By Cassie Schauer, guest blogger
Celebrate Greatness! Shaun Boothe brought The Unauthorized Biography Series to the Lone Tree Arts Center for one night. Part hip hop performance, part history lesson, and part motivational speech, Boothe presented bios of the world’s greatest heroes and leaders through rap and song.
Shaun Boothe’s message is aimed at children and teenagers; however, it resonates with everyone. By celebrating our heroes, we can awaken the greatness in all of us. We can accomplish change when we see what was accomplished in the past. By using rap and hip hop, Boothe delivered this message using a language that children and teenagers can relate to and cultural icons that they recognize. Standing in the middle of the stage with the house lights up and a giant screen behind him, he engaged the kids by asking if there were any hip hop or Snoop fans out there. He asked, “How do you view yourself? Look inward, not outward. Honor your greatness.”
Boothe wanted us to see that we all have access to the same courage and power that some of our greatest cultural heroes do. He showed us how they overcame obstacles, opened their hearts, and became stronger and courageous enough to put others above themselves.
Five leaders were presented, beginning with a short intro followed by Boothe’s hip hop story. Video clips were shown on the screen behind him. All of the bios included both widely known and less familiar information about each person.
Muhammed Ali, who famously proclaimed, “I am the Greatest,” was the perfect starting point. Boothe emphasized how Ali chose character over fame by refusing to change his beliefs for anything or anyone. He was first perceived as a villain but became a hero as popular opinion about the Vietnam War changed. Ali’s bio ended with the audience chanting “Ali Bomaye” (“Ali kill him”), the cheer made famous by Ali’s 1972 “Rumble in the Jungle” versus George Foreman.
Emphasizing we have to choose between “working for applause or working for a cause,” Boothe’s next presentation was Martin Luther King Jr, with scenes of the Selma riots of 1965. MLK passed the baton to President Barack Obama: “Martin walked so Obama could run.” After presenting Obama, Boothe stopped and restated how by rising above the low expectations he faced, he honored his limitless potential. Obama then passed the baton to the next generation.
Speaking again to the young people in the audience, Boothe asked, “How do you view yourself? Look inward, not outward. Honor your greatness.” Asking why we should celebrate MLK when that was so long ago, he answered that current breaking news is heartbreaking news. By focusing on the greatness we can tune out the negativity.
Sitting on the edge of the stage and speaking directly to the kids in front of him, Boothe asked if anyone could tell him who Malala is. Hands shot up and he passed the mic to a young girl who described her as “a girl who fought for girl’s education in Pakistan and was shot because of it.” Boothe then told the story of Malala’s life, how she wouldn’t stop pushing for female education in the face of great adversity, how she was told over and over to stop, and how she eventually became the youngest Nobel Prize laureate.
The screen flashed, #Whatsyourlegacy. Boothe asked, “What is your story? Don’t let anyone write the story of your life.” Again, speaking to the kids in the audience, he stated, “Greatness is really all about committing to something larger than yourself. Great small moments can make a great difference to one person. Find something great to do in the moment.”
Giving a shout out to any fellow Jamaicans in the audience (Boothe is from Toronto but of Jamaican descent), reggae singer-songwriter Bob Marley was the final bio presented. Boothe emphasized Marley’s message of “One Love” and that the choices we make take us one step closer or farther away from our dreams.
That led to Boothe’s final message: dreaming big inspires big action from us. To make that dream happen we have to take the first step and the next step appears. He reminded the kids that our heroes didn’t have a master plan or blueprint. They just took that first step.
The performance ended with Boothe singing his first hit, “One by One” and telling all of us to stay true to our dreams. He high-fived his way through the audience and ended with a brief Q&A. By the end of the performance, Shaun Boothe left all of us, especially the youngest members of the audience, inspired to find the greatness in ourselves.