Right next to Interstate 20 and major retail attractions, the roadway is normally busy.
But Jaylan Ford made being stuck in traffic less bleak.
Ford had spent two years dancing near the Parks Mall in Arlington. The long cement median became his improvised stage. It didn’t take long for spectators to notice Ford’s head bobbing and fist pumping.
He moved to Houston last fall to live with his father, establish new routines and take some time off. When Ford left Arlington, people sent him pictures of South Cooper Street and Pleasant Place.
Ford told his 15,000 Instagram followers that he would not be dancing in public in Houston, but would return to his Arlington place during the holidays.
Also, Ford has been dancing since he was 14: First in the hallways at Forest Hill High School before moving to Arlington.
“It’s not that I’m tired. It’s not that anything … I just wanted to take a break from it,” he said in an Instagram Reel.
It didn’t last long.
“When I woke up every single day, I thought, ‘Dang, I wonder what the street is like.’ I wonder if anyone is up my street. I wonder if someone holds a sign in my street. I wonder what they’re doing,'” Ford said.
Ford announced in late December that he would return forever to what he loves – making people’s days with his street rods.
“This is something good that everybody likes to see every single day. Not too many people are positive just like me. I mean, I can do this every single day and just be happy and smile, you know?” Ford said.
Christopher Beary, a realtor who became friends with Ford, said he’s glad to have Ford where he seems to feel more at home.
“I hope … he continues to follow his desires and continues to do the things that make him happy. Even if it means we lose Jaylan jamming in the streets here in Arlington, I mean, I’m happy as long as he’s happy . and he’s healthy and safe,” Beary said in a phone interview.
“I’m on stage” Jaylan Ford jams out on Arlington street
By the time the work day starts, Ford is out at his intersection, having hit the gym and eaten breakfast. Ford averages at least 20 miles per day, with a personal best of 48 miles. He starts at 9am, dances until 5.30pm, with the occasional break for water, meals and passers-by who recognize him.
Making people happy is his passion, but he has also managed to turn it into a job.
On a cold January day, Ford is wearing two T-shirts, a polo shirt advertising the nearby restaurant The Halal Guys and training shorts. He promotes a handful of stores nearby and has sold his own T-shirts with the handle: “Jaylan wanna jam.”
In 2021, he danced at Mayor Jim Ross’ election night vigil runoff party.
“People started giving me other things to do, like people asking me to hold up signs for Applebee’s and McDonald’s,” Ford said.
Before finding his place, Ford began dancing further down Cooper Street, near a Kroger and QuikTrip. He didn’t have much space to dance, and he had fewer food options within walking distance.
Beary said Ford is not the first person to take advantage of the large median. Beary recalled seeing a man holding a Jamaican flag in what is now Ford’s Place, and the community was similarly curious about him.
Asked why he thinks Ford has attracted a lot of attention, Beary said the 20-year-old’s positivity and authenticity make him a mainstay.
“He’s been perfectly fine being out there in the open and everyone seems to accept him for who he is,” Beary said. “That’s pretty cool.”
Ford isn’t letting the weather hold him back either. He has been dancing nonstop in the rain, and during the February 2021 winter storm, Ford posted videos of himself dancing in the snow. He was outside on Monday, when sleet and ice covered the roads in North Texas. But Ford said in Facebook and Instagram updates that he would spend Tuesday in bed playing games.
“I go when it snows, but if we have ice coming out of the sky, your boy Jaylan ain’t helping you with it,” Ford said in a Facebook video.
Mark Tremayne, an associate professor at UT Arlington, said Ford is an example of social media positivity.
“We spend a lot of time talking about the negative things that exist, but at least there are examples that something positive can come out of it,” he said.
Ford said he wants to continue to dance and promote other people and businesses, both in person and online. He’s also trying to get tickets to Taylor Swift’s upcoming Eras tour stop at AT&T Stadium.
“I’m just going to keep at it, you know, because everybody needs somebody to motivate (them) and also to look up to,” he said.
Do you have a tip? Email Kailey Broussard at [email protected] You can follow Kailey on Twitter @KaileyBroussard.
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