Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”
Two praise dancers showed what it means to “keep moving forward” during the 17th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast and Youth Participation Day on Monday at the Anniston City Meeting Center.
Jaliyah Ragland and Jamya Williams, both 16 years old, danced to a recording of the song “Rain on Us” by Earnest Pugh.
They were about halfway through the dance when the CD stopped, then skipped back to the beginning of the song. The girls glanced at each other, then started their dance over again, barely missing a beat.
Then the CD stopped again at the same place.
So the girls starting singing the song, while still dancing.
Then some of the crowd joined in the singing.
Then Jaliyah’s mother came to the edge of the stage and started the music playing again using her phone. Only she started at an earlier point in the song.
The girls rewound their dance one more time.
When they finally finished, they had been dancing twice as long as they had expected to. The crowd gave them a standing ovation.
“I was fine with it the first time the music stopped,” Jaliyah said on Wednesday. “The second time I got a little irritated. I was thinking, ‘Why isn’t it going the way I wanted it to go?’ But we needed to finish it, so we did.”
Jaliyah and Jamya, both juniors at Anniston High School, have been friends since third grade at 10th Street Elementary School. “I wouldn’t call her my best friend. I call her my sister,” Jaliyah said.
They first performed this praise dance at 17th Street Missionary Baptist Church at Christmas. It took them about two weeks to choreograph it. Jaliyah attends 17th Street Baptist, and Jamya attends Word Alive.
They picked the song “Rain on Us” because it felt like a good song for Christmas.
“The lyrics — ‘rain on us,’ ‘shower down’ — it’s the blessings God can bestow on us,” Jaliyah said.
“Even though I’m only 16, there’s been a lot stuff in my life, but I’m still thankful for my blessings. Everybody has things they go through, but they say God won’t put more on you than you can stand.
“My dad passed away when I was 3. My brother has Williams syndrome. I have to help take care of him, and defend him. Because he’s my brother.”
And her blessings? “I’ve gotten to participate in lots of things. I was chosen for the gifted program at 10th Street Elementary in third grade. I got to visit New Orleans in third grade, and Washington, D.C., in fourth grade. I learned about African American heritage. And I’m also blessed by the adults that have molded me into the person I am today.”
Jaliyah is currently No. 7 in her junior class at Anniston High, with a 3.9 GPA. She wants to be a marine biologist, or perhaps go into some type of counseling for children. She works at the YMCA After School Academy at 10th Street Elementary.
Jamya is a section leader in the Anniston High band, where she plays clarinet. She wants to be an OBGYN. And sometimes she volunteers at the after-school program with her friend.
Jaliyah said the pastor at 17th Street Baptist wants to start doing praise dances regularly at church. The two girls are thinking of doing a praise dance for Black History Month. They’re also working together on a poem to present at the Black Heritage Festival on Feb. 16 at Longleaf Botanical Gardens.
“We try to involve ourselves in lots of stuff together, to make it fun, and to show younger kids that it can be fun.” Jaliyah said.
Lisa Davis is Features Editor of The Anniston Star. Contact her at 256-235-3555 or firstname.lastname@example.org.