A Project for Students and Citizens

Posts Tagged ‘Tennessee’

‘Bayou Baseball Boy Makes It Big!’

In Bayou La Batre on August 14, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Brandon Cupp 2By Laney Payne

Brandon Cupp is a blue-eyed bayou soul with dreams of making it big and the talent to back it up.

The baby boy of four siblings and a sophomore at Alma Bryant High, Brandon is eager to get his voice heard in more ways than one. Not only does the 15-year-old know how to sing a tune, but he wants his voice to mean more than just karaoke skills for his community. A Coden native and now Bayou La Batre teen, Brandon is ready to shine.

“I want to make a name for Bayou La Batre; let people know that it’s not just all about shrimpin’. People see all the bad stuff here, but they need to see the talent,” said Brandon, donned in his navy Bryant baseball gear outside the local McDonald’s hang out.

Brandon and Chris Cupp

Brothers Brandon and Chris Cup play baseball on Alma Bryant team. (Photo by Laney Payne)

Upon meeting the 15-year-old baseball player, one doesn’t peg him as a vocalist. Ready to hit the dirt in his white baseball pants, Brandon leads with his baseball spirit. As the younger of two brothers on the Bryant team, he explains how much playing with his brother has meant to him.

“My brother, he’s my best friend, we do everything together. Sometimes in the middle of a game if he’s pitching bad, we’ll walk up and talk to each other behind our gloves. It’s just what we do, and it works. He’s always there for me,” explains Brandon.

But is hasn’t always been fun and baseball for this young man. At 13, Brandon and his family took just the essentials and started over. Now living in a bayou hotel with his family of four at his side, he says that he wouldn’t change a thing.

“The struggle has helped my singing. Whenever I get mad, I sing. Sometimes when things get too cramped, I go out and sing in the truck. I turn up the radio, and people even come out to listen and clap for me. It’s motivating and keeps me going,” Brandon said.

The close quarters, however, often turn into personal jam sessions that quickly involve the entire family.

Brandon 4

Brandon Cupp plans to catch big dreams. (Photo by Laney Payne)

“Brandon sings 24/7. He’s always singing something. Momma has to tell him to keep quiet when he’s in the shower. But, you can tell it helps her when he sings. It shows her that we are patient, and we aren’t worried about our situation. It keeps us all positive and keeps up going,” said older brother Chris as he pitched ball after ball to his brother in the summer heat.

Growing up a southern boy, Brandon has always favored country music. Looking up to artist Scotty McCreary, Brandon said he hopes to one day follow in his footsteps and become a star. Relating to the messages that lie within many country lyrics, Brandon said he always knew he’d sing country music himself one day.

“I like the message that life can get hard. But, if you work at it, you can pick yourself back up,” Brandon said.

The son of a Horizon ship painter and Ole Maria’s waitress, Brandon understands the value of hard work and is ready to pay his dues to get where he wants to go. By setting high goals and dreaming big, the baseball player/singer hopes to go far.

“My goal is to play college ball in Tennessee. Then, I’ll pitch for my Philly’s and sing country music,” Brandon said.

A favorite among the regular Ole Maria’s karaoke crowd, Brandon takes whatever chance he can to get his voice heard. Without a shy bone in his body and a contagious sense of confidence, he is ready to belt a tune whenever the moment allows.

“If I get nervous, I’ll shake my leg a little. But I love singing in front of people, especially my girlfriend. When they hear me, it motivates me to keep going,” said Brandon.

Thankful for his local listeners, Brandon explains how each and every individual has driven him to make it big one day.  “They want you to succeed, and they are all behind you. It feels good.”

From the corner of his hotel room home singing along to mp3’s to having a microphone in hand each and every karaoke night at Ole Maria’s as he waits to walk his mom home from work, Brandon dreams of success in the big leagues.  He is determined to make it not only for himself, but also for the community he calls home.

I asked Brandon how he felt about me writing something all about him. Without skipping a beat behind a thick smile and southern drawl, he replied, “Laney, I already got the title. Bayou Baseball Boy Makes It Big.”

Marion: Week Eight

In Marion on July 31, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Mary Afton Day is living democracy in Marion, Alabama. Mary Afton is a junior majoring in public administration major at Auburn University.  Living Democracy is a yearlong collaboration between students and citizens on issues that matter to local communities.

Marion has widened my eyes, in various and amazing ways. As hard as I tried, I did start the summer with preconceived notions and some bias. The first day at Sowing Seeds of Hope eased all my fears as Ms. Anne and Ms. Faye immediately welcomed me. Everything was going to work out all right and excitement began to replace the anxiety.  Though I was readily welcomed into the SSOH family, the community still remained distant. It was and is, a challenge I willingly accepted.

Marion is a town unlike any other. Earlier in the year we heard the expression, “if you’ve seen one Alabama town, you’ve still only seen one Alabama town.” Marion embodies this expression tenfold.  This is a community with a rich history of war heroes, Civil Rights activists and once-booming agriculture now struggling with the stagnant economy.  I have learned that the citizens of Marion, who some label as uncaring and nonchalant, are in their own unique ways bettering their future and their town.  Despite a divide between some citizens and officials, change has occurred and is occurring and will occur.

The dreams of the elder citizens are to involve the youth, to keep them home. The most common description when I ask Marion citizens to describe their town is “home.”  Marion is Marion because of one simple truth: it’s home.  The empowerment of youth is a growing movement in Marion and Perry County as a whole. Parents, grandparents, elders can see that some youth are racing from the comforts of their home to find opportunities and build a life elsewhere. What I’ve witnessed up close this summer is the older generation’s efforts to involve the youth, whether it is a sports camp, trips to prominent Civil Rights monuments in the surrounding areas, or creating a leadership class in the schools. These activities are based on the knowledge that the youth are the future of Marion.

Working with Sowing Seeds of Hope has been an amazing opportunity outlet for myself and for Erica, the teen who I worked most closely with this summer.  The director, Ms. Frances, opened so many doors for networking and projects.  Erica is learning real-world responsibility and leadership skills, and I am learning how this community operates. Marion is complex in its own unique way. There is a hierarchy of officials, but the existence of programs and organizations like Sowing Seeds of Hope are proof of daily change in the town.

I anticipated a divide between races.  Everyone knows it is an issue, but many are working to mend and reestablish relationships for the future of Marion’s citizenry.  As the end of my summer nears, I know that my own acceptance into the community is proof that the love of a human, an individual, outweighs any tensions. Educated and eccentric outsiders who have moved into the community are devoting themselves to the area.  Citizens like David Austin, Laurette Turner, Don Coley and Jim Blanchett are bringing in diversity not only in race but also in beliefs and views.  Marion seems to be expanding and developing in unique ways and adapting to a changing society. Personally, Marion has found a special place in my heart. I see her faults, and I understand that there is a long road ahead for ongoing community development and change. If I were to introduce the world to Marion, I would compare her to a quilt, a community quilt—like the ladies of the West Perry Arts & Crafts Club create. An individual with his or her own story makes each stitch. The Marion community is made of varied individuals sewn together to create a beautiful work of art that is a home. Simply put Marion is a quilt, handmade, beautiful and based on the values and traditions of her history.