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Advancing In God - From self-published author and attorney, Karmen A. Booker

"The Kept Ones"

An Essay By Bunny DeBarge

I will never forget the feelings I felt on my final flight home from Los Angeles, CA. It was the year of 1987, eight years since I first left the place I called home to pursue a music career. Since then, I had returned home at least three or four times as a successful Motown Recording artist. I was always glad to come back home, as well as in the same mind, I was always glad to leave. This flight was different, I wouldn’t be returning back to Los Angeles this time. I was now 32 year old, and I was coming home for good, while looking out the window of the airplane, my mind began reminiscing on how happy it felt before, whenever I was returning back to my home town, Grand Rapids, MI. Why was it so different today?

There was no joy, or excitement like the previous times when I was returning, with suitcases filled with gifts for my favorite loved ones who would be waiting patiently for the arrival of their cousin, their best friend, their sister and daughter, their personal star, “Bunny De Barge.” It would always bring me such joy to know they would all be there. Yes, today it was quite different!! Not only was there lack of joy, there were no gifts, just shame and guilt and many fears. Fears I had not felt since my childhood. Fears I had learned to cover up with fame, drugs, and much bought love. Those fears I had learned that (in order to survive), I had to hide. They had surfaced now, along with all the new ones I had made by just living a dysfunctional life. Now I had no drugs to help me cover them, no fame to hide behind, and no money to bring presents or meet many of my loved-ones needs.

The fear was overwhelming and I had much trouble putting it back to rest in my innermost being. This time I was returning a “fallen star.” Feeling like a failure, I had no contract, no money, and no brothers. De Barge (Bunny, El, James, Mark and Randy) was disbanded, scattered and torn apart. Not only as a recording group were we torn, but also as the close-knit family that we had left being. I was lost without us. I felt so alone and empty. I was broke, homeless, an addict, in much need of a fix. The only reason I was not high on drugs this day was that I had no money to obtain it, neither was I able to sustain my habit. My choice of drugs at the time was Fours and Doers, (street term) a pill form of morphine. This is a very physically addicting drug. I had been through detox for most of the physical part, yet my body and mind still craved the drug to sleep.
Mentally, I had not even begun to deal with what caused me to go there; neither had I mentally started to deal with the absentness of not having the drug. I still felt very much in need of it. At least it deadens my pain. I needed help identifying those pains I had hidden and put in remission for years. Pain, I really did not want to deal with. I needed much help, unconditional love and understanding. Something only God could give me, yet at this time I was looking for it everywhere but there. Now I was looking for it at home.

Bunny DeBarge during her days as a Motown star

Would they be there, I wondered? Will I have a ride from the airport? It hurt for me not to know what to expect. I WAS GOING HOME, my little girls, Damea, Janae, Tonee and I. We all needed much love and understanding. Love from the ones I felt should and would always be there. We needed a “Welcome Home” today like never before!! It was our Home, where family is, Home, where I made my Best Friends. HOME!!!

In my heart I wanted it to be the same way it always was when ever I was returning home, but I could only go by the trips that I had made that way before. Everyone and their momma were there, fighting over who I would spend the night with. What a great feeling! A feeling I thought and took to be love. The kind of love I seemed to have missed in my childhood, a deep feeling of belonging. I had left Grand Rapids, a mixed breed freak and I was returning a Star. Their Star, Grand Rapids’ own Star. Not just me, my brothers too. We were Stars. De Barge, we had taken the family name and used our God given talents and made it to the top. We were STARS!!! The Stars now everyone claimed, to have been first to see it happen from the very beginning.

How sad I felt at this moment in my thoughts, because not one bit of the stardom ever mattered to me at all. All I cared about was the love I seemed to be getting from everyone, and the happiness I thought I could bring back to them in gifts of some sort. I cared that everyone knew that I really was the same person in my heart then, which I was before I left. And this was weather I knew them already or I was just meeting them. I wanted them to know that I was reachable and I did not think of myself as better than them. I wanted them to know that I had not changed. How important all this was to me. Just me knowing that I was a part of making things happen for the people I loved and wanted so much to love me, meant everything to me.



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