Growing up, I was like most inner-city kids – having witnessed the cycle of failure in our local schools, it was hard to dream big. It’s not that we thought it was impossible to become successful – we were well aware dreams could come true for some. But it was understood among my friends that no matter how sharp you were or how hard you worked in school, options would always be limited when the time came to get out and earn a living.
It may be hard to imagine, but my life as a DJ can actually be traced back to violin lessons in school in West Philadelphia. Before DJ Jazzy Jeff existed, Jeffrey Townes stood in the back of music class mesmerized by the instruments. My music teacher saw a spark in my eyes and relentlessly encouraged me to pursue music, going as far as playing the Speed Racer theme song on the violin to lure me in.
Despite mediocre schools with few resources, I had a tenacious teacher who convinced me that I could be successful doing something I love. That kind of motivation allowed me to go from spinning records in my mom’s basement to a Grammy Award winning producer and DJ.
The only way to create school equality is to expand the number of excellent schools our children of color can attend. Be it New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles or my hometown of Philadelphia, children of all backgrounds should have the chance to be inspired in school like I was. Whether it is music, science, history or math, all students deserve to have access to the same top-notch education. The success of our country and society as a whole depends on it.
Thousands of parents, educators, and students have had enough of this inequality in the status quo. I will be joining to lend my voice to the cause. In order to fully cultivate the next generation of doctors, researchers, innovators, and even DJs, we must work towards a society where every child has the opportunities and tools they need to succeed.
DJ Jazzy Jeff will join Jennifer Hudson, Aloe Blacc and 15,000 parents, educators, and students at Families for Excellent Schools’ “Stand for School Equality” rally at Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn on Wednesday, October 7th. For more information about the event visit familiesforexcellentschools.org.
DJ Jazzy Jeff was born in West Philadelphia and developed a love of music at an early age. Since 1985, Jeff has wowed the public with his innovative production and musical versatility, from the success of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince with partner Will Smith to the critical acclaim of his production company A Touch Of Jazz. Over the course of his career, Jeff has received numerous accolades including a DMC Championship and multiple Grammy and American Music Awards and nominations.
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