Faith and Family: Dancer loves inspiring area youth

Published 11:38 pm Friday, March 10, 2017

By Morgan Mizell

NATCHEZ — Morgan Franklin developed a love of dancing at a young age and today she, along with Marneria White, have been coaching the Dynamic Dancing Jewels for nearly two years.

The name of the dance team in Natchez for girls ages 6 to 16 comes from how Franklin sees the dancers as being prized jewels. She said they are all precious and unique, as well as a force with which to be reckoned.

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“I have been dancing since I was 11 years old,” Franklin said. “I started with jazz, majorette and hip hop classes under Dianna Williams and later became a member of the Dancing Dolls of Jackson for six years.”

Franklin mentioned that some may know the name of the dance group she was a part of because of the hit television series “Bring It” which was under the direction of her coach.

She later became the captain of the Prancing Tigerettes of Canton  under the direction of the late James Harris.

“I always loved the art of dance,” Franklin said. “I even admire the different genres of dance that I am not good at such as ballet and tap. I guess you can say that dance is my calling.”

Franklin came to Natchez by way of Jackson but she has always had family here. During visits to the area she noticed how little there was to do for the youth, so she stepped out on faith to start her group for the young girls in the area.

She does not live in the area, but commutes to practices and events for the girls.

“My girls keep me going although I find myself mad at them at times, but they are just as quick to make me smile,” Franklin said. “I love to win and sometimes find myself battling with the thought of quitting. I commute from Jackson to Natchez, so sometimes I find myself drained but the good outweighs the bad — so I continue.”

Franklin says her family helps her out a great deal which helps relieve some of the stress. Also, while she does not want to coach dancers forever, she is committed to it for at least the next 10 years or so.

She also has plans to open a dance studio in the future to teach dance classes, and she hopes the girls under her direction are inspired to dream big and set high goals for their lives both on and off the dance floor.

“I am such a stickler when it comes to discipline,” Franklin said. “My parents and previous dance instructors were very strict when it came to discipline and so am I. I also communicate the importance of sportsmanship, honesty and hard work.”

Franklin said teaches her students  nothing comes easy.

“I also want to instill the importance of education,” Franklin said. “I monitor report cards and let them know there are strict penalties when their grades and behavior are not pleasing.”

The girls have competed in several competitions and have placed first or second in all of them. They first competed in Ferriday where they won the title of Grand Champions.

“We have also competed in Natchez and Jackson,” Franklin said. “We have brought home numerous trophies. I am hoping we can travel to another state and compete, but I know we will probably need some type community involvement in order to make that dream become a reality.”

Franklin’s partner has dancing experience as well. White was a Lady Blue at Natchez High School and was also part of a dance team in Hattiesburg when she attended USM. Currently, she attends Alcorn State University where she is working to obtain her BSN.

Franklin is currently working on her master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Alabama. She received her BSW from Jackson State University in 2015. She is also a member of the Phi Alpha Honor Society.

“I want people to take the craft of majorette dancing seriously,” Franklin said. “No, it can’t get you into an Ivy League school, but it’s a start. I want people to understand that some of these kids come from poverty-stricken and disadvantaged backgrounds and this is an outlet for them. Not only am I their coach, I’m also their family and friend.”

Tryouts for the group are held every December. Franklin says she usually posts on social media and also puts up flyers and visits schools to talk about the team prior to tryouts. She is considering a summer tryout this year and wants people to be on the look-out for more information.

“I just want to quickly thank the parents of the DDJ girls and them putting their trust in Marneria and me,” Franklin said. “Thanks for seeing the vision before it even came to life. Thank you for making the necessary sacrifices so that your daughter could be a part of something great. I am grateful and humbled to be a part of your child’s life.”