‘Tis the season of giving and rapper Anthony “AZ” Cruz and accomplished media executive Datwon Thomas did just that, providing selected students from Brooklyn’s P.S. 9 Sarah Smith Garnet coats from leather brand Daniel’s Leather.
The charitable event was a homecoming for Thomas, 48, and Cruz, 51, who both attended the grammar school as children. Their neighborhood was somewhat of a pipeline to the music industry as luminaries such as Foxy Brown, Don Pooh, and the Notorious BIG were all residents clustered together.
The feeling of providing an essential piece of clothing was an “indescribable” feeling said AZ, who remembers receiving his first piece of vinyl, “King Tim III” by the Fatback Band, while attending PS9. He would play that vinyl ad nauseam on his Fisher Price record player.
Thomas, who attended the school from kindergarten to third grade and returned for 5th and 6th grade was particularly touched by several students who had just come to the United States and didn’t speak English.
“These coats help them in this time,” said Thomas, who was recently appointed Executive Producer, Talent at Dick Clark Productions. “We all felt their gratitude and loved seeing some of the other kids dance in appreciation.”
Principal Sha-Wonda Williams-Credle, who came to PS9 in September of 2022, says that students were a mix of those in need and overachievers. She and Cruz also pointed to the joy the students felt over having the option to choose the coats they wanted. Daniel’s Leather owner Nadeem Waheed also made that observation.
“I remember putting the American flag jacket on one of the kids,” said Waheed. “The minute I put it on him he smiled and you could tell that he was so happy to wear that jacket.”
AZ, who walked those halls from kindergarten to 5th grade, has strong memories of his time at P.S. 9. He remembers the compassion that the school and teachers showed him and his classmates during the Atlanta murders of 1979-1981, which included the killing of several children. There was a sense of extended parental care from his teachers that he’s never forgotten.
“We used to take time to gather either in an assembly or lunch time outside,” says Cruz. “All the classes would come outside and have moments of silence and prayer and hearing [experts] speak on the topic and make us aware of what was going on in Atlanta. I remember that vividly.”
Cruz, Thomas, and Waheed plan to make this coat drive an annual event.