When Deanna Brown Thomas went on stage at C.T. Walker Traditional Magnet School, she asked the audience to stand up and reach high.
"You have to aim high," Thomas later told them. "Your goals have to be so high that it looks like you'll never meet them, but with hard work you will."
Thomas, one of James Brown's daughters, was the guest speaker at the school's Black History Month program on Feb. 4.
The program featured the school's elementary and middle school chorus, whose songs showed the evolution of music in black history. Several students read papers regarding prominent people in black history, and others recited parts of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s ''I Have a Dream'' speech.
Thomas asked the pupils how many wanted to live in a big house and drive a nice car, and the pupils raised their hands.
"Guess what? You got to stay in school and get your education," she said. "You can obtain those things, but it starts right where you are, that's for sure."
She talked about how her father and other artists of his time broke down barriers so future artists could just walk through the door.
Education is still important, however, she added
"To be able to get through that door, you got to have a little something up here," she said, pointing to her head. "You got to have something going on; you got to know what you're talking about; you got to know how to talk about it; and you got to know how to present yourself."
She talked about a few of Brown's songs, including Don't Be a Dropout.
"There's a line in that song that says, 'Without an education, you might as well be dead.' Now he didn't mean physically dead, but in a sense you are dead because you have nothing to offer society," she said.
"You have nothing to contribute. If you don't have an education, you can't go out and get that good-paying job so you can have that big house that you want. So don't be a dropout. Stay in school."
C.T. Walker Traditional Magnet School pupils respond enthusiastically when Brown Thomas asks which of them would like to be the president someday. \nDeanna Brown Thomas tells pupils at C.T. Walker that its important they stay in school. \nJACKIE RICCIARDI/STAFF
Pupils at C.T. Walker Tradional Magnet School perform during the school's black history program.