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Dayton native draws on tough urban childhood for motivational work

Program helping urban communities worldwide

Daniel Beaty made it.

The Dayton native, born at Grandview Hospital, grew up in a home plagued by drug addiction and incarceration. His father, a heroin addict and dealer, was in and out of the prison system 58 times.

But when Beaty turned 18, he headed to Yale University, where he earned degrees with honors in English and music. Twenty years later, he holds a master of fine arts degree in acting from the American Conservatory Theatre, has written multiple best-selling plays and poems, and performed them in places as far-ranging as the White House, Ghana and neighborhood churches, and is an adjunct professor at Columbia University.

He’ll share his story and more Friday during a visit to his hometown — part of a six-week national book tour of performances promoting his new motivational memoir, “Transforming Pain To Power: Unlock Your Unlimited Potential.”

“My work has always been about empowering people, getting them to take a stand,” Beaty told the Dayton Daily News this week. “My (written and acted) characters were always fighters, endeavoring to overcome, and I was often writing autobiographically.”

From LA to Capetown

The book offers practical tools, highlighted by excerpts from his plays, for helping people manage the pain of their deepest, most challenging experiences.

“Often, our deepest pain is the path to our highest purpose,” he said. His own path to success started when, as a child, he began reading his inspirational poetry to Dayton-area churches, then regional gatherings and eventually national conventions.

His new book is part of a larger “Transforming Pain To Power” project, sponsored by the Kellogg, Ford and Sherwood foundations, to provide a curriculum for communities struggling with poverty, violence and other issues. It’s currently being piloted in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, and slated for work in Boston and Omaha.

Beaty said he is working with officials in South Africa, where he sang, performed plays and did community work over the holidays, to bring the program to Capetown.

A chance to give back

“I’m really excited to come back to Dayton, and it would be amazing if Dayton would (offer the program) as well,” he said. A local sponsor is required. “It would be a dream to be able to do the work with the youth and families in my hometown.”

Although the book won’t officially hit shelves until March 4, Beaty will have some copies available Friday at his performance at Omega Baptist Church, off Salem Avenue northwest of downtown.

“It’s a chance for me to give back to the Dayton community that has held me in so many ways,” he said. “I wanted to share the tools that I knew had helped me and others.”

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