Not many people can point to a single moment in their life that changed everything, but I am one of those people.
Had you met me as a young boy, you would have found a meek, quiet child — frightened to open his mouth due to a stutter.
That was my life before music. Before I met Mrs. Lydia Richardson, who taught me how to open my mouth and have beauty come out.
Learning to sing changed everything for me. Not only did it help me conquer my stutter, but it also gave me the confidence to stand in front of crowds. To be bold in my presentation. Singing led me to my beloved alma mater, Bethune-Cookman University, where I was a drum major in the band. That led me back to the Florida public education system, where I was a band teacher for a decade. Becoming a teacher led me to the position I have today at the American Federation of Teachers.
Simply put, art changed my life — literally. More specifically, an arts education at a public school changed my life. That qualification is crucial because for today’s public school students, getting an arts education isn’t as easy as it once was.
In study after study after study, we see that giving students, especially those in kindergarten through high school, an education in the arts has major benefits that will impact the rest of their lives.
We know it helps with cognitive thinking skills. We know it can help increase compassion. We also know how much an arts education can positively impact kids like me — Black and brown children from low-income areas.