Jalaiah Harmon is finally getting the credit she deserves. As Taylor Lorenz reports in The New York Times, the 14-year-old ninth grader from the Atlanta suburbs created a dance called The Renegade that exploded on communities like TikTok.
The problem is that Harmon’s creation became massively popular without any acknowledgement of her work. She’s one of many young dancers who identify themselves as Dubsmashers, who post their videos, and end up seeing their moves lifted by millions of others, including influencers and celebrities.
The Renegade dance followed this exact path. On Sept. 25, 2019, Jalaiah came home from school and asked a friend she had met through Instagram, Kaliyah Davis, 12, if she wanted to create a post together. Jalaiah listened to the beats in the song “Lottery” by the Atlanta rapper K-Camp and then choreographed a difficult sequence to its chorus, incorporating other viral moves like the wave and the whoa.
She filmed herself and posted it, first to Funimate (where she has more than 1,700 followers) and then to her more than 20,000 followers on Instagram (with a side-by-side shot of Kaliyah and her performing it together).
“I posted on Instagram and it got about 13,000 views, and people started doing it over and over again,” Jalaiah said. In October, a user named @global.jones brought it to TikTok, changing up some of the moves at the end, and the dance spread like wildfire. Before long, Charli D’Amelio had posted a video of herself doing it, as did many other TikTok influencers. None gave Jalaiah credit.
Harmon’s story highlights how Black teens continue to shape culture without getting proper credit, and how the viral nature of the internet can often run off with ideas while leaving their creators behind.