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Meet Imani!

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Meet Imani! She was born to be on stage and brightens every room she enters. Imani dances through life and embraces challenges as opportunities to prove to herself that she can persist through anything. When she sets her mind to something, she is sure to go above and beyond to complete it. This means that Imani knows not only all of her lines in a play, but also everyone else’s lines too! This dedicated energy helps her castmates and peers stay responsible. A kind and considerate role model, Imani has contagious enthusiasm and is a talented, motivated member of her family, school, and community.

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With five sisters, there’s always something going on in Imani’s house. Her father, Marcus, is a doctor, and her mother, Candace, is a chef. Imani’s older twin sisters, Nia and Ni-jah, are star athletes, and her little sisters, Amari and Hadiayah, love performing as much as their big sister does. The Hendersons are tight-knit and always cheer each other on in their many games and performances.


Imani is brimming with energy and star power, and she loves performance of any kind: dancing, singing, acting, or all three at once! When she is not in rehearsals or performing, Imani likes trying adventurous sports like rock climbing or zip-lining. Imani tends to fearlessly speak her mind and enjoys engaging in a lively debate with friends and adults alike.

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Each of the Fly Five characters has a unique story to tell. While they all live in the same neighborhood and share many interests, teams, clubs, and classrooms, they have different strengths, values, hopes, and ways of perceiving the world. The human interest stories offer students and teachers an opportunity to connect with the characters more deeply, as the stories are first-person accounts of an important moment in each one’s life. From coming-of-age reflections about family and faith to explorations of one’s place in their cultural history, these stories remind us of the ways we are all connected: through our relationships, our triumphs and struggles, and our ability to find hope and resilience no matter what challenges life presents.


Doing What I Love

“I’m quitting acting,” I announced to my mom. Slumped in the passenger seat of the car, I had made up my mind. “I’m washed up,” I said, watching my rehearsal studio fade from view in the mirror.

My audition for the city’s professional theater company was approaching, and even though I’d been staying up late every night to rehearse, it felt like a waste of time. There are only three open spots in the program, and most of the other girls had chosen the same two monologues. I’d chosen two totally different ones. Plus, in the past, no one who made the cut looked like me. There were only two other Black girls in my acting program, only one in the professional troupe, and none on the theater’s creative team. Everyone but me looked like the professional actors and creative team. I loved acting too much to have it reject me, so I wanted to quit while I was ahead.

“Come here, Imani,” my mom called a little while after we got home. She laid some old photos across the kitchen table while her left arm hid something behind her back. In the photos was a little girl who looked a lot like me, with a big smile and long skinny legs standing on a small stage. “That’s me,” my mom said warmly. “I loved performing too, you know.”

As I looked through the fading, dusty photos, my mom went on: “But there weren’t many actresses that looked like me. I didn’t want anyone else telling me that I didn’t make the cut, so to take control, I stopped performing. I stopped doing what I loved.” She put the book she was holding behind her back on the table and pushed it toward me.

Called The Shadows Onstage, it was a memoir by a beautiful Black actress who had won almost every award possible. She looked about the same age as my mom.

“She didn’t quit, Imani,” my mom said as we leafed through the glossy pages together. “She chose monologues that worked for her, and she never stopped doing what she loved.” She was describing exactly how I was feeling. Mom said she, too, had dreamt of being in this professional company when she was my age, but she never actually auditioned. “You can’t give up on what you love,” she said. “Your little sisters look up to you, and the more girls who keep going, the more girls that look like you can be on stages around the world.”

Knowing that my mom believed in me and that I could keep making change for performers after me was enough to keep going. I had to at least try.

I went back to the studio the next day and rehearsed my monologue for hours. I was more determined than ever to keep doing what I love. I want to do it for my mom, who never did. I want to do it for my sisters so that I can tell stories that can show them opportunities they hadn’t thought possible. Performing is so important to me, and I won’t give up on it just because I don’t look the same as most of the other people auditioning. I know that my mom and dad and my sisters believe in me, so I believe in me too. I will find roles and companies that want me because I’m not doing the same monologue as everyone else and that will value me for exactly who I am.

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  • Fly Five is designed with the awareness that diversity and representation is a non-negotiable aspect of social and emotional learning. Central to this curriculum is our cast of nine characters who are grounded in authentic storylines that represent diversity of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, religious beliefs, family structure, socioeconomic status, and more. In creating the characters, we employed a careful, critical research process to ensure that their cultures, interests, appearance, and family structures are accurately and respectfully depicted.
  • Research for Imani examined the dynamics of a large family and the lived experiences and cultural traditions of Black American families.

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