One of the fun things about administering a Facebook group or running a automotive website is the opportunity it affords to meet people who you may not have met or learned about otherwise. These tools help put “community” in the car-community. Such is the case with Antoine Cabarrus, otherwise known as “AC.” AC is a graduate of Marshall University, he served as a Captain in the Army National Guard and is now a professional musician as well as a new Kia Stinger owner.
What follows is a chat I had with AC. I hope you enjoy as we turn the spotlight on him.
TD: AC, let’s start with your background. Where did you grow up?
AC: I was in a military family. I was very close to being born on a base in Germany but thankfully my dad was able to get my mother back to the states to give birth to me in Orange, NJ.
TD: What year was that? Did you move around a lot with your dad in the service, or did you grow up in Orange?
AC: That was February 10, 1985. I spent a year or two there before we moved to Fort Campbell and then Fort Riley, Kansas. You could definitely say we hopped around from base to base. After my dad’s deployment from the Gulf War he broke his neck playing football which led to his medical discharge from the Army. That led to our move back to Orange, NJ.
TD: How old were you when he was injured?
AC: I was only 2 years old.
TD: How successful was his recovery?
AC: He had a very rough recovery. Medical procedures have advanced a lot since then but for the first 6 months of his recovery he had to wear a halo with bolts screwed into his skull.
TD: What was life like growing up in Orange NJ?
AC: Orange, NJ was a difficult environment to grow up in. I spent the majority of my childhood at my nana’s house while both of my parents worked full time. I went to a public school while where I got into a lot of fights due to being bullied because I was a little overweight. This continued all the way up until I was in the 5th grade. I did what I had to do to “look cool.” As a result it got me into a lot of trouble, so it was a huge blessing when my Dad’s job transferred him from New Jersey to Huntington, WV in 1996.
TD: That’s quite a change. What was West Virginia like?
AC: West Virginia is a completely different world than New Jersey. I had to learn new words, the dialect, and also I had to make new friends. That was probably the hardest of them all through my whole transition. Due to my dad being in the military we always moved around so I was never able to settle down in a specific location and form any type of long terms friendships with anyone. Moving to WV was the hardest move because we moved in a predominantly white neighborhood. In fact, I was the only African American male in my entire grade when I started going to school. Fitting in was extremely difficult for me.
TD: Did that feel uncomfortable because you were different and in the minority in that community in WV? Or did you have experiences in West Virginia that were examples of racism?
AC: I felt very uncomfortable. I couldn’t be myself, the outgoing person that I used to be had to be hidden. Racism is one of the worse things a person can go through. I never had to experience this when I lived in New Jersey due to their being so much diversity. I cried so many nights because I was confused as to why people treated me differently based on my skin color. I was called names, excluded from activities, and was also told I couldn’t talk to certain females because interracial relationships were frowned upon. I will never understand the mindset behind racism, nor will I ever forget certain things that were said to me just because of the color of my skin.
TD: How did those experiences shape you as a person? Did they?
AC: My experiences have taught me to persevere through adversity, and to overcome any obstacles that I may try to trip me up. It also taught me to how to be able to take criticism without having a negative reaction.
TD: You are a musician now, correct?
AC: Yes. I fell in love with music at a very young age. I’ve played multiple instruments, sang in many choirs, and started rapping early in my college years.
TD: Talk about perseverance through adversity and overcoming obstacles, music is a very competitive field, sometimes with it’s own preconceived notions and judgements, no?
AC: No doubt. I can’t tell you the number of times that I wanted to quit. I was fortunate enough to learn how to persevere and not quit through athletics. My parents always told me that I wasn’t allowed to quit anything or any sport no matter how hard things got. Quitting just isn’t in my family’s DNA.
TD: Are you self taught musically? Any formal training?
AC: Every instrument that I played I took formal lessons except for the drums. My instructors hated the fact that I could play without having to read the notes. I was very good at what they called “playing by ear”. lol
TD: Do you have perfect pitch?
AC: I don’t think I’ve perfected anything just yet. I haven’t played an instrument in a very long time. Even when it comes to singing I could definitely benefit from some auto tuning. haha