Author, activist, to provide Feb. 16 black history keynote
Feb. 8, 2016
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Kevin Powell, a New York City-based author, speaker and humanitarian, will provide Slippery Rock University's Black History Month keynote address at 12:30 and 7 p.m., Feb. 16, in SRU's Smith Student Center Ballroom.
"Given all that has happened in America around race, Black History Month is certainly more timely than ever," Powell said. "When I hear the hate and fear out there, it is clear to me how little many know about black history, let alone American history. My job when I speak is to help be the bridge to learning, to critical thinking, to thinking in terms of peace and love and compassion, not violence and hate and division."
Powell has authored 12 books. His most recent, "The Education of Kevin Powell: A Boy's Journey into Manhood, " is a memoir about his life, including his disadvantaged childhood in New Jersey. Powell has been involved in the fight to eliminate violence against girls and women and other causes.
Powell said black history is important for all Americans to embrace.
"For me black history is American history. I do not think we can separate the two," he said. "It is about the contribution of one group of people, yes, to American society, yes. But it is about all of us, our shared experiences, the ones we know and the ones we may not be aware of. Black history is not just for black students, for black people."
Powell said a lesson for Americans during Black History Month is that everyone should cross cultural boundaries to learn about others.
"Just like I, as a man or a so-called straight person, am willing to learn about women and about the LGBTQ community, how can we say we are a part of the human race, the human family, if we do not really know the history of various types of people?" he said. "In terms of black history, specifically, I am very proud to be a person of African descent and will certainly share that history on campus and challenge folks to learn more themselves."
A native of New Jersey, Powell was reared by a single mother in extreme poverty but managed to study at Rutgers University thanks to the New Jersey Educational Opportunity Fund. The fund provides up to $2,500 a year to students from educationally and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Powell said he routinely appears in interviews on television, radio, print and the Internet discussing major issues of our time. Recent speaking engagements have included presentations at Stanford University, the U.S. Department of Justice, the 50-year anniversary celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "March on Washington" and as a visiting lecturer at Virginia State University.
Powell serves as president and co-founder of BK Nation, a national multicultural organization focused on education, civil engagement, leadership training, social media and small business. He has done philanthropic and relief work, ranging from Hurricane Katrina to earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, to super storm Sandy in New York, to his annual holiday party and clothing drive for the homeless every December since 9/11.
Powell's writings have appeared in Esquire, Ebony, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post and Rolling Stone. For several years, Powell worked as senior writer for Vibe Magazine. He interviewed diverse figures such as Shakur and Army Gen. Colin Powell. He is currently working on a biography of Tupac Shakur, the slain musician.
As a pop culture curator, Powell produced the first exhibit on the history of hip-hop in America at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.
SRU's Black History Month program, "Remember and Reclaim," continues through Feb. 28. The program is exploring Civil Rights accomplishments while offering insight into issues still being felt across the country, such as police brutality against blacks, media profiling and economic inequality.
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