Feb. 19, the Department of Dance at The University of Southern Mississippi hosted the event, “Dancing Against Substance Abuse.” The event featured several speakers and a dance performance inspired by the true story of one student’s experience with her brother, who is struggling with substance abuse.
Junior dance performance major Alexis Barbaresi organized the event and choreographed the featured dance “Forever Affected.” Members of the Southern Miss Repertory Dance Company were hand selected by Barbaresi to represent her family, her friends and herself as they each experienced the crippling pain brought by Drew, Barbaresi’s brother, with his drug addiction.
“I’d been pondering the idea for a little over a year,” Barbaresi said. “I remember going into one of our dance faculty, Kelly Ferris Lester’s, office last year to discuss the idea because I wanted to use it for a small project in class. She suggested that I wait and use it for something bigger.”
The program also featured several speakers who gave their personal testimonies concerning their experiences with her brother’s addiction to heroin, including Barbaresi’s mother, Diane Keller.
“After a lot of research, I found two lovely speakers from the area, Charles Osbourne and Linda Vasquez,” Barbaresi said. “I continued to think about everything that had happened; in almost every memory of me and my brother was my mom. So finally, I asked my own mother if she would be willing to speak about some real occurrences that took place with my brother.”
Keller reminisced about the life of her son Drew before he became addicted to drugs, emphasizing that her children lived a sheltered life before reaching middle school and were protected through any means possible.
“He went from being a super student, really smart, wonderful brother,” Keller said. “He would do anything for his sisters, especially Amber. But now it’s Amber who has to do things for her brother.”
According to Keller, Drew’s life changed in one drug-filled weekend after he did not come home until late one Saturday morning.
“Somehow the combination that he experienced that weekend changed him forever. He was never the same,” Keller said.
Her final words offered encouragement and the promise of hope. She said young people still have the opportunity to realize and prevent the impact of drug addiction within the community.
Speaker Charles Osbourne, a USM graduate assistant in the School of Social Work, left the audience in sensational disbelief after revealing that less than five years ago he was homeless and addicted to heroin.
He describes the days leading up to his first rehabilitation visit. After being fired from his job for having a drug-induced seizure at work, he called his father who gave him the final push he needed to recognize the impact of his behavior.
“Son, I’m going to tell you something right now,” Osbourne said, quoting his father. “I can’t take this anymore. I don’t want you to call my house, I don’t want you to come to my house and I don’t want to have anything to do with you until you get help. You need help. You need help badly.”
With the love and support of his mother, Osbourne said he was able to successfully make it through therapy, and he now strives to work within the Hattiesburg community to help others who are struggling with addiction.
Barbaresi said that her brother was aware of the event. “My brother knows about the event and wishes he could have seen it. He is hoping to see the video and we are hoping it serves as an eye-opener to him,” she said.
The Repertory Dance Company will have multiple performances throughout the 2014 spring semester. Their next performance is at Brewsky’s on March 26 and 27 at 7 p.m. Those looking to help prevent or reduce drug abuse in the Hattiesburg area can donate to DREAM of Hattiesburg, Inc. at www.dreamofhattiesburg.org.