The Beautiful Struggle Live
Jamel Thomas takes his life struggles to a theater near you.
by Franklyn Calle
You may remember him from the Sebastian Telfair “Through the Fire” documentary. Or you may even remember him from his book that dropped last year “The Beautiful Struggle,” in which he gave readers an inside look of what it was like growing up as a troubled and disadvantaged youth in Coney Island. From dealing with the murder of his 23 year old mother at the age of four to growing up witnessing drugs in his household, on the streets and at one point even selling them. And just like many growing up in inner-city neighborhoods, violence is no stranger to him, having to dodge bullets on one occasion when he was 15. Ironically, Thomas and the man who shot at him are now friends. He has been through as much as one can deal with growing up. The New York native, also half-brother of Bassy and cousin of Stephon Marbury, now looks to take his story to theaters around the country. This weekend, he will be debuting “The Beautiful Struggle Live” at the Helen Mills Theater in Manhattan(137-139 West 26th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues).
The one-man show has never been done before. He is the first one to write a book and do a play. Neither has Thomas performed in a play before. But Thomas believes there won’t be much of an adjustment needed. “It’s just natural,” the confident Thomas says. “Acting has always been in me.”
At age of 15, Thomas was adopted by the Bravermans, a Jewish couple in Coney Island, and still keeps a close relationship with them even today. Having gone through all type of struggles as a young man, he now looks to motive others growing up in the same situations that he once faced. His journey can definitely bring hope to those in search for one. Thomas decided to take this year off from his professional basketball career overseas so he could bring his struggles and triumphs to life.
Thomas is not just a professional basketball player, author, and actor. He is also a motivational speaker that has gone around the country speaking at local community centers, organizations, youth programs, elementary, intermediate and high schools, looking to inspire hundreds of inner-city kids. He is currently arranging a college tour.
The 6-6 forward starred at Providence College. As a senior, his 22.1 points led the conference in scoring. After going undrafted, Thomas had stints with a few NBA teams. He has now found a successful career playing basketball in Italy, Turkey and Greece.
Thomas’ message in the show is simple. “The message is that you can overcome anything. Coming from the inner city where some us are adopted or grow up not knowing our parents, there are a lot of kids that turn into drugs and crime, says Thomas. “You can overcome anything”
Thomas has been prepping for the show since April and has gotten great feedback from those who have seen him perform it. Comments like “strong stage presence” have been common in the weeks leading up to the show.
Thomas reiterates that one can’t become rebellious because of life issues. “I look back at it and appreciate my life,” Thomas says. Everything happens for a reason, and it is those same struggles that he went through during his youth that have motivated him and eventually led him to where he stands today.
Thomas wrote a poem close to two years ago right here on this website, following the death of Coney Island basketball coach and mentor, Mr. Lou Williams. On November 7th, he will recite the very same poem when 33rd St. in Coney Island is renamed after the legendary coach.
Aside from his performance in New York, Thomas has already arranged for a performance in Kentucky, and is currently working on scheduling shows around the country. If you will be in the area, make sure to check out this inspiring show. It is specially recommended for any youngster playing basketball and growing up in inner-city neighborhoods. The following is a short clip of his adopted parents talking about Jamel growing up.
Saturday’s show is scheduled to start 7 p.m.Tickets can be bought at jamelthomas.info for $25.