Brian Owens Keynote Speaker At Annual Ferguson Youth Initiative Banquet

Ferguson Youth Initiative's mission is to empower teens from Ferguson and the surrounding areas to become productive, positive and contributing members of their community. 

This year FYI held its annual banquet which gives the organization an opportunity to showcase the youth’s involvement and their ideas to the broader community.  

The theme was “All Hands In” to emphasize the importance of everyone working together to support the young people throughout their journey. FYI celebrated its collaborative works and achievements to #SupportYoungPeople with local community leaders, parents, business owners, community residents, organizations, and of course, Young People. 

This youth-centric evening was filled with celebration through music, recognitions, and talks from individuals who, in some way, have contributed to, or been impacted by the work and mission of the Ferguson Youth Initiative. 

This year's keynote speaker was Life Arts very own Brian Owens.  

Owens began his keynote by leading the crowd in song. Lyrics that sung "The journey to justice will always be fought, so let's fight the real enemies, hatred and greed."  

"I am a fan of the Ferguson Youth Initiative." Owens begins. He was introduced to the organization by his former neighbor of 10 years, Gail Babcock. "My wife and I are choosing to live in Ferguson, we now live in the house that Gail Babcock lived in." 

  Owens goes on to say "Ferguson isn't just a byline it's our city and it’s a city that has birth greatness. The greatest capital we have in this city right now is our young people and the greatest investment we can make is in our young people."  

Owens says in 2014 and 2015, "something that would bother me was that everyone wanted to come into Ferguson and give us what they thought we should do. When I would go out on tour and people would ask how they could help, I would tell them to support FYI. I always make sure people are aware of my faith my family and my Ferguson." 

He goes onto say "Every city has problems, every city has tragedies, but I don’t know if every city has a FYI." 

In keeping with the theme "All Hands In", Owens spoke about how working together can always get goals completed faster. He used the familiar example of his children cleaning up around the house on Saturday mornings. "The overall interest is getting the house clean, not completing your individual task. I'm trying to teach my children that things go a lot faster when everyone chips in, so that they can get back to playing their PlayStation." 

He takes this idea a step farther with the notion that the building of community starts with the mindset that you have to be concerned about others. "You have to chip in and be all hands in." He continues, "Do not look only to your own interest but also to the interest of others. If we are so foolish that we believe we can strive by ignoring the interest of others we are fooling ourselves."   

Owens recalls the biblical story of Nehemiah. The walls of his beloved city were down. "A city without walls is vulnerable." Owens says. "To me the greatest message in this story is that the people of the city began working to rebuild the wall themselves." They worked day and night. With a spear in one hand to protect themselves from their enemies and a brick in the other they restored the wall in 52 days. "It's because everyone had their hands in and there was a common interest to reconstruct the wall." 


"Today we must recommit to all hands in with our spears up building a wall of protection around our young people." says Owens "We must be all build a wall of protection around our young people; our children are not our future they are our now and if you decimate the children of a culture we will have no future." 

Owens states "My encouragement to you is to let us all be inspired by the greatness of these young people and God and to make an effort to look upon the interest of others." 

In closing Owens ends with Dr. Martin Luther King's Nobel Peace Prize Speech. "with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history." 

Brian Owens
Life Arts & Books N Bros Takes Members To See Black Panther

Black Panther is a 2018 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. The story centers around the fictional African nation of Wakanda. 

To celebrate the much-anticipated debut of the movie, nonprofit organizations Life Arts and Books n' Bros teamed together to provide a no cost way for its members to view the film. 

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Winnie Caldwell is the co founder and program director of Books n' Bros, an organization that promotes literacy among African American boys, with about 150 members nationwide. "Black Panther showcases the strength of black males," says Caldwell "No matter where you come from you can be a superhero." Caldwell also expresses that Books n' Bros didn’t want families not having funds to hinder them from seeing the film. 

When asked how both organizations were able to collaborate on this Caldwell said "Dwayne Ingram hooked us up with Brian Owens, and Brian said they could make it happen." 

24:1 Cinema was the theater of choice to host the event. The cinema is owned by 24:1 Land Trust, a part of Beyond Housing, which is working to add many other features to Pagedale and the surrounding community.  "Because of their mission in the community and how welcoming they are to those in the community, we wanted to support them." says Caldwell. 

Upon exciting the theater, you could see the excitement all over everyone's faces. They could be seen putting up the Wakanda sign with all smiles.

Members of both organizations expressed gratefulness for the opportunity to view the film. "I'll never miss another meeting." said one. "I liked that I was able to relate to the characters." said another.  

"I had a great time, said Sidney Keys III "I wish Wakanda was real and not an imaginary place."  

 "I wanted to thank Life Arts Inc and 24:1 Cinema for making the night possible," says Caldwell "it was seamless, and everyone had a good time." 

Brian Owens
Complete Gamer - Life Arts Creates Song For Bob Gibson And The Cardinals 2018 Season

This baseball season the Cardinals will be honoring Bob Gibson, dubbed the greatest pitcher in Cardinals' history. This year is the 50th anniversary of Gibson's incredible 1968 season in which he posted a record major league single season. 

The students of Compositions for L.I.F.E , an innovative therapeutic songwriting program that works with talented urban youth, will write and preform the lyrics of the #CompleteGamer song.  

"Last year my band, The 442s, was commissioned by the St. Louis Symphony to create a children's education concert." says musician Adam Maness. "The concept we came up with was this: I would "remix" the score to Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet" to create beats and songs out of his original music and we would employ Brian Owens and the young men and women from Life Arts to write and perform the text."  

"I finished the music by August and we spent several weeks in the fall and winter of 2017 writing and polishing the text," says Maness. "We performed the concert with the St. Louis Symphony and the 442s in late January of this year to an appreciative and enthusiastic audience at Powell Hall."  

 "Around that same time the President of the St. Louis Symphony, Marie-Helene Bernard, introduced Maness to Ron Watermon, the Vice President of Communications of the St. Louis Cardinals." Maness continues, "Watermon wanted to commission a song to honor Cardinal legend, Bob Gibson and asked if we could put a proposal together."  Maness immediately reached out to Brian Owens to see if he and Life Arts would be interested in working on creating the song. "I pitched the Cardinals our idea and they accepted and here we are."  

From there Life Arts students began working on creating their verses for the song using Bob Gibson's 1968 autobiography "From Ghetto to Glory" for inspiration. 

Brian came in one day and said  "Yo, we have this cardinals project." Thomas Mack, L.I.F.E Arts student recalls. 

"I wrote a verse about Bob Gibson as a child, so I start with the line "from ghetto to glory" says Mack. "Reading the book, I found out that growing up Gibson was fatherless, poor and black. I talk about that in my verse as well." 

Daniel Long's verse is about Gibson coming into his career "I wrote all about how good he was at pitching." Whereas Joshua "Paco" Lee takes on all of Gibson's statistics during his career and his ground-breaking feats. "I got in the mindset of speaking like a winner and put that in a verse." says Lee. 

Justice Mack smiles as she says," It's amazing that we’ve been asked to perform for the Cardinals, I mean they're the Cardinals." "It's more pressure" she continues "You have to do very well in every performance, but this is the Cardinals so its extra pressure." 

Brian Owens