Amp Harris brings stars to IBE’s Summer Celebration for kids like him

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“So, we primarily work weekends.”

Amp Harris is talking about touring with his lifelong friend, Indy-born comedian and movie star Mike Epps.

“We’ll fill the calendar up with comedy clubs when we’re not doing the big arenas and theaters,” he said.

Frank: “It sounds exciting.”

Amp: “It’s exciting from afar. But you have to have a really strong mentality.”

For decades, Amp has built a career and an image as a "friend to the stars."  Among his closest friends: Colts legend Reggie Wayne, the Colt he counts as a little brother, Edgerrin James and numerous pro-athletes, movie stars and musicians.

Frank: “What is it about those relationships you think people would be surprised about?”

Amp: “Beneath the surface, who they really are.

"Like a lot of these guys come from humble beginnings," he said. “These are guys I connected with spiritually.”

Amp says it's easy for him to connect with the rich and famous because as a native of a crime-plagued section of Indy's east side, he understands where they come from.

Amp: “People were shot in this area. People were doing drug deals in this area.”

Frank: “So you witnessed that.”

Amp: “Oh, no question about it. Mike Epps and I, we would play basketball in this same park.”

“This whole east side area was rough and rugged. But for me it was where I learned right versus wrong.”

It was in this neighborhood where the darkest day of his life changed everything.

Amp: “This is the house where my brother got killed.”

Frank: “Are you comfortable talking about it?”

Amp: “My brother used to be a pimp, a real-life gangster.”

“We were in the basement and heard all this commotion,” he said. “My stepfather pushed my mother up against the wall. And then my brother hits my stepfather with his elbow.”

Then, gunshots.

“And just pow. He shoots my brother right here,” Amp recalled. "And so I’m just standing there like, in shock.”

Frank: “How did it change you?”

Amp: “I learned to put a value system to life.”

Forty years since his brother Roger was killed at age 25, Amp Harris uses his celebrity friends as what he calls "magnets" to attract kids to positive and successful role models.

“As a child growing up in the inner city, all I ever wanted to do was find somebody who believed in me,” he said.

“What I realized was our kids in the inner city idolize certain types of people.”

That's why he packs the Indianapolis Black Expo Summer Celebration with stars, not to mention panel discussions and the annual celebrity basketball game--events his well-known friends fly across the country to attend for free.

And fans don't have to pay a dime for admission.

Frank: “What is your hope at the end of the day for these kids that you get to impact? “

Amp: “You just said the operative word: Hope. Because most of them feel hopeless because of their environment.”

“Everything that I do, I do it in hopes of touching somebody else.”

Amp says we all have a story.

So every year for IBE's Summer Celebration, he takes a group of celebrities to a Boys and Girls Club, not to talk about sports or the stage, but about how they overcame their life struggles.

"It's my responsibility to never forget where I came from."

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