Stonewall Jackson students make a ‘positive memory’ with their first music video

For more information: empoweryourfuture.org

More than 30 Stonewall Jackson fifth- and sixth-graders were packed like sardines into a small room with no air-conditioning, wiping sweat from their foreheads and fanning themselves furiously.

And they were having the time of their lives.

The room was an audio suite at Post Asylum, a post-production company in our neighborhood where the students were recording a music video. The finished product will be burned onto DVDs for each of them, a “positive memory” they can take with them through middle school and high school, says Dallas Police Officer Joe Chatham.

The students at each of the Dallas ISD schools Chatham frequents know him simply as “Officer Joe.” Through his Empower Your Future program, the M Streets resident and motorcycle cop motivates students to endure, persevere and educate themselves so they won’t be limited in life. Chatham takes this message to the schools flanked by off-road motorcycles the children can ride, which definitely gets their attention.

And he’s not a motivational speaker who never shows his face again — he and his wife, Suzanne, spend time at the schools on a regular basis. It’s important for the students to know he’s there for them, Chatham says, especially for students who are victims of abuse and neglect.

“My first question to the kids is always, ‘Why are we here?’ ” he says.

His son Nick, a sixth-grader at Stonewall, knows the answer: “Because you care about us.”

During the recording session, Chatham was just as excited as the children, coaching them with “Sing from your hearts” and “Give it to me good!” Nancy Breaux, a senior producer at Post Asylum, smiled as she watched her longtime friend perform his true calling. Some programs teach children only to say no, Breaux says, but Chatham teaches them to reach for their dreams.

“I just believe in what he’s trying to do for these kids,” Breaux says.

Just before the recording began, she asked the students, “Who’s your favorite artist?”

“50 Cent,” one boy blurted out.

“This is the same exact way he records his music,” Breaux told them.

Stonewall music director Curtis Butler was excited for the children to see this aspect of the industry.

“They all love music. They all have it. But they have no idea what it takes to produce it,” Butler says. “This gives them an inside look on something they take for granted.”

And the words of the Third Day song the students recorded — “We’ve got to come together/ ’Cause in the end we can make it all right/We’ve got to learn to love” — mean everything, Chatham says. Sixth grader Damian Garcia explains his take on it:

“Everybody doesn’t need to hate each other. We need to all get along.”


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