By Feona Sharhran Huff
Black History Month is a special time in the year for us as people of African descent when we collectively pay homage to and celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of our phenomenally courageous ancestors and living trailblazers. Our Time Press is especially proud to recognize the milestones of Brooklyn, NY’s Derrick Braxton. In an educational climate where it’s reported that the high school graduation rate for Black males is drastically low, this Bedford Academy High School senior is a shining example of what strength, tenacity and a burning desire to succeed can do for you. In addition to understanding the urgency of young Black men getting a solid education, this talented 19-year-old from Crown Heights is clear about his direction in life and how he intends to empower others to obtain their dreams.
And now, Derrick’s story.
Derrick has experienced a lot of family deathsw in his young years. He has lost both of his biological parents, two step-dads, and a grandfather. Plus, he’s had to overcome internal struggles such as doubting his ability to succeed and academically comparing himself to others. Equipped with a steadfast faith in God and with the rock-solid support of his older sister Lakesha – who assumed the parental responsibility of single-handedly raising him and his other three siblings at just 33 years old – Derrick is making significant inroads, especially academically. He insists that his grades improved drastically from when he first entered the academy. Both his mother and Lakesha had a lot to do with that.
“When I would come home with report cards with a 65 grade, my mother would say: ‘Derrick, I know you’re better than that.’ and the next report card I’d get, she’d be happy,” Derrick vividly recalls. “All my mom wanted was for me to be successful.”
Derrick vividly recalls that his sister had to show him some tough love to get him to buckle down on his schoolwork. “My sister doesn’t play when it comes to education,” Derrick says. “My sister knows how I love to sing and dance. Well, one time I came home with a bad report card and she didn’t let me do anything. That helped me to boost my grades.”
He continues: “Education is the most imperative source in the world. Without that, you can’t be or do anything. I see people now in the street and the same place I see them is on the corner or on the stoop talking to the same people. I’m not going to be that way.”
In fact, Derrick – who was a member of a hip-hop dance group that performed for six years on the BCAT show Flex in Brooklyn and now heads up a dance group called Fatal Touch which meets at the YMCA – has aspirations of being an entertainer. “I love to sing,” he exclaims. “I can prove it to you, too.”
Believing that everyone should have a “Plan B,” Derrick would consider a career in counseling youth.
As Derrick prepares to end one phase of his life and prepare for the next, he has this advice for other young people: “Storms are going to come, but you have to fight. Whatever you’re going through, you have to look to the sky and know that God is there for you. He is the answer.”