Look around. If you chose seven belongings whose stories would impart an understanding of who you are and the life you’ve lived, what would those thing be?
Lathan Dunbar-Keys greets a visitor at the door of the east Columbus townhouse where he lives with his mother Jasa’da. Snappy in a fresh white shirt, gray sweater and bow tie, the precocious 8-year-old ushers his guest upstairs to his bedroom for a show-and-tell featuring his favorite things. Topping the list is his drum set downstairs — more on that in a minute.
For as long as he can remember, he’s had matchbox cars — his favorite is the silver Jaguar like his mom drives. His godfather, Geno Frazier, brother of Leslie Frazier, former coach of the Minnesota Vikings, procured for him an autographed ticket from a Vikings-Cowboys’ game. The ticket sits framed on his desk next to a Bible his grandparents, Maxine and James Dunbar, gave him on his eighth birthday. Nearby is the trophy he received on the occasion of his baptism at Greater Mt. Zion Church and a small Christmas tree he decorated. A wooden motorcycle, a picture frame of sorts, holds a photo of himself and a picture of him with his late uncle, Jabari Dunbar. When he was alive, his uncle kept the motorcycle frame containing a photo of his favorite nephew on his desk.
The Heritage Academy second-grader plays the drums for his church’s youth band and fills in when the adult band drummer is out — he’s self-taught. A quiet, soft-spoken child, Lathan assumes another persona when seated behind his drums; he becomes confident, even assertive.
His grandfather remembers how after a church service, while the adults were standing around talking, 3-year-old Lathan made his way to the church’s bandstand and started pounding on the drums there.
“You couldn’t even see his head,” Dunbar remembers. A visiting bishop’s encouragement reinforced Lathan’s parents’ efforts to nurture their child’s musical inclinations.
“Yes, it’s been good for him,” Dunbar says. “He loves doing it.”