Kirk Franklin’s “I Smile” Video Plus, the Debut of Mari’s Super Giggly BFF














Here’s the thing you need to know about my Mari: She picks well.

The giggly girl featured in the pictures above is Mekdes, Mari’s BFF. Mekdes is smart and funny and sweet and sunshine the kind of child who leaves sparkles and glitter and rainbows and sunshine whenever she’s around. Her laughter is melody her smile infectious. Our entire family adores her. She makes us happy. And more importantly, she inspires my Mari coaxes her out of her shell, makes her feel like it’s okay to drop her guard and loosen her shoulders and just… breathe. For sure, when Mekdes is around, we’re all smiling.

Which makes it only natural that Mari’s BFF is featured in the video for Kirk Franklin’s “I Smile,” the debut single from his new album, Hello Fear. The piece is simple and spare in concept: an eclectic group of people from various races, backgrounds, genders, genres and walks of life each take turns lip-synching the beautiful words to the song:

I smile
Even though I hurt, see I smile
I know God is working so I smile
Even though I’ve been here for a while
I smile
It’s so hard to look up when you been down
Sure would hate to see you give up now
You look so much better when you smile, so smile

Take a look, pop your fingers, get your sway on, and while you’re letting the spirit of the song hit you, keep your eyes open for the super adorable girl with the fedora and the humongous smile. That’s Mekdes!

We’re super proud of her, and equally proud of Kirk, whose album came out almost a year after his book, The Blueprint: A Plan For Living Above Life’s Storms, co-authored with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist/MyBrownBaby contributor/my husband, Nick Chiles, hit the New York Times best seller’s list. Hello Fear is the fire cop that, and then come back and let me know what you think.

In the meantime, enjoy “I Smile” and all of its uplifting goodness!

Photo credit: Mari Chiles

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. What a great video and positive message! Just loved it:) Congrats to Mekdes! I met Kirk Franklin some years ago, and he’s such a nice guy. Thanks for sharing…

  2. Love Kirk and love how Mari displayed her smile … Love this…

  3. Mekdes! What a natural. Adorable. What a feel-good video!

  4. I love this song! I play it on repeat on my down days!

  5. Nic Nic and Tim

    Mek, we are so proud of you here in New Orleans. The little quite girl that always smiled at you and would not say a word has really blossom. Now, you are non-stop. (Smile) Every time we turn around you are in something and doing so well. Continue to keep growing and never lose that beautiful smile Tim and I always talk about. We love you and waiting for your next venture.

  6. I love this video! And…Mekdes, your smile and energy are beautiful!
    Love it!

  7. Congrats on the video Mek. You are growing into such a beautiful young lady. I met you a few years ago at your grandmothers in New Orleans and my 2 sons came over to play. Looking forward to seeing your name in bright lights in the future:)!

  8. It’s always nice to see young people doing positive things and on the right path. Thanks for sharing this.

  9. First of all, please allow me to say that your blog is necessary. The greatest fear of our lives is live with our purpose and passion. As a father and early childhood professional, I think blogs about “brown babies” starts a new conversation about who and what we value in society. This blog says “yes” …we value Mekedes’ inner beauty, yes….we value intelligent young ladies, yes….we value the arts, yes…..we value roads less traveled by standard media,…yes….we value smiling over frowning. One of the lines from ” I Smile” states that in order to be happy…you must have something happening! Kirk…thank you for letting GOD remind us that your blessing is happening now! Indeed…your new video featuring Mekedes Hollinger is happening right now and I feel blessed! Love you Mek! From Uncle B/ Unofficial Godfather!

    • Denene@MyBrownBaby


      THIS: “I think blogs about “brown babies” starts a new conversation about who and what we value in society. This blog says “yes” …we value Mekedes inner beauty, yes….we value intelligent young ladies, yes….we value the arts, yes…..we value roads less traveled by standard media,…yes….we value smiling over frowning.”

      I promise you, you coaxed tears to my eyes. You recognized in the matter of a 300-word blog post exactly why MyBrownBaby exists—exactly why it’s necessary. Thank you for recognizing—and encouraging—this “new conversation.” I appreciate you and I’m so glad you’re in Mekdes’s life.

      • Denene,

        God gave me another reason to “Smile” this morning. I reading your response to my blog and I was moved to respond with enthusiasm. I have forwarded this site to all my raising “brown babies” and those who want to have them in the future. I am absolutely passionate about MBB’s success in a market filled with meaningless discussions. Mekedes is special and I feel inspired to write about “special” children. My son, Langston, was born with special medical and education needs. He is my inspiration and I desire to write about “brown Special babies” whose parents feel like their stories are being told. Denene- people have made sugar and shopping their guilty pleasure – thanks to you and your contributors – My Brown Baby is mine! Speaking life over wonderful things through passion and purpose…MBB fan -Brock

  10. Keilon Johnson-Martin

    To Mekdes, You are truly a Miracle from GOD, and an example of what the power of love can do for a child. I love your grandmother and mother to death and to see how amazingly beautiful a young lady you have grown to become makes me Smile. Continue to bless the world with your smile!!!!xxxoooo

  11. “What a Beautiful Song, so full of Life. I must say what God has for You it is for You. Congratulations to Mekdes, a Job well done, we are so Proud where God is taking You, Your Life Story is gonna Bless the World, Thank God for Your Parents who instill in you nothing is Impossible if you can Believe. We Love You and we are so Proud of You here in New Orleans. The Sky is the Limit, keep on Smiling!!!

  12. I Love this Song, it’s a Breath of Fresh Air! Congratulations to Our Mekdes, we are so Proud of Your accomplishments, just to show what God has for you it is for You, Your Story is gonna Bless the World, Thank God for your Parents who instill in you all things are possible if you can Believe. Remember we Love You here in New Orleans and the Sky is the Limits!!! Keep on Smiling and enjoying your Blessings!

  13. The Lomax Family

    Congrats Mekdes! You are a true beauty on both the inside and out!! We are so proud of you – keep SMILING!!!

    Love, Trina, David, & Landry

  14. Arthur Martin

    Congrats! keep reachin for the stars!

  15. Granny and Poppy

    Mek, you are the sunshine in our lives. We thank God for you and your beautiful smile. God is truly blessing you.
    Kirk may God continue to bless you with songs that inspire us to smile through our problems

  16. Odell Anderson

    Good stuff! Way to go Mekdes

  17. This very night, as I was feeling not so great….I read about Mek, and it made me smile. I’m so proud of you that I can’t keep it in, emotional I cry and smile. You make me proud, you are destined for great things!! Smile is Nahjah, Nahshon, and Naheemahs favorite and now they can recognize a smile from their big cousin!!! ;-))))))

  18. Congratulations, Mekdes! You are so adorable and you have a beautiful smile! Continue to let your light shine.

  19. Denene,
    We love the website. Thanks.

    Granny and Poppy

  20. Congratulations Mek! You are an awesome example of a faithful, fun and fearless young lady. Your enthusiasm and smile is infectious. Wishing you continued success.

    What a wonderful site…keep up the good work.

    Kimberly M.

  21. Ariel Marbury

    Hey Mek! I can’t put in words how very proud I am of you! You have always been my beautiful princess. I love the video, but love you more! Keep that lovely spirit boo.

    your Auntie Ariel

  22. Way to go Mek! So proud of you! I always look forward to your projects, and I am always SO impressed with your work. You are doing a great job! Keep it up. See ya soon.
    Love, Uncle Bill

  23. This video did make me smile. I love Kirk Franklin, and I love this song! Have a great day! Also I love your mybrownbaby site. I have two brown babies of my own and it is good to see positive messages about little brown babies.

  24. Congratulation Mekdes! This song is a true reflextion of the disposition that you display each time that I see you. Your smile is contagious! Keep SMILING!

  25. Congrats Mekdes!!! What a beautiful SMILE you have! Keep smiling!!!!!!


    You are beautiful. I am so proud of you. when I grow up I want to be a star like you. KEEP SMILING! SMILING KEEPS YOU HEALTHY!

  27. Kisha Williams-Jackson

    Your SMILE is contagious. keep up the good work! Love you much!

    Your Calif. Cousins- Kisha & Akili

  28. Julie Williams

    Congratulations Mekdes. Continue to make the world a better place with that beautiful smile.

  29. Elandis Miller

    Congrats MEK!!!!! This video is so befitting. Continue doing all that you do because you are GREAT!

  30. Auntie Katherine Bayard

    You did a wonderful job. Your smile is very beautiful and so are you.
    May God continue to bless you and Kird Franklin.

    Love Always
    your Aunt from Calif.

  31. Cousin Wanda Williams from Calif.

    Mekdes I seen video you have such a beautiful smile. Get smiling Mekdes because smiling helps with all the hurt, and pain that a person could be going through. May the continue to use you with that beautiful smile and Kirk.

    Love you always
    your cousin from Calif.
    Wanda Williams.

  32. Cousin Santinaeyah and Santino

    We saw the video we play it over and overand over.We showed it to all our family and friends.I told my praise dance teacher that we should make up a praise dance to”I Smile”.I like the way you smiled in the video.Maybe some day I will get to meet Kirk Franklin like you did.YOU GO GIRL.LOVE YOUR COUSINS.

  33. Cousin Jazmine Franklin

    hey little cousin i really liked you in the video you are so beautiful, you did a really good job 🙂 I hope to see you soon. LOve from family in California

  34. Diamond Franklin

    yur show was good

  35. Ronnie Warren

    I Love The Video I seen my cousin so sweet lov it

  36. I love this song it inspires me to smile when im not in the mood thank you kirk Franklin all of your songs are something i think about everyday they speak to me

  37. Congratulations to Mekdes,

    “I Smile” should be the entire focus of our world. Smiling is more productive and much more healthier than anger or sadness. Your smile is genuine and greatly contributes to the success of “I smile”! Thank You for “your smile” and being a part of this movement to motivate others to smile!!

    God Bless All Who Wear A Genuine Smile!!
    Hattie Herring

  38. Erika Green and Della Ware

    Beautiful Mek!!! We are always so proud of you and Ya’s accomplishments. Truly Awesome. Can’t wait to see yall soon. Ryan and Laika: You are blessed with two wonderfully talented children. WE LOVE YALL, Love Erika and Maw Maw Della.

  39. Congratulations Mekdes,

    What a great smile you have!!! I loved the song and you were a ray of sunshine. Be blessed.

  40. this song is great it uplifts me right away when im feeling down i play it and bam im on a smile page because it is a new day everyday and things do get better keep on making these great songs for the world kirk this is truely a winner be blessed and stay saved and prayed up

  41. Congratulations on being in the “I Smile” video.
    Keep on going forth with your goals and accomplishments.
    God Bless you and I Smile!

  42. Shelley Ware-Stuart

    Congrats Mek,
    I still have yet to meet you and Ya, but I know your mom and your grandma very well. I’m so glad that you are doing great things. Keep up the good work.


  43. Mekdes, what a beautiful smile and young lady! I pray that I can meet you and your family one day soon. When you walk with the Lord, no matter what struggle you go thru, He just makes you smile inside and out. God bless!

  44. Congrats Mek! Always so proud of you! Love Auntie Julia and Shanice.

  45. No matter what you have going on, this song will make you “Smile”!
    I love it…sometimes I have to take a listen just to smile.
    Kirk Franklins “Hello Fear” in stores now! I bought it & it was WELL WORTH the $$….

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