By Brianna Oubre
As a kid, George remembers growing up in New Orleans and listening to his favorite rap artists portray his city as a violent place. That reputation has followed the city through the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and the rebuild that followed, especially in the lower income, high crime neighborhoods like New Orleans East. With a lack of law enforcement and the lowest high school graduation rate the city, it’s no surprise that the neighborhood lacks after school programs, which are associated with increased opportunities and community engagement for youths who participate. Now, as owner of entertainment company, the Vibers, George saw an opportunity to provide the youth community in the East with an opportunity to explore their creative interests.
George met 5-year-old Austin shortly after the boy’s father died. With his mom working multiple jobs and not having a strong support network, Austin spent time with George at the studio where he discovered a passion for music, received mentorship from affiliates of the studio, and made his first song “No Homework” which George describes as “just an innocent song about a kid being excited about summertime and not having homework.” The Vibers helped Austin write, record, and edit the song, and they even made a music video to go along with it.
Austin’s time working on music led to an interest in acting. He was able to get a role in a movie called Kidnapped and was offered a role on Two and a Half Men. Seeing how far Austin was able to make it in the entertainment industry with just a little bit of guidance made George want to offer the same opportunity to other kids who need it and inspired him to form the non-profit organization, Community Vibes, a mentorship program for children in New Orleans East.
Community Vibes seeks to mentor young people in songwriting, music producing, music performing, acting, graphic design, marketing, and business administration by setting them up with mentors from their parent company, the Vibers. With most of the after-school programs in New Orleans East being focused on athletics, Community Vibes seeks to provide something for the children who are interested in more creative pursuits.
The goal of the program is to mentor children from an underprivileged community and help them achieve brighter futures for themselves and the city of New Orleans. They also offer tutoring, ACT/SAT prep, and interview training. However, since they do their best to tailor the experience to every individual, all aspects of the program are optional. George explains, “I don’t want to limit kids to thinking there’s only one way to do things. I just want to help them find that thing they want to do.” The goal of Community Vibes is not to push young people in a particular direction but to tailor the experience to the individual giving young people the tools they need to succeed in the path that they choose whether that be pursuing a creative talent, going to college, or getting a job.
Even though the program is new, George and his partners have been mentoring young people out of their downtown office for a couple of years now and feel as though the structure of the program has already been established. In order to make everything official and gain funding, Community Vibes is working with Cyndi Nguyen, the councilwoman for district 6 of New Orleans, to start up the program. They have generated interest by communicating with Edna Karr High School, John Curtis High School, and Walker Landry High School.
George hopes that Community Vibes participants will benefit in a way that allows and inspires them to give back to the New Orleans community when they get older. Another project that George is working on involves fixing up the high number of vacant properties in New Orleans East which also contribute to crime and lack of opportunity in the area. With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, George recognizes an even stronger need for programs that support
growth in the community. “Since we can’t [economically] depend on tourism and sports like we were able to before, we have to rely on that old fashioned method of businesses investing into the city and into the people.”
Between these two projects, he hopes to restore New Orleans East and give it the same attention and respect as the more well-known neighborhoods of New Orleans. “I have a lot of pride in New Orleans, a lot of pride in the history of New Orleans, the amazing things that the inhabitants of New Orleans were able to accomplish.” George says, “We want to make sure the whole city is standing on its best legs.”