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Renaissance Man: Dennis Reed- Inspire the Fire Founder




Photo by Silvio Suarez

Inspire The Fire landed in the Queen City this year, and the “Xpierence “was paramount! Tangi Adams kept us informed on the day by day events that brought together the youth and individuals under an umbrella of hope and greater faith! This incredible organization’s goal was to set young hearts ablaze as kids who are aspiring artists, musicians, rappers, dancers, and technicians work closely with industry professionals gaining more “Xpierence” and improving their gifts. A partnership with Central Piedmont Community College & the Arts & Science Council, Inspire the Fire hosted events for participating youth including: special guest appearances, motivational speakers, teambuilding, nightly Club, and a finale that spotlighted teen talent at CPCC’s Halton Theater!

On a rainy day I was given a great opportunity to meet the catalyst behind this auspicious event. Dennis Reed’s walk on this path has gained the attention from those such as Oprah Winfrey and other celebs. But to him, this is not for fame, but for faith!

What “inspired” you to start such a powerful campaign to win our youth back to Christ? First, I’d like to thank Urban Tymes for spotlighting Inspire the Fire and our campaign to inspire young people on stage and in life.  I must say, my team and I are very much “hands on” and in the trenches at work daily, it inspires us that in a job that often goes unnoticed, we were noticed by such a reputable magazine.

I was inspired to start Inspire the Fire as a 17 year old because of summer boredom. When teens become bored, dangerous things can happen, however, positive & powerful things can happen as well!  We chose to be positive!  We were a group of teenagers who wanted to have fun and put our artistic gifts to use.  That idea evolved into a campaign, that campaign launched an organization, that organization inspires and impacts young lives, and now we are a movement.  I believe undoubtedly that it was God who gave me the vision.

Do you see more and more youth today looking for answers to those all too common questions about themselves and where they fit in? Absolutely.  They’re faced with several voids and challenges in our world today.  I can’t begin to tell you how many young people who’ve come to our program in search of themselves. On top of facing the daunting challenges of growing up in our world, morals and values seem to be ever changing.  Our goal at Inspire the Fire (ITF as they refer to it) is to aid in the self-discovery of kids.  We want them to feel loved, accepted, Inspired and just to have fun.

Our youth group attended ITF years ago. How much time does it take to arrange incredible events such as this?“It’s really crazy when you think about the amount of hours and creative energy put into our summer event called “the Xperience.”   We’re talking, 10 original songs, new choreography, huge visual arts projects, a full script for actors, music tracks for rappers and poets, and scripted sheet music for our youth orchestra.  Typically we average about 400 youth performers for the show.  Believe it or not, we put the show together in 1 week!  I have an amazing creative team and host of volunteers that help make this possible!  You have to see it to believe it!  Aug 3rd is show day!”

Of course, the team and I plan a few months in advance to begin writing the music.   Sometimes however, I have to wait for inspiration to compose the songs, this year; they didn’t come to me until the month of our event!

What has been the responses from the youth in regards to ITF? Without young people Inspire the Fire does not exist.  We are a grassroots movement, no big sponsorship, and no huge budgets to make it happen.  The Young People are what makes this work! No advertisement budget, yet we see 400 students and close to 1,000 audience members for our program.  It’s because the youth are energized and excited.  They take to instagram and twitter and get their friends to come.  The young are powerful and mighty.

The youth are definitely the focus, but how has this movement changed the perceptions and influence of the adults? ITF hopes to effect change in young people.  This change should translate to their families, schools, and communities.  We are only effective when adults support the movement.  We have “Firelighters” in our program; I’d compare them to schools PTSA.   Parents have expressed the reason why they volunteer is because they’ve noticed growth in their child. One parent was so moved by the change she saw in her three sons that she became a volunteer, and moved from volunteering to becoming a Hope Coach (staff mentor) in our program.

I think its’ great that various artists have given their talent and support to ITF as well! It’s when we give back, that we find purpose.  I’m grateful that several artist and industry professionals have lended there time to the movement.  Over the years we worked with famed Choreographer Laurie Ann Gibson, Sekinah Lesage, Actor Dennis White, stellar award winning singer Vashawn Mitchell, Soul Singer Lejuene Thompson, Grammy Producer Cedric Thompson, BMI Vice President Catherine Brewton, Sunday’s Best Host Kierra Sheard, and Destiny’s Child Singer Michelle Williams.  But what’s incredible is our team of Hope Coaches and Art Facilitators who give of their time all year long, and no one has ever taken a salary.

How can people get involved and support? Before you jump into this movement, understand, we are far from perfect.  We are ever evolving.  The need for programs that are youth and art centered is great.  Yet our mission is not to achieve artistic perfection, but to help young people succeed on stage and in life.   Most of our team wears a “3 hats minimum”.  We offer our services free of charge.  Our goal is to touch 5,000 young lives by 2016.   We can reach our goal if people stand with us.

Yes, we need financial contributions. We need more mentors to join our staff.  My dream is to launch Inspire the Fire Stations in various cities.  Folks can help by giving online at Consider becoming a partner by sponsoring a child.  Talk about ITF on social media using the handle @inspirethefire.   Register kids 10-21 to attend this year’s #Xperience2k14 #Allornothing also on our site. Lastly, say a prayer for us, I believe it can take you to places money can’t.