Posts filed under ‘Talib Kweli’

At the Corner of Progress and Peril

Sean sent me a link to this MSN/Washington Post article.  I found it very interesting, so I thought I would share it as well.  The article discusses how despite all the visible successes of the civil right efforts, there are still challenges, pitfalls and discrepancies that remain.

The two items that stuck out to me the most:

College Degree Statistics

The percentage of black men graduating from college has nearly quadrupled since the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and yet more black men earn their high school equivalency diplomas in prison each year than graduate from college.

When you read the first clause of the sentence you think, "Yay, look how much better everything is!"  …then you read the second half.

During Talib Kweli's Visit to Virginia Tech, a student asked him why there was so much apathy towards activism nowadays, why so few were picking battles to fight.  This is paraphrased from memory, but Kweli said something along the lines, "When you turned on the TV 40 years ago, you'd see people getting attacked by dogs or blasted with fire hoses.  Now you turn on the TV and you see…. Will Smith."

We see the successes and assume everything is hunky-dory, when if fact, there is a deeper story to be told.

John B. Slaughter's Career Advice

Guidance counselors at John B. Slaughter's high school in Topeka, Kan., laughed aloud, Slaughter said, when he told them he wanted to be an engineer. They had never heard of a black engineer, and they told Slaughter he should pursue a trade. Slaughter ignored them and graduated from Kansas State University in 1956 with a degree in electrical engineering, launching a career that took him to the helms of the National Science Foundation, the University of Maryland and Occidental College in Los Angeles.

I found John B. Slaughter's story interesting because a very similiar thing happened to Malcolm X when he told his school teacher he wanted to be a lawyer (See the "Mascot" chapter of The Autobiography of Malcolm X).  

I wonder just how often the public school system tried to squelch aspirations.  I also wonder about the effect of those efforts.  Not every student can convert spite into success.  How often did the advice result in the student silently giving in? 

June 4, 2006 at 10:22 am 5 comments

Journal Excerpt: An Evening with Talib Kweli

Below are excerpts my April 6, 2006 and April 8, 2006 journal entries.  This entries were written in a hotel room in Washington, Pennsylvania at the beginning of my six-day travel frenzy.  Earlier that week, Sean, Nate and I attended "An Evening with Talib Kweli" on the Virginia Tech campus.

Large Attendence

On Tuesday night Sean and I went to see his favorite artist – Talib Kweli – speak for free at Virginia Tech.

Although I was not personally vested in it, I was somewhat worried for our guest.  I was afraid the turnout would be low.  Nate [Howe] indicated advertising was low.

Well Nate's speculations and my concerns were unfounded…to say the least!  When we first arrived there were only 5 rows of chairs set up.  About 150 chairs total.

As the event time neared, more people arrived.  The event staff furiously set up chairs to keep up with the demand.  Before they knew it- they had run out of chairs!  They had to fetch some from another ballroom.  By the time Kweli arrived– there must have been 1000 chairs set up and yet some people still needed to stand!

The turnout was amazing and heart warming.  It was a very solid mixture of all demographics.


Kweli's prepared speech was fairly short – maybe a half an hour to forty five minutes.  He said he preferred to use the time for questions and answers.

"You get to hear what I think from my albums," he explained, "But I don't get to hear from you."

So he wanted to use the time for discussion and discourse.

He really fielded the questions well.  He was very articulate and had good examples to support his opinions.  I was impressed.

I can't say I was always impressed by the questions America's future, the college students, asked.  Sometimes I literally hung my head in shame as they asked silly questions.  But even the worst questions, Kweli would turn to gold as he articulated his opinion.

He did take a moment to gently point out [an oversight] of one of the inquirers.  She made some generalities about Africa.  He responded, "Africa is a very big place."

Some of the question askers you could tell coveted the same audience and tried to exercise their own leadership in mistimed tirades.

One guy even got up there and actually put Kweli on hold saying, "First I want to ask a question to the audience."  He turned to us, "Raise your hand if you respect your right to feel!  Raise your hand if you respect your right to think!"

Everyone was so dumbfounded, very few raised their hands.  His plan backfired, but he continued on.

"Well today's government doesn't respect your right to feel and your ability to think…"

I think his heart was in the right place.  It just wasn't a good forum for a no name student to try to "rally the troops."

The Selfishness and Entitlement of Today's Youth

Another thing I was embarassed about was the students' behavior near the end of the question/answer session.

The Black Student Union (BSU) only had the ballroom for a limited time.  When that cut-off time was nearing a poor member went up to mark the end of the questions that could be taken.  She apologized to all the people who were in line past that point and explained the situation.  Most of the people scattered and returned to their seats.  But a group of 5-7 people refused.  They stood there with indignant looks and crossed arms.  They griped, complained and even whined.

Another BSU member got up and explained, "We're under a contract.  I'm sorry, we are just out of time."

And still- not everyone conceded!  At one point they got all but one to leave.  That last guy backed up enough for the BSU representatives to think their point was taken– so they returned to their seats.

No sooner did they do that, then that one last lingerer returned to line and the BSU students had to get back up.

The BSU students held their ground and I was proud of [the resolve of these young adults] to not crack under the pressure of their peers.

In the end, the last guy yelled to Kweli to take one more question.  That opened a can of worms and the other indignants quickly returned to line.

Finally Kweli said, "Can I say one thing?  Whoever is here right now– that's it."

Of course– some of the people most annoying about the question cut off really wanted to get up and speak in front of the audience and remind us tripe like:

"You're the government!"

They wanted to hear themselves speak.

So here is what really struck me.  I just can't get over how entitled people feel.

This was a free event.  The hours were listed on the poster.  The BSU paid for everything including a buffet!!!  And here these ungrateful attendees expect to be able to ask their trivial questions.  I just had trouble swallowing how self-obsessed they were to expect that and to not accept the cut-off time.  It was selfish.

Kweli's Varied Cadence

Kweli's speaking speeds varied throughout the night.  During the prepared monologue– he spoke very slowly.  He was choosing his words wisely– pausing between phrases and thoughts.  He was speaking from the heart.  During the Q&A he spoke in a normal conversational pace.  At the very end, he did a freestyle rap — it was at a face pace as he improvised the words quickly and on the fly.  It was amazing to see a man who could speak words so quickly period — not to mention make them rhyme.  Listening to that quick-paced section at the end, made me appreciate the words at the beginning even more so.  It really demonstrated how carefully he was trying to articulate himself.

Travel as a Learning Tool

For the most part, Kweli talked about the importance of learning, the values taught at home, an individual's responsibility [towards their own education] and the importance of activism.

It wasn't a main part of his message – but one of his recommendations for learning was to travel.  (He did say the Internet could supplement travel because of all the information you can get).  The connotations of his travel recommendation were so that you can see with you own eyes– other cultures, other peoples, other activities, other perspectives.

I may not always enjoy travel– but I do believe he is correct.  One learns quite a bit– especially abroad.  But there is another reason I think travel is important to education– regardless of mode — be  it air, train, boat or car, one has a great deal of time to be introspective.  One can more fully absorb the sites and sounds they've seen.  They can put it in perspective.

In everyday life– we often neglect reflection.  We get swept up in the routines of life.  We work, we do chores, we cook meals, we sleep, we cram event after event into our busy schedules– but never really stop to think.

When you are waiting at an airport gate or sitting on a train watching the country side pass or even driving yourself through West Virginia– you have that time.

I knew that last example well– I had just driven five hours to my hotel– a bulk of the travel through West Virginia.

I think you can see many sites all over the world– but without that personal time– your observations wouldn't be fully processed.

I think the most beneficial part of the traveling is the downtime.

Case in point– I'm quite behind in my journals– been busy with birthdays and obligations.  Now that I'm on a trip, I'll have the time to catch up! 🙂

"Every music has its place"

In his speech last Tuesday, Talib Kweli was asked a lot of leading questions.

Students would point out songs or artists that lacked conscious content.  They wanted Kweli to denounce it.

BUT- he never did.  He maintained he could appreciate all types of music.  Even a song about getting wasted at a strip bar.

"Maybe I'm in a bar getting drunk and I want to hear a song about that," he said.

"Every music has its place," he'd say later.

Other recaps on the Virginia Tech "An Evening with Talib Kweli":
Kendra Brigg's Recap for Planet Blacksburg
SpeakEasy Thread with Sean's Recap (Login required)

May 7, 2006 at 10:59 am 1 comment

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