EAST CHICAGO — A performing artist and local pastor are teaming up to reach the Region’s youth through music, dance, poetry and positive vibes.
"Positive Vibes Only" is a monthly open mic night fused with a youth social club atmosphere, according to RJ Griffith, a Chicago-area inspirational R&B artist who graduated from Calumet College in 2014.
“I wasn’t troubled but I definitely ran the streets. But I always remember there was nothing for me to do as a kid to keep me off the streets,” he said.
“Kids need that positive role model. They could easily learn from these rappers and artists that have a negative influence on them. This is an upfront and personal invite to work on their gifts.”
Griffith said music helps him daily through anxiety and bouts of depression.
In 2016, budget cuts forced layoffs at Chicago Public Schools, where he was an educator. A newlywed and a first-time homeowner at the time, he said he struggled and was forced to sell his house and nearly everything he owned except his car.
“When I got laid off, I had a lot of people in my ear telling me I wasn’t a man anymore, that my wife was going to leave me, and that I was stupid for trying to pursue music full time,” Griffith said. “I was struggling getting out of bed.”
He said he was in the recording studio one day when he contemplated ending his life.
“But something told me to look for beats online and I ended up finding one and these lyrics popped up in my head,” Griffith said. “It was ‘No need to be stressed, I got air in my chest. My life is full of purpose, so you can’t tell me nothing.’”
Those lyrics are what inspired Griffith’s most popular song, “Good Day,” which has been featured on ABC 7 Chicago. It also inspired the name of the social club — Positive Vibes Only.
Positive Vibes Only was previously hosted at the Family Christian Center in Munster, charging children and teens a small fee to attend. But Griffith said he wanted to make it a free event and expand into North Lake County.
So, he turned the group into a nonprofit and partnered with Manuel Corazzari, a pastor at East Chicago Church, who is supplying the venue.
Corazzari said he heard Griffith performing in April at an anti-bullying rally so he introduced himself.
“He was one of the performers. And I saw we had the same dreams and goals of reaching the kids of Northwest Indiana and it just kind of make sense,” Corazzari said.
Griffith said they are hosting an open mic event and school book bag give-a-away from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Veterans Park in East Chicago.
Griffith will DJing and two barbers will be on site offering cuts for those starting school. They will also have free drinks, snacks, a bounce house and raffle prizes, he said.
Their regular open mic/social club nights will be held at Corazzari’s church, 4429 Olcott Ave. in East Chicago. The next open mic/social club event will be 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Sept. 27.