I grew up in a time where visual and performing arts were integral to the curriculum and students’ development. My acting career started very early, Kindergarten in fact, at Kennedy Elementary where I was a part of major productions in the cafetorium of our school. These were important times in my personal development and instilled in me dreams of becoming a performer on a larger scale. When I think of those times I think of my teachers as dreamcatchers, those crafted circles of woven string that catch our dreams for us. That is what my teachers, Mrs. Nicholson (K), Mrs. Hicks-Johnson (1-3) and Mrs. Joyce Williams (4-6), represent to me. They saw more in me than I saw in myself and ingrained in me this skill that I live with today.

These were no small, off-key plays, either. We performed major productions, musicals, operettas and Broadway plays. Many of us also worked on set design and decoration, managed the stage and directed one another when needed. When I say that the arts were a part of our learning experience, I mean that every student participated and took pride in said participation. It was different times, and from my perspective, created a more rounded and successful student. In my many iterations on stage I have played Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Hansel, Scrooge and several other characters and historical figures where I had to learn lines and lines of speeches, songs and soliloquies. It made me crave stardom and success on a grander scale and led to the Lincoln I am today.

After leaving Kennedy Elementary a seed was planted that developed into a craving for the camera. In Junior High School, visual and performing arts became classes during the six-period day and there was less of an opportunity to perform in front of a larger audience. I took up battle rapping at lunch and physical education and performed in the few and far between talent shows. High school had little more in the way of performances and productions, coupled with the fact that high school students in Compton were a bit too cool, or hood, to get down with Broadway and operettas, and my acting drive lay dormant. I found outlets for it of course, student government and other organizations, but my yearning to be a star had to be put on hold. During this interim period I did seek out and find an acting school that I begged my parents to pay for and my poor father had to drive me to each Saturday in addition to taking me to school each day. Other than screen tests for Ultra Brite toothpaste and Burger King, which really amounted to glorified home videos, this never panned out either.

Success came during my college years, where I was in almost every production Morehouse put on during my four years there. I was finally back where I started in Elementary, starring and performing with artists, musicians, actors, models and singers. We would break into song and dance Fame-style (I wanna live forever!) and sometimes our backstage antics ended up on the front stage. I even auditioned and made the rare performance at Spelman. Success was like a drug that took me over. I got “Linc” hats made when I would visit home and matched my outfits to accompany the plethora of colors of my hats. It was the best of times.

All these experiences are attributed to my dreamcatchers; those three women instilled in me the drive to act, the love of performing and the need to be the center of attention. Nowadays, students have to find art, music, dance and drama in other places. We no longer feed their creativity at school; we have placed all the emphasis on standards and no child left behind antics. Students are now forced to find themselves in churches, free after-school programs and for the fortunate few, at centers and with organizations providing artistic services. My concern is that we are forcing outside the curriculum those things that help enhance the curriculum for our students. I, however, have not forgotten my dreamcatchers. I teach Shakespeare to students on probation who read grade levels below the norm, I perform literature for my students who hate reading and writing, and on the odd day where I am really feeling myself, burst into song and dance to make a point about Algebra or Geometry. I went from dream caught to dreamcatcher, and it is up to us to catch their dreams and reflect them back to them. Otherwise, we are doing nothing but leaving them behind.

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