Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tony's Blog: "The next voice you hear...will be your own"

The struggle for teen agers is often described as the struggle to “find your voice”. When Jackson Browne sang those words at a fund raiser for our surfing program three years ago everything seemed to be in alignment. His was a voice of integrity that aligned with the integrity of our efforts to help marginalized youth heal from the traumas of their daily lives.

Sometimes I fear for the ways that our youth go about finding the words to describe life’s experience. Little plugs in their ears feeding them a constant stream of violent, misogynistic, homophobic rap messaging that they walk around for hours mimicking. It’s easy to sit in judgment of the music that young people listen to today. I do it all the time. (I even wrote my own rap about it.) But if we stop there we are simply complaining about a problem and doing nothing to help solve it. What are we doing to change the hopelessness that pervades their lives and encourages them turn to such forms of expression? Every curse word is a cry for recognition and acceptance.

Some of us dream of leaving a more hopeful narrative regarding the possibilities of life to our youth and culture. One such person is Jackson Browne, music idol for five decades now, who decided at some point to offer his talents in a way that could help leave this world better than he found it. So he began offering his gifts to causes that he believes in.

YMC's Jovan freestylin' with Jackson Browne
A few years ago, an organization that I co-founded, Boarding House Mentors, which teaches inner—city youth to surf reached out to him. I knew that this man was ‘for real’ when he showed up at an event we were holding to check us out before giving us an answer. This wasn’t for his public image. He really wanted to help causes that he could believe in. I remember looking over at our silent auction tables and doing a double-take. I turned to one of my board members and said: “that’s Jackson Browne” over at table 5! We approached him and had a soulful conversation where he mentioned that he had seen an LA Times article about us and was impressed with what he read. He ended up taking the stage and then, in a moment that I will always remember he invited our young people to come up on stage with him. There they were, two of the youth that I now dedicate my life to as they rapped with Jackson Browne playing back up. The show ended with over twenty hip-hop generation youth jamming to the music of my youth brilliantly and extemporaneously fused with a contemporary beat (reminding us that it all comes from the same source). They had no idea that their back-up band was a multi-platinum, award winning, Rock N Roll Hall of Fame legend. But what they do know on sight is ‘authenticity’ and Jackson Browne is the real thing…and that was a real moment when young people, who are too often given the message that 'there is no place for you here', were invited to take their place at center stage.

Jackson Browne is at it again. He has offered his own form of genius in a private acoustic performance this October to help Youth Mentoring Connection raise funds to promote our Urban Oasis for youth.

So, please lend your voice to our cause. Think about how you can share your gifts to help young people struggle for the dignity of their lives. If you have been blessed with some success in life, give back so that others may have a chance for the same. If you have been blessed with financial success, please consider passing some of that on by supporting our upcoming “Evening Under the Stars” with Jackson Browne. These are hard times for the youth we serve and we need all the help we can get to assist them to find their voice.

To get tickets for the performance with Jackson Brown, or to simply support our efforts click here.

“everyone I know, every where I go...
People need some reason to believe”
Jackson Browne


Tony LoRe
CEO/Founder, Youth Mentoring Connection/Urban Oasis
Founder, Boarding House Mentors

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