The last couple of weeks have been particularly tumultuous in the United States and around the world. This week, I wanted to focus specifically on good news stories that feature people of African descent. Not to suggest that doing so will solve the problems of systemic racism, or to congratulate The Happiness Press for being inclusive. Just because it seems important for this particular moment. We have and will gladly feature feel-good stories about people from all walks of life during the duration of this project, but this week, we’ve got good news that features our brothers and sisters of color. There was a great deal of pain in the world this week. The Happiness Press cannot change that, but there were still spots of brightness.
A high school in Florida announced good news about its upcoming graduation later this month. The school is 98 years old, and for the first time in its history, the graduation ceremony will feature both a valedictorian and salutatorian who happen to be African American. What’s better is the two graduates have been friends since they were youngsters. Myles McCants, with a GPA of 4.409, will also be the school’s first black male valedictorian. Aria McDaniel has a GPA of 4.394 and will serve as salutatorian. Both students are heavily involved in extra-curricular activities and have already earned college credit. They have been cheering one another on and both give gratitude to their families for how far they have come.
Meet David Jassy. He is a music producer of hip-hop that once did time for murder. While in prison, he created the Youthful Offenders Mixtape Program, which offers inmates mentorship and rehabilitation through music. He started the initiative after creating his own music in the prison media center. He wanted to encourage participants to tell their story and be honest about difficulties they’ve faced, while also serving as a lesson for young people about where a life of crime can lead. Eventually, Jassy made a professional recording studio at the prison with support from the music industry. Several of the artists he mentored recently released an album called “The San Quentin Mixtape, Volume 1”, that also features well-known hip-hop artists like Meek Mill and Common. Proceeds will go to local charities. Jassy is out of prison now, and living in his native Sweden, but he is still working with inmates to help them find their voice.
The Sheku Effect
When 20-year-old cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason played at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in 2018, he likely had no idea how impactful his performance would be. Since that high-profile gig, music programs in the United Kingdom have reported an increase in the number of young people pursuing cello lessons. He comes from a musical family, where all of his siblings also play classical music on a variety of instruments. He and five of them appeared on Britain’s Got Talent in 2015, where they made it to the semifinals. Kanneh-Mason is continuing to inspire young people across the globe. Recently, he played for a group of Baltimore students who are part of OrchKids, a music education program for local public schools. He hopes he can inspire children like him to pursue classical music. He also says he wants to use his fame to highlight other great musicians.
These stories are just a small handful of the goodness that exists in this world. It is up to all of us to ensure that we make this world better for everyone. The Happiness Press would like to leave you with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Let’s be the light of the world. There are still ways to create spots of brightness.