Darryl “DMC” McDaniels still knows how to rock a stage.
Most people know him as one half of Run-DMC. McDaniels is the hip-hop legend who made thick black framed glasses a fashion staple, the man who metaphorically put Adidas in closets worldwide, and the man who told a generation to “Walk This Way” with the group’s rock-rap hit.
Now the two-time Grammy Hall of Famer is fusing his love of music and learning into a new children’s book titled “Darryl’s Dream.” It features a third-grade version of himself overcoming bullies and a fractured self-esteem.
He wanted to use his book to shed life on what it was like for the “DMC guy” in kindergarten and growing up. For starters, the kid from Hollis Queens, N.Y., got teased for wearing glasses and burying his nose in books.
Dressed in a black AC/DC shirt and white shell-toe Adidas sneakers with fat laces, McDaniels brought his message of love and learning to Tallahassee at Florida State University School so that children could see they can overcome obstacles and tap into what makes them great.
“The same way I tell stories with music, I can tell stories about Darryl so that young boys and girls can learn about themselves,” he said. “Every young boy and girl, every child, every young person, even us adults, we have dreams.”
McDaniels’ visit in Tallahassee was made possible by the Charlie and Tonja Ward Family Foundation. It also helped debut Florida High’s new STEAM auditorium — a longtime dream of the school that provided a new space for performances instead of the cramped cafeteria.
The 706-seat auditorium features convertible space for an orchestra pit, breakout rooms and a green room.
Florida High Superintendent Stacey Chambers envisioned the $15-million addition to be used by students and the community, including for conferences.
Chambers, dressed in head-to-toe Adidas and Run-DMC garb, is hoping the auditorium stays full of the same kind of energy and jubilance it harnessed during McDaniels’ visit.
She wants it to be a stage for students to bloom into their full selves, just as DMC did.
Lyrics, learning ignite Darryl McDaniels
Affable and sincere, McDaniels shared what he would say if he could talk to his younger self and what wisdom he’d impart.
“I’d tell my younger self the same thing I saw in Kool Moe Dee and Melle Mel. Before we ever made these records, when we had the opportunity to speak and be heard, we knew we had to say something that was going to inspire and motivate whoever was looking at us.”
The thing that allowed him to be so fearless stemmed from his hip-hop hero, Kool Moe Dee, who famously dropped powerful rhymes.
“When I was growing up, Kool Moe Dee was our generation’s Eminem and Jay-Z,” McDaniels said.
He recited one of Kool Moe Dee’s lyrics from the “Yes We Can-Can” song by The Treacherous Three:
At age 57, McDaniels never forgot that.
Those words shaped his persona and perspective about where he could go in life by being a lifelong learner.
“He probably was what 18, 19 years old? He was young, but he was saying how powerful it was to be educated,” McDaniels said.
Connection between Ward Foundation and Darryl ‘DMC’ McDaniels
Tonja Ward said the foundation is donating more than 200 copies of McDaniels’ book to public libraries throughout Leon County Schools.
In addition, third-graders at Florida A&M University Developmental Research School and Florida High received copies of the book. Florida High also donated books for all of its kindergarten and first-grade students.
Ward said McDaniels’ book will help foster learning for children in a fun and informative way from someone who’s a household name.
“It’s great when you have someone who is an icon, who people look at as cool, being able to say that he enjoyed literacy. He enjoys reading, and he enjoys school,” Ward said. “He’s the benefit of the arts and creativity being a part of our education.”
The book also will be used by the Florida Center for Reading Research at FSU as a companion guide toward highlighting self-esteem.
When asked how the foundation connected with McDaniels, Ward said there were ties to Thomasville, Georgia.
Makeda Mays Green, Nickelodeon Vice President of Digital Consumer Insights at ViacomCBS, has family in the neighboring city. She’s also turning Darryl’s Dream into digital assets, including apps and a future cartoon.
Darryl’s Dream embodies self love
Florida High Superintendent Chambers admired McDaniels’ ability to reach the children with real-life issues that hit home for all of them.
The book’s title and theme, she said, celebrate self-confidence and the ongoing mission to address bullying.
“Mental health is really important right now,” Chambers said. “It’s never been more important.”
McDaniels’ visit was especially personal because she was able to share it with her husband, David Chambers, principal at Governors Charter Academy on Mahan Drive.
Leading up to the visit, Chambers shared McDaniels’ upcoming visit to Florida High and the book, which prompted her husband of 16 years to share that one of his kindergarten teachers wrote a rap for students based on the book.
During a private reception Monday, Mary Blackmon-Rivers ushered a trio of kindergarten students from her class to demonstrate the rap.
In awe, McDaniels beamed and bobbed his bald head. He was touched by the moment and the sight of young children understanding the power of books, their imaginations and their ability to be dreamers.
“That was incredible,” McDaniels said.
Contact TaMaryn Waters at [email protected] or follow @TaMarynWaters on Twitter.
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