ATLANTA - Briana Lawson, 7, like almost every other kid in America, loves to dance “the Nae/Nae.” The 2015 hit Watch Me (Whip Nae/Nae) from emerging 18-year old Atlanta rapper Silento triggered a dance craze across the country. It also turned out to be Briana’s saving grace.
At home in Macon, Briana and her siblings learned every word of the song, memorizing every dance move in the popular YouTube video.
Then came Christmas Day. The SUV carrying Briana and her siblings flipped, badly injuring Briana and her father and killing her older sister. Briana was brought to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta comatose, in critical condition. She wouldn’t go home for 2 months.
Briana, who suffered a traumatic brain injury, was barely emerging from a coma when she was transferred to Children’s Healthcare Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit. She couldn’t see or speak or move her limbs.
Her mother mentioned to music therapist Cori Snyder that Briana loved Watch Me (Whip Nae/Nae) and Snyder immediately learned the song – and the dance. It would be Briana’s saving grace. Two days into her rehabilitation, she began to raise her arm when she heard the song. Soon, she was trying to sing the words.
The music was awakening something inside the girl’s injured brain. Snyder has seen this same kind of thing before.
"She has prior or past experiences with that song with friends, with family, with positive emotions and chemicals in her brain, endorphins, motor patterns of movement,” says Snyder.
When FOX 5 first aired Briana’s story, Silento’, a Redan High School senior whose real name is Richard Lamar Hawk, saw it and decided he had to do something for the second-grader.
So, he dropped by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to surprise her. When he walked into the music therapy room, Briana was singing his song. She recognized him right away, breaking into a huge smile.
He handed her a Build-A-Bear he’d made for her. Squeeze the bear’s paw, and it plays his sone.
"She knew exactly who I was,” says Silento. “Her little brother found out as soon as I walked in. Two seconds later."
At first, he talked, and she smiled. But the rapper wasn’t just her to chat---he wanted to dance.
So, that’s what they did. Lifted to her feet, supported by her mother Cynthia and the young singer, Briana danced, and sang, smiling the whole time.
Silento couldn’t stop smiling either, as a crowd gathered to watch the two.
"Just to be in accident like that, and to get up and dance like that,” says Silento’. “That's awesome. That's a blessing from God. God blessed her and He blessed me, so I came and brought her something."
For a few minutes, the little girl broken seems whole again. He mother says she hasn’t seen Briana smile like this since the accident.
"I have been through a whole lot,” says Cynthia Lawson. “But seeing my baby. She didn't give up. I didn't give up on her, and it just touched me a whole lot."
Briana still has a long recovery ahead of her. But Silento’ says this won’t be the last time they dance together.
"She's going to really come up,” says Silento’. “And when she comes up, I'm going to be there, giving her another hug."
Until then, Briana Lawson will have this magical dance -- this day -- to remember.