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Kai Young Uplifts the Country by Singing Andra Day’s “Rise Up”

Jamal Muhammad October 31, 2017

We vote Kenyatta Hardison ‘Teacher of the Year.’

Baltimore, Maryland — One day, 23-year music teacher Kenyatta Hardison wanted to show Cardinal Shehan School choir’s growth in singing by uploading a video on her personal Facebook account.

In the video, 30 students were rehearsing “Rise Up”, an invigorating song written and performed by Grammy-nominated R&B artist Andra Day, for an upcoming gala, according to the Washington Post.

But one student stood out from the rest, 11-year-old Kai Young. He is from Ellicott City, Maryland and attends Cardinal Shehan School in Baltimore. Kai sounded as if his talent was beyond his years.

According to the Washington Post, he has been singing for the majority of his life, and his biggest influence is Michael Jackson. Kai remembers when he was little, using the turkey baster a microphone and singing Jackson 5 songs.

“I thought I was just singing and when she took that video I thought it was just going to be a simple video, but it really wasn’t,” said Kai.

The choir’s singing ability garnered so much media attention that Ms. Hardison was hoping the video would remove some of the negative stereotypes that plague the city since the recording took place in a predominantly African-American Pre-K-8 Catholic school.

“When you think Baltimore City, people talk about The Wire, they talk about the deaths, the killings — and people, they’re scared of the city,” said Ms. Hardison. “We have kids with heart, kids with capacity, kids who care. There’s talent all around Baltimore. There are some bright kids here that get overlooked because of some others who make wrong choices.”

Even Kai’s father, Deron Young, was moved by the message of the song and had some thoughts on the choir’s performance:

“There’s a lot of pain going on. … When you have a group of kids, innocent kids singing ‘Rise Up,’ the message is mind-blowing, how such a simple phrase can impact so many people. … The kids are trying to show us there’s another way than what we’re experiencing. As a parent, I’m just full of joy that my son is a part of this.”

After Ms. Hardison uploaded the nine-minute clip to Facebook on Sept. 27, the video received over 3.5 million views in a week. Next thing you know it, a popular choral Facebook group, ChoirBuzz, reposted the video and now it has over 5 million views and over 143,000 shares.

The students’ performance resonated with thousands of people across the world. Many viewers shared their obstacles and how the video is helping them overcome their struggles.

Here are some of the comments:

As of late, the choir has made several television appearances and accepted a few media requests. On Oct. 15, the choir was invited to perform “Rise Up” on ABC’s Good Morning America. 

However, Ms. Hardison’s main priority is for the children to get better at their craft, but viewers can be on the lookout for more videos.