“I’ve wanted to become a famous singer and dancer since I was three,” fifth grader Jalen Hamilton-Ross says, smiling. Right now Jalen is basking in the glow of a successful performance of his original play. He wrote the play as part of YPT’s In-School Playwriting Program and on this, the final day, he has just watched professional actors read it aloud in front of the class.
“It felt good to have them read it because I was like, maybe it will be really funny,” he says. Jalen worked together with his friend Sydney Person to develop the concepts for his play. Then each boy wrote their own version of the main events. Jalen’s play included a rap.
“It’s based on a rap by Bobby Simmons. When they got to that point in the play the actors asked me to do it because I have the reputation of being a good rapper and singer,” Jalen says. He doesn’t hesitate to do a repeat performance and in a moment he’s on his feet, rapping in the school library, completely at ease. The words flow rhythmically through him as he thumps his chest to the beat. He’s having fun. To view a video of Jalen rapping, click here.
When he’s done he smiles and says, “I like that rap because he’s talking about kids and he says he’s an alien and he’s different from other people. I feel different ALL the time. You only have one chance to make a first impression. I mix it up. I wear lots of colors. Everybody else matches. I don’t like being like everyone else. I try to stand out. Being like everybody else is BORING.”
Jalen likes to draw, write, dance, rap, sing and create his own songs. He speaks about his creativity as if it were a superpower he’s just learning to control. He says, "I can turn into somebody different at any time. I can become non-Jalen. I can be inspirational. Another side can pop out at you any second out of the blue." As he speaks about his self-expression he begins to channel the same energy he did while rapping. He has the confidence and grace of a much older artist. He says, "A lot of people say, ‘Jalen, you can’t do this, Jalen you can’t do that.’ I say, ‘How you tell me that I can’t do this if you haven’t seen me do it?"
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