By Sarah Naron
CROCKETT – As he danced his way onto the floor of the Crockett Junior High Gym on the evening of Thursday, Feb. 22 dressed in an oversized long-sleeved shirt, baggy pants, sneakers and a bandana headband, dreadlocks jutting out haphazardly in all directions, Dr. Adolph Brown looked like someone who had taken a wrong turn on his way to a rap music video shoot.
“This is what I used to look like long before I had a makeover,” Dr. Brown explained. “I walked around like this for a long time.
“I want you to understand when we see this in society that it doesn’t always mean that I’m trying to scare you as much as I’m afraid myself,” he continued.
Dr. Brown revealed that he began making such wardrobe choices after the murder of his brother – a fate he often expected would fall on him as well. He explained that he felt people would be less likely to bother him if he appeared tough.
“My grandfather said it best,” Dr. Brown said. “He said I was a wannabe thug.”
In addition to the tough exterior he worked to portray, Dr. Brown also confessed to behaving difficulty during his time as a student.
“I had one foot in alternative education and one foot in gifted education,” he explained. “My teachers thought I was pretty smart, but I wasn’t always following the rules in school.”
It was Dr. Brown’s grandfather who told him something had to give.
“He said, ‘Break’s over, time for a makeover,” Dr. Brown recalled.
The transformation, Dr. Brown admitted, was not one which occurred quickly.
“Over time – not overnight – I looked in my mirror, and I became better,” he said.
With Michael Jackson crooning “Man in the Mirror” and those in the audience swaying and clapping along, Dr. Brown shimmied out of his past shell and revealed his present-day self.
As Dr. Brown pointed out, “It’s not about how you start. It’s about how you finish.”
Aided by the members of his “Dream Team,” Dr. Brown presented those listening with the “four F’s,” pieces of advice to help individuals reinvigorate and change their lives.
When presenting “fun” as his first “F,” Dr. Brown took a moment to address the teachers in the crowd.
“We’ve seen over the last five to seven years that students are coming to school angrier than they have in the past,” he pointed out. “They don’t come from school to go to school, they come from home. I don’t think we’re having as much fun in homes anymore.
“Boredom is real. They accuse teachers of being boring,” he continued. “But I’m saying it starts at home. So, parents, have fun.”
Dr. Brown had a simple suggestion on how parents can promote fun in their households – by smiling.
“Research says that we think we smile a lot more than we do,” he reported. “I want to challenge all of you to smile. I want you to smile more. A lot of you aren’t, because you think you have all the problems in the world.”
As Dr. Brown pointed out, challenges are an unavoidable part of living.
“As long as you’re alive, you’re going to have challenges. That’s the contract to live,” he pointed out. “Why is it that somebody dies, we say ‘rest in peace?’ Because the challenges are when you’re alive.
“Stop thinking that you own all the problems in the world,” he encouraged. “You don’t. If you found out what somebody else in here is going through, you’d want your problems right back.”
Dr. Brown posed the challenge of possessing “an attitude of gratitude.
“The breath you’re taking right now – somebody today took their last breath,” he stated.
Dr. Brown’s first Dream Team member was Jahzeel Mumford, who was born to a crack-addicted mother who used the drug while pregnant with him.
“He was born before they actually knew what was going on with him,” explained Dr. Brown. “(He was) a brilliant young man, but then, there were days that he would just kind of blank out.”
Mumford was raised by his grandmother, who helped him overcome the effects of his mother’s drug usage, and later became Dr. Brown’s grandson. Today, Mumford tours with Dr. Brown and is also a professional vocalist, dancer and actor whose resume includes singing background vocals for Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez and performing scenes in “The Vampire Diaries.”
Dr. Brown’s second “F” was “fair.”
“Children today are dealing with so much more than any of us ever had to deal with,” he said. “So, let’s be fair.”
Dr. Brown recalled lessons he learned from his grandfather, who often used a wheelbarrow as a teaching tool.
“He pushed me as fast as he could to the creek, but we’d never go in,” Dr. Brown recalled. “My grandfather put me in that wheelbarrow because I used to tell him life wasn’t fair – that my dad wasn’t there, my brother was murdered, that I got teased and I was poor.
“My grandfather told me, ‘Life’s not fair, but it’s good,’” he continued. “And I remember that to this day.”
The second Dream Team member was Javier Trejo, who swam across the Rio Grande River with his family as an 11-year-old.
“He lived in a country that a lot of people don’t really know what goes on,” explained Dr. Brown. “He wanted opportunity in this country. He wanted to make opportunity, but he also wanted to give it.”
As Dr. Brown explained, Trejo didn’t know how to swim at the time his family made the journey. His father was unable to provide much assistance due to holding onto his baby brother.
“Javi’s trying, but he’s choking on water,” Dr. Brown continued. “His father says, ‘You can do it, son.’
“As much as I love those three words, ‘I love you,’ we need to add four more words, ladies and gentlemen,” Dr. Brown said. “‘I believe in you.’”
After arriving in the United States, Trejo became a citizen, learned English, and now works in the education field.
Dr. Brown’s third “F” was “firm.”
“Every child needs consistency, structure, limits and boundaries,” Dr. Brown pointed out. “Parents, we’ve got to do better when it comes to being firm.”
Through anecdotes from his childhood, Dr. Brown stressed the importance of maintaining a firm discipline regimen for parents to help their children grow to be the best people they can be.
The final member of Dr. Brown’s Dream Team was Meghan Shanley, a former Miss Virginia who, as Dr. Brown explained, “believes firmly in young ladies” and strives to help them “not get caught up in being so beautiful that they forget about being smart” and “helping young ladies understand that life is more important from the neck up than from the waist down.”
Now an international recording artist, Shanley “has overcome many challenges, and she smiles and dances through the storm while doing it.”
Rounding out the “four F’s” was “faith.”
“Everybody acts like it’s important, but we can’t really talk about it in schools anymore,” Dr. Brown said.
Dr. Brown explained one of the ways which his grandfather instilled faith in him when he was a child.
“He said, ‘Son, I’m not always going to be here,’” Dr. Brown recalled. “He said, ‘But when I’m not here, son, I want to make sure you do something, because the storms are going to come.”
Dr. Brown was instructed to remove one of his shoes each night and toss it as far underneath his bed as he was able to.
“I went through a really, really rough period in my late teens and did that,” Dr. Brown continued. “And I found out what my grandfather was talking about.
“You see, by throwing one shoe under my bed at night, every morning, it forced me to start my day on my knees.”
Sarah Naron may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.