Good Neighbor - September 2019
- Story by Lisa Monti, photos by Lisa Monti and Ellis Anderson
In his job for the state and his role as a volunteer community leader, Gregory Barabino covers all the bases when it comes to Hancock County’s youth.
Ask Gregory Barabino about his involvement in the community and he’ll go down a list of organizations he helps lead and initiatives he’s been an advocate for. He says he likes to “cover all the bases” helping his hometown and neighbors – especially the kids. “I’m an advocate for the underdogs,” he says.
Not coincidentally, Greg’s job is with child protective services for the state of Mississippi, where he connects community members with legal and other services they may require.
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Greg was born in Florida and grew up in Bay St. Louis, where he attended local schools from kindergarten through graduation from Bay High. For more than a decade he lived in New Orleans, where he owned an international nightclub that was lost in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The large venue was DJ-driven and showcased musicians from Trinidad and Jamaica.
When he moved back to the Bay in 2008, Greg said he was disappointed to find that there were few African American businesses operating, and that the city was still segregated in many ways.
He joined the Hancock County NAACP branch more than six years ago and has served as president for most of that time.
“Our focus is on political issues, education issues and cultural awareness,” he said. “Businessmen cannot do anything to promote or advocate for African Americans if we don’t have that mindset.”
In addition to his full-time job, Greg owns Greg B Productions, an entertainment company that creates and produces shows.
“I have a DJ, and I emcee and also DJ if I have to. We do music and cultural events, but all positive. It’s something missing in our marketplace. We do only positive experiences, mixing entertainment and culture. I call it EDUtainment.”
His interest in education led him to start a tutoring program called Reading Buddies to help residents of all ages. “The community as a whole has a reading deficit, adults and kids, across the board. There needs to be a cultural change.”
In August alone, he produced two events for young people. The Second Saturday Back to School Block Party was designed educate the community, especially families, on what nonprofit organizations and services are available to them that they might not otherwise know about.
The idea was to bring a focus on life skills and support, he said. About 50 kids showed up for face painting and music and to learn about scholarships and careers. “It was good participation and a good response,” he said.
A Back to School Party with a Purpose was held along with the Bay-Waveland Middle School Fellowship of Christian Students. The $5 admission fee raised hundreds of dollars for the Women’s Job Corps program. That’s the purpose for the partying, he said.
He hopes to be able to have more events during the school year as resources become available.
“My goal is to work with kids by giving them entertainment but throwing in life skills that they can’t get elsewhere. There's no place for kids to gather other than sports. I use the platform of education and bring in other aspects they can learn.”
Greg also is a member of the Rotary Club and is on the board of both the Boys and Girls Club and 100 Men Hall, where he helps out with parking or working the door during events.
100 Men Hall owner Rachel Dangermond said, “I met Greg when I called after my offer was accepted on the Hall – he said he was interested in doing youth activities at the Hall. I said I was too!
“Then he offered to bring some friends and help me unload on moving day. It was a no-brainer to ask him to be on our board, and since then Greg has played an active role in the Hall, helping us keep it a cultural touchstone for the community. “
Greg and his wife, Eileen, have a daughter Gabrielle, who is a senior at Bay High this year. Gabrielle was named Homecoming Queen just last week. She is talented as well as beautiful – Dad says she plays in the band and is “a track star.”
With all of his work responsibilities and community involvement, the community organizer has little leisure time for much else but music. “I especially love listening to R&B, Hip Hop and Jazz.”
In January, Greg was honored by the NAACP in recognition of his contributions and service to the youth of Hancock County. He was presented with the 2019 NAACP Community Service Award as part of the local celebration honoring Dr. Martin Luther King.
“I encourage people to be neighbors again and not isolate themselves,” Greg said. “I also encourage everybody to do what is in the best interest of the whole community, to associate with each other and communicate instead of being isolated.”