunted and tenacious character.

"These events have shaped me. When you have nothing, you realize what life is really about," says DeBarge whose conviction of this truth is carefully reflected in his multifaceted lyrics. "I don't take my music lightly; money is not an object because I value my brother's life more than music." 

Andrew's debut album "Your Place" which includes fifteen self-composed and produced tracks that he recorded in his own apartment studio, is "sort of like [a compilation] of parables," he reveals.  Each song illustrates the value that he places on brotherhood. His favorite is song number five, entitled "Where I Belong," and is a message to his brothers and sisters from all walks of life that meditates on feelings of loneliness and helplessness. In the song he encourages his listeners that "when you are going through so much, you can bring something beautiful out of it."

"My message is important. No one should ever feel like they don't matter. There is at least one other person that needs your help in this life. Everyone has a purpose for being here," he emphasizes with a confident wisdom seldom found in the heart of an eighteen-year-old. 

But DeBarge is indeed a teenager. He has a youthful, vibrant style and a refreshingly free spirit.  He takes courses at Riverside Community College (RCC) and will receive his Associates degree in Business in the Spring of 2009. In between classes you may be able to spot him at the basketball courts at RCC. But usually, if he's not in the studio composing new songs on his guitar, he is working at Cold Stone in the Riverside Plaza earning money to put back into his self-owned record label: Andrew DeBarge Music, Inc.

DeBarge says that he learned in one of his business classes that an entrepreneur is someone who risks all their time and money to accomplish a goal, and by that definition he certainly has the heart of a true entrepreneur, but he reminds us that his work is done with a clear vision and purpose out of his love for music, for people, and for God.

Reminiscent of a modern day King David, a great man in the Bible who would play his harp and calm souls, DeBarge associates himself with the likings of a contemporary David. Similar to the Biblical king, DeBarge, who is both a talented vocalist and an excellent guitarist, brings peace to his audience through his music. But just as David was not simply a great musician, DeBarge also possesses qualities of a true king.

Desiring that his listeners understand the transcendental elements of his music, he informs that "music is what I do, but it's not what I am. I am a child of God. Music is just a form of communication that God has given me."

Giving his mother and father credit for investing within him their love for him as well as their love for music, DeBarge is thankful for all the situations he has encountered in life. "If all the circumstances in my life hadn't happened, I would not be who I am today," he expresses with the utmost gratitude.

There is a rare quality about DeBarge - about his music - that is seemingly missing in today's popular culture. DeBarge will undoubtedly touch lives in a generation who is in need of the leadership, knowledge, and the authenticity that he emanates.

DeBarge is currently performing at various local venues and promoting "Your Place" throughout communities in Southern California. His album can be purchased online at www.amazon.com. You can also check him out at his personal website: www.andrewdebargemusic.com  or on MySpace at www.myspace.com/andrewdebarge.

City Celebrates Annual Race Equality Week

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Dr. Barnett Grier Jr. during the opening of the Grier Pavilion this past June.
The annual Race Equality Week - a celebration of the cultural diversity of the city - started Monday, courtesy of the City of Riverside, the Human Relations Commission and the Office of the Mayor.

Riverside Mayor Ronald O. Loveridge during the opening of the Grier Pavilion this past June.
One of the highlights of the week of events is the "Grier Living Histories," a performance piece that traces the lives of 13 Riversiders instrumental in furthering the city's civil rights throughout history. The Grier Pavilion, named after activists Dr. Barnett and Eleanor Jean Grier, opened in June on the seventh floor of City Hall as a city tribute to those 13 people.

The 60-minute play about the lives of these honorees will be performed at several venues around the city during the week.  The actors are all local Riverside volunteers ranging from teenagers to seniors.

  • A special screening about the Grier Pavilion honorees will be held at 3:45 p.m., Sept. 18, at the Main Library, 3581 Mission Inn Ave. Arts and crafts celebrating diversity will be on display as well.
  • "Grier Living Histories" performs again only for students and faculty at North High School, 1550 3rd St., Sept. 19.
  • The final performance of "Grier Living Histories" begins at 1 p.m., Sept. 20, at the Janet Goeske Center, 5257 Sierra St.

Sylvia Martin James spearheaded the naming of the Grier Pavilion.
All "Grier Living Histories" performances, except those held at North High School, are free to the public.

"Race Equality Week is an opportunity for celebration and reflection for the city.  The stories, shared through the Grier Living Histories, illustrate the power of social capital and civic engagement," said Mayor Ronald O. Loveridge.  "I urge everyone to take part in at least one activity this week."

The Great California Shakeout

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Visitors are invited to the San Bernardino County Museum on Sunday, September 28 at 2pm, for a presentation by Senior Curator of Geology Kathleen Springer, "The Great California Shakeout." This presentation is free with museum admission.

"Southern Californians literally live on the edge thanks to the San Andreas fault," said Springer. "Earthquakes occur frequently within the San Andreas system-more than 200 earthquakes greater than 6.0 magnitude are known since 1769. However, the southern section of the main trace of the San Andreas Fault has not broken since the huge Fort Tejonquake in 1857."

The San Bernardino County Museum is at the California Street exit from Interstate 10 in Redlands. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. General admission is $6 (adult), $5 (student or senior), and $4 (child aged 5 to 12). Children under five and Museum Association members are admitted free. Parking is free. For more information, visit www.sbcountymuseum.org or call (909) 307-2669.

Carl Dameron, Kathryn Ervin To M.C. Black Rose Award

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Area PR leader Carl Dameron and California State University San Bernardino theater arts professor Kathryn Ervin will emcee the 19th Annual Black Rose and Humanitarian of the Year Awards in a September 26 ceremony at the National Orange Show - Valencia Room.

 The San Bernardino Black Culture Foundation presents the Black Rose Awards to honor lifetime achievement. Anyone who has done good things for the local community would be given consideration for this recognition.

The organizers of this year's program points out these awards are an important honor. "We recognize our unsung heroes, people of all diversities who have contributed a great deal to the community," said Margaret Hill, program chairman. "We have been presenting this honor for almost 20 years now."

 There are three categories of awards given at the ceremony: the Black Rose, the Commitment to Community Service of the Year and the Humanitarian of the Year.

 "The Black Rose Awards are one of the most inspiring and vital community events," said Ervin. "Our community is richly blessed by the many who are doing good things here without fanfare, and it is important they be given the recognition due them."

Ervin also sees the Black Rose Awards as an opportunity to identify and acknowledge many local leaders, especially for youth, to encourage their participation in activities that help their community.

  "It's important for our young people to see that role models are right here with us," she said. "And it's vital for the rest of us to be reminded of the many good things people here are doing."

 Past recipients include developer John Dukes of Dukes, Dukes and Associates, Westside Action Group and Mansie Booker Jr. among others.

Dameron, president of Dameron Communications, said recipients of the Black Rose Awards have devoted their lives to helping others. "It is an extreme honor for me," he said. "I am proud to be a part of providing these local heroes the recognition they so richly deserve."

The Foundation is selling tickets to the awards ceremony for $50 each. Tables of 10 may be reserved for $500.

The event begins at 6 p.m. in the National Orange Show - Valencia Room, 689 South E Street, San Bernardino.

To order tickets or reserve a table, contact Margaret Hill at (909) 864-3267.

Ujima Saturday Academy is Back

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The Ujima Saturday Academy is BACK and looking forward to having its best year ever.  They are targeting African American students in grades 8-10, and will be housed at Arroyo Valley High School.  The times are from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM beginning October 4th.

For more information, contact Wil Greer, Program Specialist, Dept. of Equity & Targeted Student Achievement, San Bernardino City Unified School District at (909) 891-1031.

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BVN National News Wire