Taming the Monster
Last August, outside of a season-opener football game between rival high schools in Miami, Florida, 17-year-old James "3J" Lewis was shot and killed. His best friend, Derrick Chiverton's, gut reaction was understandable: He wanted revenge. But classmate Brittany Little suggested instead that Derrick play the titular role in an off-Broadway play called Zooman and the Sign, which would later be performed at a theater festival. "I wanted to find an outlet for us to channel our anger," explained Brittany, a senior at Miami Northwestern Senior High School. "We did the show in memory of James, and it hit a lot of chords." Not only did the performance of the play, about a family caught in the crossfire of drug-related violence, "quell a volatile situation and promote harmony and understanding," according to one former school official; but it also garnered Brittany the Princeton Prize in Race Relations. Given annually by the Princeton University Alumni Council, the award spotlights high school students whose actions positively affect their communities. Brittany, who's from a single-parent family and supervises a drama-club program called Theater Against Violence, seems much older than her 17 years. She's "always there for whoever needs her, taking kids under her wings and making a difference in their lives," said drama teacher Charlette Seward. That was certainly true in Derrick's case. Of his role in the play, and how it purged his anger, he said: "I had to become a monster, something I would never want to be."