David Batiste: Marching to the Music of Change
TerryB | 5/23/2013, 12:01 p.m.
By Edwin Buggage
David Batiste is a legend in the field of music as Founder and Bandleader of David Batiste and the Gladiators. He is most notably known for his soul classic 'Funky Soul Part 1 and 2.' Today he continues to be in demand internationally as a pioneer of New Orleans funk music. Also these days he is giving back to the next generation. When speaking with him he is a fountain of wisdom and positivity. As we talked about his spirit of benevolence he credits his parents John and Estella Batiste as the source of his wanting to serve his community, "My dad John Batiste Sr. had a grocery and hardware store; he was the first African-American to own a hardware store in Jefferson Parish," Continuing speaking highly of his father Batiste says, "He was also a general contractor and was involved in the community. I watched him as he sometimes gave people food that didn't have the money to pay for it; and he also taught me a valuable lesson I try to pass on and that is it is good to give and expect nothing in return."
On any given day you can see Mr. Batiste engaging young people at the Batiste Cultural Arts Academy, a Pre-k thru 8th Grade School started by one of his sons Damon Batiste. The school was one of eight schools across the nation that won the President's Art Initiative Award through the President Obama's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. "I feel blessed to have this amazing opportunity working with kids, when I see how they light up when we help them there is no dollar amount that can compensate for seeing children being given the tools to be successful in life." Continuing he says, "I try to tell young people to learn to think for themselves, and to push themselves to be their best. I am glad to see these young kids go on to do great things with their lives. We have children this year that will graduate and go on to Benjamin Franklin, New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) and so many other schools around the City and it feels good that we played a part in these kids' lives and encouraged them to strive for excellence."
In a world full of strife and people divided it seems many times there are two things that bring people together from different backgrounds and that is sports and music. Batiste, who has lived to see society change travels the globe and sees that music strikes a chord that connects people, and he has a spiritual connection to people's souls that can bring about social change. "Music is a universal language that all people can relate to, and even when times were bad I remember 50 years ago when I first started performing music, we would enter in the back, but when we were onstage we're all together having a great conversation and looking at each other as human beings. I have seen social barriers come down and it has been music that has been at the forefront as a soundtrack helping fuel much social change throughout my life."