Who is Harlem Witness? St. George Library Center found out not too long ago when local Staten Island musician Shawn "Harlem Witness" DeBerry performed his Gospel-Rap set to audience full of eager concert goers. Shawn also provided us with a little bit of information about his musical background and the personal aspirations he has for his craft.
What kind of music do you listen to?
I actually listen to a wide variety of music such as Gospel, Christian Rap, R&B, Soul, Pop, Hip Hop and some Smooth Jazz.
What are your inspirations and influences?
My inspiration/influences come from God and life experiences. So much can happen in one day, let alone a lifetime but I write music with one perspective in mind... "the glass is always half full." God can always turn a bad situation into a better one.
What other musicians in particular inspire and influence your work?
My musical influences would be Deitrick Haddon, Musiq Soulchild, Jay-Z and Lecrae. I aspire to be a well rounded artist as they all are.
How long have you been performing?
I've been performing since I was 13 years old and writing songs since I was 11 years old.
During your show, you had another young participant who performed, can you tell me a little bit about her?
Ilana Lezama is a poet based in the local area of Staten Island. She uses poetry as a way to talk about situations she has faced. She writes about her own personal experiences and how God played a major part in helping her through it which other people can relate to. She says, "The more I wrote the more my writing went from a gift to a passion. Maybe people will go home and feel a little bit relieved knowing that they're not alone."
What is the ultimate message that you are trying to convey through your music?
The message I am trying to convey through my music is a simple one. The Gospel of Jesus Christ — There is hope in making the people in the world better.
Be on the look out for additional Harlem Witness performances at libraries on Staten Island to come and check him out on YouTube. Also download music from some of Shawn's musical influences for free with your library card using the Freegal Music database.