When Kendra Busbee’s 30-year-old daughter Kristine Smalls received her doctorate in psychology from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, she wanted everyone to know about her daughter’s achievement. Smalls was always a dedicated student who attended kindergarten through 12th grade without a single absence.
“At the age of 5 years old, she knew that she wanted to be a doctor,” Busbee told WABC.
She decided her daughter’s sizable efforts deserved sizable recognition. So she went big. Busbee, of Camden, New Jersey, rented a billboard.
Busbee surprised her daughter by telling her they were having an outdoor celebration due to COVID. Family and friends gathered in a parking lot, and when the mom and daughter arrived, Jay-Z’s song “Public Service Announcement” was playing. As the artist sang the lyrics “allow me to reintroduce myself,” Smalls saw similar words above a larger-than-life digital version of herself on a nearby billboard. Busbee posted a video of the moment on Facebook.
“You must be my shining star,” Busbee wrote in a Facebook post displaying Smalls standing below the billboard. “You were going to shine no matter where you are! I am the proudest mommy bean. I love you Dr. Kristine S. Smalls.”
Smalls was surprised seeing her likeness on the billboard, but not by her mom’s gesture. Busbee is a single mother to Smalls and her brother who worked two jobs for most of their lives.
“She usually does anything for me and my brother when we have any kind of success,” Smalls told Local Today. “She kind of outdoes herself every time.”
Camden has a reputation for violence and poverty. Every week, about 150,000 vehicles pass the billboard, which Busbee rented for a month. She hopes the billboard provides an uplifting message to those who see it.
“Every achievement they make needs to be heard,” Busbee told Local Today. “For our Black kids and our Brown kids, to let them know that anything is possible.”
And there is one other person they hope sees the sign.
“Can we get Beyoncé?” Busbee asked ABC7 with a laugh.
Smalls will begin a post-doctorate program at a mental health practice in Pennsylvania this fall.