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Conversation : WITH CHILDREN’S GOSPEL CHOIR DIRECTOR DON NASH JR. : ‘Instilling Value for Human Life’

Don Nash Jr., 25, is one of three directors of New Generation of the Figueroa Church of Christ in Los Angeles, a 45-voice children’s gospel choir. Like other inner-city children’s choirs, New Generation fills a social void for many participants. Nash talked with MARY REESE BOYKIN about his role in children’s lives.

I work with my aunt, Patrice Nash Davis, and Sherilyn Daniels as a director of New Generation, the 45-voice children’s gospel choir of the Figueroa Church of Christ. The role of children’s gospel choirs in keeping young people on the right track may be among the untold stories in the black community.

I think that gospel choirs help to instill a conscience for a lot of kids. I feel that a number of kids who grow up to steal, shoot, or victimize others without feeling anything do so because they don’t have anything to relate the guilt to. When my group repeatedly sings “Yes, Jesus, Loves, Me,” I hope children think: Now there is reason for me to love me; for me to love others. That’s instilling some sort of value for human life.

Often parents come to me and say that around the house or in the car, instead of listening to songs like, say Ice-T’s “Cop Killer,” their children sing “I Gotta Walk Right,” “Come By Here,” or “Going Home.” Then I know my underlying purpose is working--to get the music to appeal to kids.

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Gospel choirs also help children to develop sound relationships with other like minds, where among themselves they reinforce positive philosophies, moral values, a comfort in deciding right rather than wrong. I think the choir becomes like their gang, a gang with a positive purpose. Ultimately, a gospel choir is a missionary work to deliver a message: Choose the good.

But I want kids to understand that benevolence counts too. New Generation sings at MacLaren Hall [the Los Angeles County youth detention center]. They participate in the church’s food and clothing giveaway program. They sing at the Mothers Against Violence in Schools fund-raising program. Last Saturday, they participated in the annual Thanksgiving food basket giveaway to the community. Then there are the social activities like trips to Disneyland, Sea World or the skating rink, barbecues, picnics, birthday celebrations.

I grew up near Broadway and Vernon in South Central, where there were many types of evil--drugs, gangs, prostitution. But my grandfather and Aunt Patrice, who brought me up, steered me in the right direction. That’s my motivation for directing New Generation: It is now my turn to be an anchor to other youths.


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