The Boys & Girls Club of Venice celebrated the life of Oscar Duncan at a tribute event Monday that included the unveiling of a new sign marking the "Oscar P. Duncan Teen Lounge" and speeches urging youths to remember the young man who was tragically killed by a suspected gang member.
Duncan, a 2006 graduate of Venice High School, was shot and killed June 4 in the 600 block of Santa Clara Avenue. Duncan, 23, first joined the Boys & Girls Club of Venice at age 6 and in 2006 was awarded the club's highest honor when he was named "Youth of the Year." He later went on to work for the club as a junior counselor and ran the club's audio engineering program and recording studio.
The club's gymnasium was packed Monday for the two-hour celebration of Duncan's life, which included videos of Duncan addressing his steadfast belief in God, Duncan singing and Duncan krump dancing. Duncan went by the nickname "ChoirBoy" in a nod to his gospel-inspired hip-hop performances. The crowd at one point during the event linked arms and swayed together to music in honor of Duncan.
Erikk Aldridge, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Venice, wore a blue "Superman" t-shirt during the memorial, which Duncan used to wear to events. Aldridge helped unveil a new sign renaming the teen services area as the "Oscar P. Duncan Teen Lounge."
Duncan's family received a letter of condolence Friday from President Obama and condolences also were conveyed by the president of the Boys & Girls Club of America, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Congresswoman Janice Hahn.
Duncan's cousin, Lanee Burns, thanked the club for its support and help with Friday's funeral and passed out yellow rubber bracelets at the event that had the inscription Oscar "Choirboy" Duncan with the letters J-0-E above, which stands for Jesus Over Everything. Aside from his work at the Boys & Girls Club of Venice, Duncan was a youth pastor at a church in Compton.
"Oscar is a movement. He has moved this world to do great things," Burns said. "If his story stops, he stops. We need everyone to know these senseless acts of violence can't go on."
Burns said that she, Duncan and his brother all were members of the Boys & Girls Club of Venice and it was "embedded" in their family and a way of life. Her daughter is now a member of the club, Burns said.
Andy Perez, the club's 2012 "Youth of the Year," and a small contingent of Venice High School students told the audience they intended to raise $650 for a plaque to be installed in front of the school to honor Duncan. The money was pledged about 5 minutes later.
Perez publicly thanked Duncan for his support and for helping him correct course at school.
"He helped me mature and without him I would not be here where I am now," Perez said shortly before being overcome with emotion.
Eric Boyd, deputy district director for Congresswoman Hahn, said that he met Duncan once before and remembered that he had "it." Boyd said it was a shame that the club's children would be deprived of such a positive influence.
A steady stream of youngsters took to the podium toward the end of the event to talk about what Duncan meant to them. The event was held, in part, to provide some closure for the youths who were shocked by Duncan's sudden death.
Julie Henley, president of the club's board of directors, said Duncan won't be forgotten.
"He's not gone. He's in this building," Henley said. "We'll remember Oscar every day. There will never be another Oscar. He was exceptional."