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When the news broke about 10-year-old Zahra Baker, a city reeled in shock and pain. Soon, shock waves resounded throughout the world as millions learned of her death and dismemberment.
A Hickory teenager, deeply moved, wrote a song for Zahra.
Brooke De Leary said, “I wrote a song inspired by Zahra Baker, a 10 year-old little girl only three years younger than me, and she never got to live the life that she wanted to live. She only lived a mile down the road from me, and I had no clue she was hurting. And, it made me think more and more how many people are out there that are hurting, and we don’t even realize that. And, why don’t they have a voice to speak up for themselves. The song is called “Voiceless.”
Brooke was 13 at the time, and learned about Zahra from her mother, Carrie DeLeary.
“I came home from a meeting at Safe Harbor Rescue Mission and told Brooke about Zahra,” Carrie said.”She went right up to her room and wrote the song.”
Music is not a stranger to Brooke and her older sister Lauren. Both girls play multiple instruments, sing and dance. Neither are they strangers to area community theatre stages, appearing mostly in musicals.
Compassion, love and acceptance for the “least of these” people — the homeless, hungry, forgotten, the lost and the sick — are not strangers to the DeLeary family.
Geoff and Carrie DeLeary raised their four children, Nick, Lauren, Brooke and Matthew, with a passion to serve those who are hurting in body, mind or spirit.
Family mission trips to Guatemala, Nicaragua, Kenya and the Ukraine began when the children were barely out of their toddler years and continued for years.
With a maturity that belies her years, Brooke feels the pain of human hurting.
So, as millions mourned Zahra and questioned why, it was only natural that Brooke reach out and question the death of a 10-year-old little girl.
“Why? Why? Why would they [Zahra’s parents] do that? Brooke implored. “I can’t comprehend why. I don’t understand.”
Brooke called her older sister, her best friend, Lauren, a student at Belmont University in Nashville.
Lauren’s first reaction was “what in the world?”
“I was a freshman,” she said. “I had no idea — I don’t have a TV and don’t listen to news. I heard it first from Brooke.”
The song Brooke wrote last November is called “Voiceless,” and she talks about not only Zahra, but others who have no voice in society.
In addition to Zahra, Brooke also wrote about homeless people, the forgotten in nursing homes, a single mother loses her job, children hurting and prisoners.
As a line in her song says, “We need to be the voice for the voiceless. Zahra is one…one of the many.”
The combination of raw emotion, strong lyrics, music, and Brooke’s incredibly mature voice, delivered a song that brought tears to family.
“I was moved to tears, and I was awed,” Carrie said. “It is a very powerful song, and the message has many elements. Brooke has always had a heart for anyone hurting. When the song came to her, it was cathartic.
Brooke’s father, Geoff, heard Brooke sing part of the song and asked to hear the entire song.
Brooke, who records songs as she composes, reached for her recorder to play “Voiceless” for her father.
“Something happened, though, and it didn’t record,” Brooke lamented.
With the words not yet written, Brooke recreated the song, recorded it and put the lyrics to paper. Her father’s reaction was just as strong as Carrie’s.
“Wow, that’s the best song you’ve written,” Geoff said.
Lauren’s reaction was, “Brooke, that’s your best song, Now what are we going to do?”
Brooke said she felt something different about this song. When she composes, the music brings a raw feeling that hurts but feels good to let out. This song was powerful.
“I didn’t know what was happening, but I knew it was something,” she said. “I didn’t know it was this big.”
Lauren said when her sister is inspired to write a song, Brooke can’t stop writing.
“She just keeps going — she can’t stop,” Lauren said.
Brooke finished what her sister was going to say, “Whenever the real world comes in, I say, ‘No, wait, I’m in fantasy world now.’”
Now, in a melding of the girls’ talent and their passion for the “voiceless,” they recorded “Voiceless” and will sell the CD to help raise funds for Zahra’s playground. The CD with “Voiceless” on it, a wrist band “Be the Voice,” and a T-shirt will be sold as a package for $20. The blue T-shirt is imprinted with “The DeLearys,” Brooke and Lauren’s band.
One half of the proceeds will go towards building Zahra’s playground, and one half will go to Second Harvest Food Bank.
The message with the CD is this: for people to pay attention to the world around them and to listen for and to the voiceless and be a voice for the voiceless.
This something the DeLeary children grew up doing — helping those who are hurting, hungry, homeless and forgotten. It’s what the family does as a family.
“Lauren, Brooke and I were in Guatemala,” Carrie said. “A little baby was found in a garbage can. The girls wanted to adopt the baby and bring him home. Brooke, 2, called him her ‘baby.’
“If we adopted everyone the children wanted to adopt, we’d have hundreds in our house,” Carrie added with a smile. “They want to touch someone who needs touching and who needs love.”
That was the beginning of a life of compassion for healing a hurting world for the DeLeary sisters.
“We’ve always had a fifth, in the guest house,” Carrie said. “An elderly woman, a teenager, a baby ... “
Lauren said,” I think that’s God’s hand — an open house.”
Deeply spiritual and of deep faith, the scripture “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25 :40 describes the DeLeary’s mission of faith and works.
At ages when peer pressure is at its strongest, Lauren wrote a song, “Change,” about a time when several of her friends were pushing her away to conform to the world
“I love Jesus Christ passionately and desire to reflect Him in all I do. I have a burden for my generation,” Lauren said. “I am constantly surrounded by the influences of this culture and see so many of my friends falling into the traps and lies of this world. I want to stand out and make a difference.”
In their typically close and endearing sisters-almost-twins mode, Lauren and Brooke shared what they enjoy most about their music, life and faith. And, they dispensed a little advice.
“Don’t forget the forgotten,” Lauren said.
“Being with my sister is one of the things I like best about what we do,” Brooke said. “We encourage each other, and we’re best friends.”
“I appreciate the opportunity to inspire people and spread the message,” Lauren said. “God gave us a gift to share and spread.”
“I want to inspire people to stand up for themselves and accept themselves as they are,” Brooke said. “Stand up for what they believe in, too. And, that’s what we want to do in our music — stand up for what we believe in.”
As for their music and future, well, with mature and level-headed thinking, the sisters said they’ll wait and see what happens with “Voiceless.”
And, of course, they want to write more. They want to find more of their genre, come together as a group, get more gigs and travel.
“For three years, while I’m in high school and Lauren is in college, we want to really get better with our music,” Brooke said.
But, Lauren added, “The music business is one day at a time.”
More about their music
Lauren DeLeary plays keyboard and bass guitar, and sister Brooke plays drums and guitar. They both write lyrics, music and melody.
“Last April, we said, ‘Hey, we can do this together — let’s sing together,” Lauren said.
The girls are currently working on another song — “Who’s to Say” — Lauren and Brooke that both wrote.
“We sat down, she picked up the guitar, I hummed a tune and started typing lyrics that came to my head,” Lauren said. “Then, Brooke gave ideas, I jotted them down, and it was history from there.”
The idea for the song, though, was really Lauren’s.
“I have a heart for girls to feel beautiful in their own skin, and to know what really makes them beautiful is the heart inside,” she said. “I talked to Brooke, and she couldn’t agree more. So, I came up with idea and we both jumped on it.”
Both know how hard it is to be a young girl in this society with the pressure to be perfect.
The pressure is too much. Lauren remembers saying to Brooke, ‘Why? Why does it matter? Why should I care? And, who’s to say if I am beautiful today or not? Ooh! Good lyrics!’”
And, that is how the song got started.
“Geoff is Chippewa,” Carrie said. “Their reservation is in Muncey Ontario Chippewa of the Thames First Nation.
The girls are very proud of their heritage.
“It [our heritage] definitely relates to our love for people — all people,” Lauren said. “We are writing a more ‘Native-sounding song’ and it talks about the circle of life and how we are all one and ‘no matter skin color, each one a sister or brother’ — lyric.”
Native culture teaches people to care for everyone — orphans, widows, children, parents, cousins and elderly.
“This comes from our growing up as well,” Lauren said. “Not only did we learn that through our Native heritage, but also our whole family lives that way. Our home has always been an open home. It is just part of who we are.
“‘Voiceless’ is another way we can lend what we were given (our musical abilities) for the betterment of someone else — someone who has been hurt or who is hurting,” Lauren continued. “If we can help just one person, we have done our job.”