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Ten-year-old Kevin Johnson III didn’t hold back at his school’s winter concert.

The fourth-grader, who goes by the name Knox, had been practicing “All I Want for Christmas is You” for weeks, and on Tuesday, when he and his classmates gathered in the gymnasium of their Baltimore school to perform for family members, he stood up. forehead and let his excitement show.

He hopped from one foot to the other and belted out the words with such fervor and enthusiasm that he didn’t need a microphone to be heard.

His mother, Jennifer White-Johnson, was incredible to see him so unrestrained and have this unbounded joy. “I kept telling her to think of something happy when she sang, and she did just that. He was just thinking something happy, and whatever it was, it just took him to the top.”

She captured his performance on video and, like many proud parents, posted it on social media. He didn’t know how people might react, but he hoped it might free them from the usual online gloom.

“Knox Elementary School’s winter concert tonight was everything.” he wrote on Instagram. “He had two back to back gigs today and his ‘Black Boy Autistic Joy’ was infectious and on full display.”

He wrote on Twitter: “Cleaning up the schedule if you need it. Knox at her 4th grade school winter concert tonight singing @MariahCarey “All I Want For Christmas Is You” #AutisticJoy is on full display. My baby is everything. I hope Maria sees this!!

You can guess what happened next. The clicks and posts sent the internet into a frenzy, and the video eventually found its way to Carey.

But something more obvious but important happened. The video allowed people to talk about disability, inclusion and what it means for autistic children to be given the freedom to express themselves fully.

“That’s who he is,” Johnson-White said of Knox. She and her husband have people in the family who sing, and Knox has been singing since she could talk. “He sings around the house. He sings in public. Because he was autistic, he didn’t always have typical conversations, but he did sing.”

She praised the staff at her school, Bedford Elementary, for getting to know her son and creating a welcoming environment.

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“We’re just so thankful that the school allows him to be fully and truly autistic, because otherwise he wouldn’t be successful,” she said.

Knox was given a solo concert at the winter concert. The video shows how it performs with enthusiasm. But it also shows her starting to sing during another student’s solo performance. At that moment, music teacher Ryan Stewart can be seen gently patting the 4th grader on the shoulder and calmly reminding him. In response, Knox stops singing and gestures to her classmate, focusing on her. Many people who saw the video were surprised by the mildness of the redirect.

“Shout out to the choir director for putting up with the cheers and not expecting all the students to stand in a line of pretty knits with minimal cheer,” the video caption reads.

“My daughter’s choir teacher told me if she couldn’t keep calm she wouldn’t be allowed to perform,” read another.

“That was my experience in the choir and that forced conformity is just not good,” read another.

I spoke to White-Johnson for the first time since the death of Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman. In a column about talent in Hollywood, I shared a photo Knox posted on Instagram and the words she wrote next to it. In the photo, Knox had a Black Panther scene on his body, and the lyrics explained how black people with disabilities are like superheroes.

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“Simply existing every day as our true disabled selves is an act of resistance and superpower,” she wrote.

It doesn’t show in the video, but when Knox finished the song, she ran over to her mom, who was on the floor in front of the crowd, to film her singing.

“He was in tears,” she said. “It was such a beautiful moment because I could feel him releasing all the joy he had created and he was so proud of himself. I didn’t say stop crying. I could only say. “I’m so proud of you!” I love you. You have done such a great job. And he kept telling me: I know.”

The video posted on Twitter has garnered more than 264,000 views. People who have seen it have described it as making them smile or cry, or at least one person did and: crying “I love your baby. I love her joy. I love this teacher and the students because they know what inclusive means (unlike so many adults). I don’t cry and smile at the same time. Oh yes, it’s me. I want him to have this joy forever.”

The video has gone viral in recent days, including one person who knows exactly how difficult it is to hit some of the song’s notes.

“Your baby is everything!!!!!!” Kerry tweeted: “Knox, you made my day. Your JOY gives me and all viewers JOY. THANK YOU for reminding me why I get up in the morning and do what I do. I love you.”

White-Johnson said the singer also sent her a direct message. In it, she said Carey invited the family to sit in the front row of her holiday concert in New York, but also realized it might be too loud or too late for Knox.

White-Johnson said she thanked Carey and said they couldn’t make it this time.

Although the family won’t be able to see Carey sing in person, White-Johnson describes the star as giving them “probably the best Christmas present ever.” She said the interaction made her family feel “uplifted” and “seen.”

“He knows Knox’s name,” she said in awe.

Knox also knows the singer’s name, even if she didn’t understand at first why it was such a big deal that he shared her video. It took him seeing the video’s views increase and the video appearing on several media outlets for him to realize that people all over the world were listening to his song.

What it didn’t take him long to realize was that Carey was enjoying his performance. One line in his tweet immediately caught her attention.

“Does he love me?” he asked his mother. “Mariah Carey Loves Me!”


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