Powerjam delivers a strong message

December 03, 1992|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,Staff Writer

Picture this: Three young Hercules in red, white and blue warm-up suits bend steel in their bare hands, blow up a hot water bottle until it explodes, and rip the Greater Baltimore Metropolitan Area phone book to shreds on stage at St. Paul's School in Brooklandville.

Meanwhile, a lean bluesman with flowing blond hair plays "Stand by Me" on his harmonica, accompanied by an look-alike guitarist.

The students, mostly males wearing ties, sweaters and politely shaggy hair, are asked to rise, clap to the beat and sing along. They smile sheepishly and do so.

And on stage, Oriole slugger Glenn Davis grins away because this improbable mixed salad of humanity is, as one Hercules puts it, "his vision."

Powerjam '92: It's about strength, faith, motivation, love, self esteem. It's about the prevention of drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, violence and suicide. It's about a regular guy who learned the hard way how special he is and wanted to share his lesson.

Mr. Davis, one-time troubled youth, now a 31-year-old millionaire, is on a mission to save as many kids as he can from personal chaos. And Powerjam '92 -- an entourage of entertainers who play music, perform feats of strength and preach abstinence from all vices (with a little stand-up comedy tossed in) -- is his way of broadcasting the message.

"We're losing our next generation slowly but surely," Mr. Davis says by car phone, as Powerjam rolls through the city, appearing free at area schools this week and at Towson State University this weekend. "Somewhere we're failing. We can't reach them all. I want them to know 'I love you' and 'I care for you' and 'I want you not to have to go through the things I did.' "

As Mr. Davis drives, his voice and cause grow more fervent by the mile. "I just don't want to give somebody a check," he says. "I want to be used. I want to go and personally spend time with these kids, let them see me and identify with me. Hear it out of my mouth."

Along with his good friend and Oriole teammate, pitcher Storm Davis, Glenn Davis pitched in $30,000 to bring Powerjam '92 to life. (Earlier this year, Glenn Davis was also present at the dedication of a group foster home he established in Georgia with the help of the Houston Astros, his former team.)

Although the Baltimore Orioles are not sponsoring Powerjam, the organization is helping Mr. Davis with the details. "Bless his heart, he's out there doing it," says Oriole spokesman Rick Vaughn. "We're just trying to make it happen, that's all."

At St. Paul's School -- where Powerjam touched down on Tuesday -- students are bombarded by Radical Reality, a trio of former football players who break bricks with various body parts and sermonize about clean living and self-respect.

There's Donnie Moore, who bends a steel rod into the shape of a horseshoe and tells kids: "If you perform to get people to accept you, you'll be at the mercy of their opinion."

There's Darwin Benjamin, who makes mincemeat of a pile of bricks with one swift stroke, and breaks down in tears as he recounts the brief life of one of his twin daughters, damaged irreparably by his and his girlfriend's previous drug use. "Don't you sell yourself out for nothing, because you're priceless," he tells the young men in between sobs. (He will repeat the emotional performance, tears and all, numerous times throughout the week.)

And there's Scott Ruiz, who blows up a hot water bottle into a hideously large red bladder that explodes in his face and instructs the kids that suicide is "a permanent solution to a temporary problem."

At times, the talk is blunt and coarse, but the St. Paul kids, however reserved, take it all in. When it is over, McLane Fisher, 15, calls the program "real influencing" and says "there's a lot of drugs around in high school. Some people go with the flow and some people say no."

"I got a lot out of it," says Chris Johnston, 16. "I could relate it to myfamily."

The next day at Southern High School, pandemonium rules even before the assembly begins as Darrell Mansfield plays gut-bucket rhythm and blues on his harmonica, accompanied by guitarist Shawn Jones.

By the show's conclusion, students are leaping on stage to have their pictures taken with their new-found heroes.

And Patricia Dennis, an assistant principal, wonders at their power. "It's the same things we tell them. But we're just here every day. [From them] it's fresh, it's new, they believe it."

Chalk one up for Glenn Davis. Powerjam is a home run, big time.

POWERJAM '92

What: Radical Reality and the Darrell Mansfield Band perform Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Pop singer Lisa Bevill, rap group SFC and the Darrell Mansfield Band perform Saturday at 4 p.m.

Where: Towson Center at Towson State University.

Admission: Free.

Tickets: Available at the Orioles office at Camden Yards and area Chick-fil-A stores.

Call: (410) 685-2200.

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