The auditorium at the Porter Sanford Center in Decatur was filled with hundreds of minority middle school kids waiting for Chris Tucker to take the stage at the youth symposium that was sponsored by the actor/comedian's foundation.
In true Chris Tucker fashion, he stormed the stage with the energy and force of a whirlwind. He, Kandi Burruss of "Real Housewives of Atlanta," V-103 host Darian "Big Tigger" Morgan and others talked to the kids about what it takes to be successful and realize your dreams.
Tucker, who grew up in DeKalb County and attended Columbia High School, is the youngest son of Mary Louise and Norris Tucker. One of six children, he said he learned early in life humor was a way to draw attention to himself both at school and at home.
The actor said helping at his father's janitorial service business from ages 8 to 11 taught him the value of hard work. "... It was a lot of work, because there's a difference between being funny in a classroom and being funny on stage. You've got to work at it and master your art form, because it's an art," he said.
Tucker also talked about how he measures true wealth.
"I was so happy that I found something that I was good at. ... It's true wealth when you find something you love and can work hard at it. All the other stuff is secondary, you know, cars and houses. That comes after the hard work. You can't put the cart before the horse. This was passion and love. It wasn't about the money ... ," he said.
He then charged the youth to dream big: "I'm just a kid from DeKalb County, Georgia, who dreamed big dreams. and I'm still dreaming. The power of believing and dreaming is real. Because that's all I did was dream and believe that these things could happen, and it made me feel good. ... If you believe in doing something, and you've got a goal or dream of getting somewhere, it makes you feel good."
Tucker said a big part of his success is maintaining his spiritual life and how keeping God first is his top priority. "My mama raised me in church ... and I keep my spiritual life going."
He also challenged the middle-schoolers to get serious: "You're never too young to find out what you want to do and to get serious ... . I never was a follower. I didn't want to let my mama and my dad down, so I got serious at a young age. I never thought about giving up. I always just kept working and working. ... I kept working hard, and I wasn't afraid to fail."
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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com