When he was 14 years old, the iconic Brooklyn rapper the Notorious B.I.G, also known as Biggie Smalls, worked as a counselor at the Park Slope's Congregation Beth Elohim, a reform temple in an upper middle class neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Hannah Frishberg, who used to go to Beth Elohim, reported on the time the rapper, whose real name is Christopher Wallace, spent working at her Park Slope temple during the 1980s.
Voletta Wallace, his mother, was a preschool teacher in the Early Childhood Center program and brought him to work to help with the congregation's youngest members.
She worked at Beth Elohim for years where she was considered a revered educator by her colleagues, including Hannah's former preschool teacher, Jaci Israel." Voletta was a really strong woman, you know, raising a kid by herself,” Jaci said, adding that "she was bound and determined to give him a good education. We’d chat and say hi, she was saying Christopher was falling in with the wrong crowd. Typical teenage stuff, but things mothers worry about," she told a local publication.
Jaci also recalled Christopher "being really fun with the kids but equally at ease with the adults. A good kid, you know. He was sweet, a very charming personality.”
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Laura Occhiogrosso, another teacher in Voletta’s program, remembers talking to Christopher "maybe twice, like, 'where's the snacks' or something."
“I couldn’t even recognize the face, and I’m usually very good with faces. When he was a CIT [Counselor in Training] in camp he was a skinny thing," Laura said after she saw his picture.
Jaci also spoke about Christopher's death. "When it hit the headlines that he’d been killed someone told me, ‘you know that was Christopher.' I didn’t know that he was this big gangster rapper. I haven’t seen Voletta since. When the movie about his life came out a bunch of us went to see it together.”
Biggie Smalls was murdered in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles on March 9, 1997. He was shot in his truck and struck with four bullets to the chest. He was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.
“One time I took a picture of Christopher’s working papers because my own children didn’t believe me,” Jaci said, “they wanted to put it on Instagram.”
A few years ago when Hannah was cleaning out the classroom Biggie had worked in that summer, she found his old name tag there.