Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Author Kevin Powell Tells FAMU it is Time to Start Uplifting Our Communities

Author and Social Activist Kevin Powell encouraged nearly 2,000 Florida A&M University (FAMU) students, faculty and staff members to start uplifting something greater than themselves.

Powell, who served as the keynote speaker for the Black History Month Convocation on February 17, enforced the need to give back to the African-American community.

“The worst thing we can do is talk in terms of ‘I,’” said Powell. “Make sure you reach back. We need you to reach back and help our communities. Just like Harriet Tubman went back for the slaves through the Underground Railroad. You have to have love in your life. If you really loved yourself, you would know the importance of the power of coming together.”

The product of a single-parent household, Powell said his mother would take him to the library when he was a youth “just to be around books.” He believes he would not be where he is in life if it was not for the people who saw the potential in him.

“Where do we go from here?” said Powell. “We got to read, we got to study. We need a new kind of leadership. If you don’t read, you become stagnant. We have to travel. We have to see this world to get an understanding of who we are. Our elders must learn to love our young people unconditionally, not with conditions. You have to respect young people.”

He challenged the audience members to no longer use words that are degrading, but rather uplift one another.

“I’m challenging you all as leaders to never use the term ‘ghetto’ and ‘hood’ to describe yourself,” Powell interjected. “We have to start telling these young brothers they are geniuses. Not because they can slam-dunk or make a basket but because they are brilliant. Brothers, the challenge for you all is to be men.”

One young man inspired by Powell’s words was Robert Parker-Crawford, a third grader at Astoria Park Elementary School. His mother, Kristin Parker, brought him to convocation to hear Powell speak.

“When I met him, he told me I was a genius,” Parker-Crawford said with a smile on his face. “I want to go to school at FAMU when I’m older.”

Parker said she wants her son to know his worth.

“I brought my son because I knew Kevin would say something he could relate to,” said Parker, 39, a Tallahassee native. “I want him to know that he has value in this city, in this country and in this world.”

Powell was presented with the President’s Award by Provost Cynthia Hughes Harris.

“Black history is American history,” said Hughes Harris. “It’s not just about honoring the leaders of the past… We enforce the fact that black history is the history of America.”

John Warford, visiting professor for the FAMU Department of History, said the key to success, especially in these days and times, is tied to a person’s development.

“You are the children of our ancestors and the ancestors of our children unborn,” said Warford, who gave the occasion during the program. “FAMU, look in the mirror and see greatness, see beauty, see development.”

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