YouTube video

Despite being both a Grammy and Tony award-winner, Daveed Diggs, somewhat remarkably, does not consider himself a singer. The Hamilton star, who came to town Tuesday to help raise funds for Berkeley High, his alma mater, told an auditorium full of BHS students gathered for a special assembly that he goes about his life just as he did as a high-schooler: “Always be doing something that I love, and sharing it with people I love.”

He encouraged the students to be themselves and “project their difference” in a world divided by party lines, and he emphasized the importance of practicing one’s craft. Before he was offered the dual roles of the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the hit Broadway show he had never sung in front of an audience before, he said. But, having put in the preparation, he was not only able to do it, but win both those top industry awards for his performance.

Before the assembly, Diggs was guest of honor at a fundraising luncheon at Revival Bar & Kitchen in downtown Berkeley, organized by the volunteer-run Berkeley High School Development Group. There, he spoke of how good a job Berkeley High does in preparing students for life. The star, who was a member of the Jazz Ensemble, appeared in plays and poetry slams and set a not-yet-surpassed hurdles-sprint record while at the high school, told Berkeleyside his “development as a human” really happened at BHS. “At BHS there was always a crazy amount of stuff you could do, or could try out,” he said. Diggs graduated in 2000 and went to Brown University.

BHSD organizer Deb Durant said the rapper, who has shown his support for other East Bay causes, such as UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, not only said, “Of course I’d like to do it,” when he was first asked to come to Berkeley, he also did so on his own dime. The luncheon raised $50,000 for BHSD which makes grants for a wide range of equipment and educational enrichment opportunities.

Hawaii native Lorin Eleni Gill, who is a multimedia reporter studying new media at UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, is a visual storytelling intern at Berkeleyside.