Debarge family…a family in a history of crisis …shattered lives
December 14, 2008
Tags: Add new tag, AIDS, Bobby DeBarge, Bunny DeBarge, Chico DeBarge, child abuse, drugs and alcohol, El DeBarge, family issues, family matters, family secrets, Family Values, gay jokes, God, homosexuality, incest, James DeBarge, living shattered lives, Mama DeBarge, Motown, sexuality, Switch, taboo topic, the Bible, the DeBarge family, The Kept Ones, VIBE magazine
I was shocked when I read this story in Vibe magazine. I would have never realized the things that they were going through…and had gone through as they were all growing up. It is a shame some of the things that many children are forced to endure. There is little wonder why some have such anger and rage years later. On the surface who would have thought what hidden darkness they had locked within. Family secrets can be some of the worst kind of secrets.
They were one of the hottest family groups along with the Jackson’s to emerge from Motown. It is funny how success usually is often rooted in so much pain, sorrow and personal sadness.
A large family of 8 boys and 2 girls… Bunny, El, Randy, Mark and James made up the DeBarges, the Motown singing group, who left home from Detroit by way of Grand Rapids, Michigan to LA in search of success… but they were haunted by many sad memories that perhaps they had been trying to escape…but found that they couldn’t.
Two other members of the family made up part of the group called Switch which was also hot during the early 80′s, Bobby and Tommy.
Tortured by the deep dark secrets they all shared and carried into their success in the 80′s, they were colored by a past that ultimately claimed most of their lives. Their lives have been left shattered…and though the church could not and did not help shield them from the events that were taking place in their home as very young children…but over time some have found healing and renewing in God.
You can read the full story below. It is sad…and painful to read.
When I think of the times that a friend and I used to rush home to catch them being showcased on TV shows, and how we used to laugh at them. Though we loved their music and them…it always struck us, me and one of my friends, that the boys…were well rather ‘sweet.’ And I am shamefully sorrowful of that now.
We should not poke fun or laugh at others. And I will not blame it upon my youth nor on the lack of proper home training.
I never laughed at people with disabilities but I have seen people who have…and I have seen them do it openly as I was growing up. These people, of course, were not in our family…because my parents were not that kind of people. Plus they would not have ever allowed it of us. Nor did they indulge in gossiping or talking or laughing about anyone. Yes, they would occasionally chuckle about things. But they were never mean spirited or degrading people, nor did they find fault with people or talk or laughed about anyone.
I laughed at those boys, fine as they were but yet so effeminate…I found humor in that.
Should we laugh at such things and pick fun at people?
No. We should not.
And I regret having ever done it…which is why I am writing this blog.
I have never liked preachers doing such things as finding humor at the expense of gay people. It seems that within the church everything else is sacred accept poking fun and making jokes about gay people. They do not do that with any other sin…prostitution, lying, stealing, murdering…none of these things find their way into a Sunday morning sermon or any other time…as a joke.
Then why should they find it okay to make jokes about gays, lesbians or homosexuals?
And really the church is loaded with… Well, it is loaded with some of everything. And a lot of times from the top to the bottom…somebody is doing something which they should not be doing or acting out in ways which are not Godly.
And I am not trying to come down on the church or incite a war of words. But the church is full of everything. It was true in Jesus’ time and it is still very true today. The church is even full of predators. Not so long ago at least 10 Priests in the upper North East, the Massachusetts…Boston area were found quilty of such acts…leaving in their wake hundreds of very shattered and broken lives.
In Connecticut a preacher impregnated a 12 year girl that he had been routinely been engaging in sexual intercourse with. Since she was 12 when she had the baby…she had to be 11 or maybe 10 if not younger when he first got started.
This was the plight of the DeBarge children.
Without a doubt there should be some level of sensitivity with regards to making jokes that are belittling and unkind to anyone at any time. And particularly any jokes about all those lost in sin… any sin. The church is suppose to loving and giving in spirit. Yet, it is sanctuary for all types of activity as well.
Once well sitting in the choir as a young teen…I was seated beside this boy. His father was preaching less than…I don’t know…less that 4 or 5 feet away. And this boy produced from under his choir robe his…….. and tried to pulled my hand across to touch it. I at the time did not quite understand anything about erections or anything else. But that was what he had…and his father was preaching right there beside us as his son did this one Sunday morning…in front of the whole church. It is hard for me to believe that no one sitting in the church that Sunday saw our exchange as we were seated on the front row of the choir facing outward…must less seeing what he had in his hand.
Nor, will I ever forget the night I dropped this woman home following church service that night…and this was not so very long ago. As I pulled in front of her building and she was about to get out of my car she suddenly turned to me and kissed me in a way no woman had ever kissed me before. And having come out of lesbianism…that should
speak volumes as to how and the way this woman kissed me. But I didn’t say anything. I didn’t respond. She got out and I drove home determined to not even think about what that woman had just done. And I didn’t.
I didn’t think about it…for a couple of reasons. For one thing because I didn’t want to dwell on that kiss. For another reason I just did not want to obsess about it. I felt it was a trap…orchestrated by the devil to try to lure me back into a life I had now left behind. And I was not going to fall for it. So, I shoved that kiss and that woman aside in my mind…and never bothered to linger there thinking about it…now or then.
But the church is full of a lot of things…like whoremongers, adulterers , liars etc. None of which I see any humor in…as all sin is sin and shameful. But for some reason people in the church really like to poke fun and laugh about gay people…and no one seems to find that to be offensive…but me it seems.
It is almost as though it is open season on gays in most churches while all else is taboo as something to joke about. None of it should be something to joke about. Perhaps it is that none of them were ever gay…or maybe they just do not want to confess to it. But there must be some reason for this.
Here were these children, the DeBarges, growing up in the church and such nasty things were going on in their own home from the earliest of ages. And I laughed at them when they finally hit the stage and started performing.
They were the most beautiful family of siblings…as were those Jacksons.
And in case you do not understand what ‘fine’ means when used here this way…it means that they were fantastically handsome, terribly good looking etc…etc…etc…
But those boys acted so gay.
I didn’t try to figure it out…I didn’t try to see anything other than that. And it struck me as being humorous…and that is as sad as whatever else they had to go through…if not more so. That we should all be so small…especially me…to have thought that that was humorous.
I sincerely apologize for that now. Not just because I now have a part inkling of their story, affliction and pain that they were forced to suffer…but because it was wrong of me to do so in the first place. And particularly because of all the misery and heartaches they have all had to come through and to have to bear in their lives very young children.
I cannot imagine how hard it is for a child to grow up having a father who is a predator…and using his own children sexually for most of their years growing up.
In August of 1996, Bobby DeBarge at the age of 39 died after years of alcohol and drugs abuse. He died from complications AIDS related. He was named after his father, Robert Louis DeBarge, a man who frequently sexually abused his own children beginning very early in their childhood. Bobby was a multi-talented song writer, lead singer and musican. In 1988 both he and his younger, Chico, were arrested for attempting to traffic drugs, they served 6 years in prison.
In October of this year, 2008, El DeBarge was back in court on more drug charges, vandalism and domestic violence. Though for many years El was able to not fall prey to the demons chasing him, as well as, his other sisters and brothers…but following Bobby’s death and other family issues, El too soon fell to the demons chasing them all.
Update on EL: I was very happy to see El last week when he emerged on the Soul Train Music Awards Show. He looks absolutely great… and he sounded great too. I am happy for him. Trying to pull your life back together is not an easy accomplishment. But thank God it can happen.
Bunny today is free of drugs and alcohol. She is saved and a mother. She is living her life as a Christian and has just finished writing a book called “The Kept Ones,” a tell all autobiography.
James DeBarge who was once married to Janet Jackson for a few weeks before her family had the marriage annulled, is also saved and living his life as a Christian, as well is their mother, Etterlene DeBarge.
You can CLICK the LINK S below to read the whole VIBE magazine story.
Their mother Etterlene DeBarge, which is also Bunny’s real name, is 72 with her own page on myspace.
Their lives have not been easy. But through it all they have a testimony of survival, defying the odds and are attempting to rise above, and through it all to once again unite as a family victorious through Christ Jesus.
In the words of James DeBarge in the last youtube video clip below-
Child abuse hurts…and in many cases it ruins people’s lives. Many never recover from it. Some just learn how to go on. But we all remember it…and it does remain with us for the rest of our lives whether it appears on the outside or not.
UPDATE: July 29, 2010…Robert Debarge, the father, died last year, August 2009. What a very sad, lonely and broken man he must have been for all the horrors he committed. Truly a sad story…which I understand is soon going to hit the big screen.
UPDATE: August 7, 2012…Just checking on my files and things as I usually do…when I spotted that a few people had been looking for info on the death of James. Immediately, I hit the internet looking thinking that James must have just died. But thank God… he has not. But I came across some pictures of him… and he has really aged.
In looking at his pictured I noticed how much he looks like his father. It must be hard waking up in the morning and looking into the mirror and seeing him… the face of the man who used to abuse you and all your other siblings.
I imagine that they all have good days… and bad days. There are some scars that never go away. That kind of hurt most hurt forever…but thank goodness for Jesus, He can make a difference. A lot of things become easier to bare because of Him.
Let us keep them all lifted up in our prayers.
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