More than 400 youth and families from the Inland Empire celebrated a drug-free concert, costume and pumpkin decorating contest at the first annual Superhero-Me Halloween event this past Sunday evening at the San Bernardino County Urban Garden.
Music Changing Lives (MCL), the Institute for Public Strategies (IPS) and Mental Health Systems (TURN-BHS) hosted the free event in the garden which provides a safe, drug and alcohol-free space to empower individuals to live vibrant, healthy and productive lifestyles.
During the event, local aerosol artists Lefty, Rondeezyyy and Vibrantinflux guided the youth in creating a series of murals with themes that support and encourage young people to choose drug-free lifestyles. Local artist Christine White also collaborated with dozens of children to paint pumpkins.
“The use of art and art therapy to treat substance use disorders dates back to the 1950s. I believe we can also utilize art to prevent youth from getting involved in drugs and alcohol by giving them creative outlets to express themselves,” said Lupita Martinez, who manages the East Valley Community Change Project for IPS.
The concert featured live performances from rapper Suga-T and the Santana-cover band, Europa. Parents and youth also received action-focused information on the positive effects of avoiding drugs and alcohol.
“In this day and age kids are inundated with negative images and influences, but we can also arm parents with good data and research. If parents talk to their children early and often about these substances, we can protect our youth from many of the high-risk behaviors associated with these drugs,” said Vania Ramirez, who is a Prevention Specialist for the Central Valley Prevention Program, a project of TURN-BHS.
The urban garden is the brainchild of Josiah Bruny, the Chief Executive Officer of Music Changing Lives, an organization that aims to inspire and empower youth with a holistic approach that includes music, art, financial literacy, civic engagement, food stability, and gardening-based programs.
Last year, Bruny created the Urban Garden Initiative, a public-private partnership that hopes to raise a half million dollars to build a welcome center, amphitheater and a learning center on the acre of land located on the corner of Electric Avenue and North 40th Street.
Local nonprofits including the IPS and TURN-BHS have joined the Inland Empire Health Plan and the Inland Empire Resource Conservation District in providing resources to help fulfill Bruny’s vision.
“I am humbled to finally have partners that work together and not against one another. It’s a breath of fresh air. We are in our communities and on the ground day in and day out. It’s hard for me to express in words how important it is to finally have partners that understand your worth and value,” Bruny said.
Shab Elawar, who has lived in San Bernadino for more than two decades, donated the land for the garden with a goal of creating a local food sustainability program.
“We can utilize nature to become more independent,” Elawar said. “When all the agencies and resources come together to support the garden and hold activities here like the concert, it becomes more impactful for the community. It shows the community cares about them, they are not living on the side anymore.”
The garden is also home to Soulful Sundays: held on the fourth Sunday of every month, local residents are invited to visit the garden for gardening workshops and various volunteer opportunities, while enjoying music, food and more.
More information on Soulful Sunday events can be found on MCL’s Facebook page. To learn how to contribute to the Urban Garden Initiative, please contact:
Josiah Bruny, Music Changing Lives Founder and CEO Jbruny@musicchanginglives.com.