Jeremiah Sterling loved nothing more in this world than dancing.
“I met him when he was 12 or 13,” says Aaron “Ag” Neal, 25, one of the founders of Terra Squad, the footworking crew where Jeremiah found a spiritual home. “He was all ‘I wanna be in your group, I wanna be the king of your circle’.”
But, in fact, Jeremiah didn’t get in to Terra Squad at his first try out.
“He was kinda chubby,” Ag says with a laugh. “He danced real slow, you know?”
But Jeremiah surprised everybody.
“He came to every practice, just staring through the window,” says Ag. “And pretty soon, he’d lost the weight, he’d picked up speed, and he was better than the 20 year-olds.”
According to his family and friends, Jeremiah practiced every single day. LaWanda Thompson-Sterling says it was common to have a house full of boys coming up with new and ever more complex routines.
“He was always practicing,” says Ag. “Always!”
At parties at each others’ houses or at the friend’s house they considered The Club, the music pumped and the footworking was constant.
Eventually, Jeremiah joined Terra Squad and began to do shows, go to battles and dance downs all over town. For a bit, it seemed like all the attention was going to his head.
“I had to kick him out of practice a few times,” Ag admits. “He wasn’t being on time, he wasn’t being serious. And he got in trouble a lot. I tried to advise him: ‘You’re smarter than that; you want money, you want girls, then you gotta be smart’. And then it clicked, he got it.”
“He was such a positive young guy,” says Jamal Jay Oliver a/k/a Lightbulb, 20, who met Jeremiah shortly after Ag. “It got so he acted a lot older than his age.”
Jeremiah grew so poised that he began to assume leadership positions with the crew, which was composed mostly of older teens and young men in their 20s. Eventually, he was known as “The Youngest in Charge.”
He also gave himself a name: Miah the Great.
Ag laughs at this. “The thing is, that was my name – Aaron the Great – but he took it. I honored it because he earned it.”
“If you got him in a circle, he just went wild,” says Maurice Fulson, who runs a footworking crew called Final Phase and Battle Grounds, a club where Jeremiah loved to go on Sunday nights. “You had to be on your game to go up against him. He was absolutely one of the best. No matter where you took him, he was gonna put on a show.”
Lightbulb, who performed frequently with Jeremiah and was a regular hanging out at his mother’s place, says he still doesn’t feel right about his friends death last summer.
“He was like my baby brother,” he says. “I think about that boy all the time.”
“All Jeremiah ever wanted to do,” says Ag, “was talk to ladies and dance. He wanted to dance all the time.”