Last August, the Hall County Board of Education challenged all of the schools in the county to find a way to turn the violent events in Charlottesville, Va., into something that could better the schools and the community.
In the “What Unites Us” initiative, each school was given $100 to be used as an incentive for students to submit presentations that expressed what binds them to others.
A united effort
Listen to Muhammad Salaam’s winning presentation, "Equality"
“It’s not like that’s a one-and-done initiative,” said Will Schofield, Hall County Schools superintendent. “The entire mission of this school district is character, competency, rigor for all. And character comes first for a reason.”
One student Schofield said he has gotten to know who displays that character is Muhammad Salaam, 18, who won the competition at the Lanier College and Career Academy. Salaam’s rap, “Equality,” along with others whose projects stood out, were invited to showcase their talents at the county school board meeting Monday.
“I make Christian rap music to put out a positive message for people,” said Salaam, who graduated from LCCA in December. “Just to hear something to inspire them to do something different, and not just fall in line.”
Salaam said he got into music the same way most people do: He would listen to the radio and like the beat, but never paid much attention to the lyrics or the message the artist was trying to get across.
As he got older and hit what he said was his “lowest point” after being evicted from his home, he wasn’t sure how to share his feelings or thoughts about everything he was going through. He quickly found a way through music, though.
“I went through some things that kind of changed me,” Salaam said. “Music, it kind of has its own story, and if you don’t really know how to express yourself, you can express yourself through music.”
Once Salaam heard about the “What Unites Us” challenge, he wanted to make a song he thought would help him process the feelings from last year’s hurricane-driven floods in Houston and racial tensions throughout the country. He thought it might be able to help others.
“I put some emotion in there,” Salaam said. “Because music, it’s an emotion, you have to feel it to listen to it.”
Schofield wasn’t surprised at Salaam’s talent or at the number of students who took part in the initiative.
“I have tremendous faith in this generation,” Schofield said. “Visiting schools almost on a daily basis, I get to see it and I get to see the unity that is displayed by our student body.”