Change In Action: Ivano Newbill

“œWhen the night has come, And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we’ll see
No I won’t be afraid, no I won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me”
-Ben E. King

On September 20, former NBA player Ivano Newbill set out from the steps of Capital Hall in Atlanta, Georgia alone on a bike. In just 12 days he would cycle over 700 miles to Washington D.C. in time to attend the 2nd annual summit on Global Hunger. He rode to raise awareness about the billions of people who face hunger around the world each year. He rode to raise money for the Global Hunger Fund. He rode, as a volunteer, to take action against a crisis that kills over 25,000 people each day, and to fight against an issue that creates conflict in developing countries.  He rode with the hope that more children will have the chance to receive healthy meals at school — ”just as he had. “Growing up, many days the only meals myself and siblings had were provided through the school system. Without these meals I do not believe I would have excelled to graduate from high school, as well as go on to Georgia Tech and graduate. I know most definitely the NBA would not have been a part of my future. Now I have a moral obligation to try and help end the world’™s deadliest disease: ”hunger.”

During his journey through the back streets and on the highways, Ivano encountered stares and rebel flags, the symbols used to generate fear and hate in the South. With his past in his heart and Playing For Change “œStand By Me” on his MP3 player, Ivano valiantly faced the negativity and, in turn, left a positive impact on the locals who learned about his cause. With each additional extended hand and offer to contribute, change had taken place — change prompted by Ivano’™s courage, endurance, and faith.

We got the chance to speak to Ivano about his ride and his cause. He told us tragic stories about world hunger, but included inspirational insights into how we can lend a helping hand. He told us how global hunger is the biggest killer in the world, taking the lives of over nine million people each year. He explained to us how food deprivation is used as a weapon, and how warlords keep people down by keeping them hungry. He described to us how “œhunger does not discriminate.” It affects men, women, and children,” no matter your race or religion. He instructed us to view ourselves as united through our humanity, ”to see this issue as one that affects our own. He warned that “a whole generation of our children could be lost. Proper nutrition is vital for any child to excel in school. Serving food at school not only helps alleviate hunger among the world’™s poorest children, it also helps get them into school providing them with an important key to a better future — ”an education.” Despite these dismal realities there is hope; ”hunger is after all a curable disease. This is why as the volunteer co-chair of Friends of The World Food Program Committee of Atlanta, Georgia, Ivano has dedicated his time, his energy, his thoughts, and his prayers to raising awareness and contributing to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).

Ivano wrote to us to let us know, “œWhen I hear ‘˜Stand By Me’™, I think that whatever the problem is, there is a solution to it.” With the faith to make the world a better place Ivano has triumphantly embraced that he IS the solution and we are honored that Ivano took us along on his journey. Ivano, we stand by you as you stand by those who go hungry each day. We are inspired by your determination and energized by your enthusiasm.

Change can be made now. Change can be made today. It can be as simple as a smile to a stranger or as meaningful as lending a helping hand in the global hunger crisis. Ivano wrote to us saying “I know change will come along; ”it really will” We share his faith in all of you and in ourselves. We can all make change if we are brave enough to take action. Ivano took action and that is why we are sharing his story with you. We hope you will continue to share your inspiring stories with us. Thank you for helping us change the world!

Start Spreadin’ the News

While I’m not currently on the road with the guys, I just got an update from their road manager. It sounds like last night’s show in Albany was one of the best ones yet! Everyone is beginning to settle into the rhythm of the road, and really learning to feed off of each other’s energy and musicianship on stage. Keb’ Mo and Reggie McBride were able to attend, and Keb’ even joined the band for the opening song of the second set– Mo’ Faya’!

With four shows now under their belt, the band is rolling into New York City, and is preparing to blow the lid off the Town Hall. There are still tickets available– if you’re in the area, get on out to the show!  As much fun as it is to read my updates, please believe me when I say that words and photos do not do this group justice– get out there and see them in action!

Thank You Boston!

What an amazing show it was Thursday night in Boston! The PFC Family took the Orpheum by storm, nearly packing the 2000 person venue. From the moment the first note was struck, there was a palpable energy created in the space between the cheering crowd and the performers on stage. The result was an explosion of sight and sound that has set the bar very high for the rest of our North American tour!

I spent the 6 hour flight from Boston to LA going through photos, and am almost done. I am looking forward to sharing them with you later this weekend, so check back soon– I will post when they are available!

Get ready North America, the Playing For Change Band is on its way!

Live at the Birchmere!

We finished sound checking at the Birchmere an hour ago, and the house is starting to fill in. From the looks of things, we’ll be playing to a sold out crowd in about 20 minutes. We all rode here in style, having been picked up by a pair of 12 passenger sleeper coaches.

One thing is for sure, when you’re traveling with a group of a dozen musicians plus crew, you don’t go anywhere incognito. Even so, none of us were prepared for the paint job that the lead bus would be sporting– it was completely decked out in all things Playing For Change!

My batteries are charged and my cards are cleared, and I can’t wait to get out and shoot this show. I look forward to sharing some of the photos I take tonight with you all through PFC’s flickr page… stay tuned!

Mr. Bekker Goes to Washington

The PFC Band and crew have had a great week here in DC. Rehearsals couldn’t have gone better, and everyone is excited to get this tour officially rolling tonight. Yesterday morning Clarence and Mermans Mosengo  requested a tour of some of the sites, so Greg and I drove them to the national mall. They were excited to see the White House, awe-struck at the size of the Washington Monument, humbled at the Lincoln Memorial, and had an amazing conversation with a veteran at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that reminded all of us what this project is truly about– coming together.

I woke up this morning to see the PFC Band performing live on the Fox Morning Show and they’ve never sounded better. I can’t wait to see them at the Birchmere tonight! If you have friends and family in any of the cities we’re playing in the next four weeks put the word out, because this is not a show anyone will want to miss!

Bring It On Home

We just got back to the hotel, following another great rehearsal.  The band has put together a version of “Bring It On Home” that you absolutely have to hear!  The song features Grandpa, Titi, Clarence, and Mermans and is an amazingly emotional performance that will hit you right in the heart.

I shot this photo of Clarence and Titi celebrating after their first run through the song this afternoon, and I can’t wait to hear it live at the Birchmere on Tuesday!

Making friends in DC

The band has been rehearsing in DC for the past three days, and they sound great! They have made some really exciting additions for this tour, and I know that each show is going to be an amazing experience!

Tonight after rehearsal a bunch of us went out for a (short) night on the town. We ended up at a West African bar in DC where a local band was performing. About thirty minutes into their set, I noticed a very familiar sound to the song they just started playing. I walked up to the front of the house and instantly realized why it sounded so familiar– Mermans had jumped up on stage and was singing lead vocals!

We didn’t stay long, as we all had to be up for rehearsal tomorrow. But everyone’s energy is through the roof right now, and we can’t wait to get take this show on the road!