Since I do not watch much T.V. and can not afford cable, I primarily watch two shows; The Simpsons and the Tavis Smiley Show on PBS. I am a fan of Tavis Smiley because his interviews are honest, insightful, intellectual, political, and funny. Half the time I do not know who he is interviewing, but I still watch it because I learn a lot from his guests and from Tavis as a television and radio host. I would be on his production crew in a heartbeat if given the opportunity
So driving around L.A., I began to see the bus stop ads for the State of the Black Union on Feb. 28. Tavis Smiley’s State of the Black Union is celebrating its 10th Anniversary. I registered online to attend but then I came across a scheduling mishap. So I couldn’t go…and just when that happened, I received an email to register for the Young Scholars Forum at USC from one my favorite informants/organizer/homie, Diana Flores, Program Coordinator at the Southern California Library (the PEOPLE’s Library). It was a pre-event to the SOBU hosted by Tavis Smiley.
I woke up early and headed out to the forum. I was given a ticket with a center front row seat with my name on it. The auditorium was filled with young people from elementary school students with their teachers to graduate students. It was an awesome sight. I did not have a camera or recorder but then I bumped into another amazing organizer, Leo Grandison of UCSC, and he let me borrow his camera (Those pictures are on their way… Thank YOU!!!)
I went to my front row seat and there was a guy with fancy, professional cameras who sat next to me. I figured he was a journalist/photographer of sorts. So I asked him about it and he says, “Oh, I work for a small company called the Associated Press.” I gave him the weirdest look and responded with, “SMALL????” He laughed and re-explained himself, maybe he thought I didn’t know who the AP was. Hello! They only write every other news piece that gets regurgitated over and over by every other news media outlet. Then he said, “You never know where life is going to take you, I went to school to get a law degree, and look at what I’m doing, I’m not using my law degree at all”. Well I definitely understood what he was saying, I can relate, you can’t deny yourself of your passions and creative endeavors and so we both concluded simultaneously, “It’s about your passion”.
Then the forum began… with a NAVY commercial… BUU!!!!! They sponsored the whole thing and I went in for free, ok that’s cool, but did they have to plaster their name everywhere… Then a group of four kids came out called ONE… and I laughed, “Who opened the door to them?” I kept wondering why they didn’t find a musical group more profound instead of talking about being at the bar, and they’re not even 21. They were a trendy poppy hip hop group from L.A. If it wasn’t for their cover of, “That girl is poison…” and their ending remarks about no dream is too far fetched, I would not have accepted it. Call me a critic, y que.
Then Tavis came out. He introduced the moderator for the forum, Dominique Di Prima . She is the woman who hosted “Street Science” on 92.3 The Beat in L.A.. Now she hosts and produces “The Front Page” on KJLH. She asked some excellent questions from the panelists (also someone to take notes from) and asked about youth leadership, activism, hip hop culture, reclaiming expression, and optimizing our community endeavors during this era of Obama.
The panelists/speakers were also amazing. They were on point in terms of being motivating and pushing the audience to really believe in our fullest individual and collective potential. I was impressed by all of them but I was especially impressed by:
Professor Alia Sabur, she is off the hook and the youngest professor in the world teaching mathematics and engineering. Her passion, is simply learning. She spoke about the challenges of being a leader as a woman, who’s short, naturally soft spoken, and young. I was inspired and reminded by her words that anytime you are doing something that you are not suppose to or expected to do, there will be people who do not like that.
Tricia Rose, she use to teach at UCSC, but now she’s a professor at Brown University in the Afrikana Studies Department who writes about Hip Hop culture. She was very reaffirming in reminding us that Hip Hop is not something that belongs to corporate America. She said, “take it back, because it is our cultural expression that enables us to become our fullest.” She also said something funny that she calls the Hip Hop trinity, which is the gangster, pimp hoe complex that mainstream corporate hip hop suffers from. So for all the Hip Hop in the underground, we need to break ground, we’ve have been politically intellectually and lyrically depriving the masses.
Jurnee Smollet is an actress (the Debators) whom I did not know of before but I gained a lot of respect for her because throughout her career, beginning at 13 years of age, she has stood up for her values. She is the youngest board member of Artists for a New South Africa which is a non-profit dedicated to combating HIV/AIDS, advancing human rights, safeguarding voting rights, and empowering children orphaned by AIDS. She was very involved with the Obama campaign and gave a lot of insight about the youth being responsible for Obama’s success.
Maria Teresa Peterson is the founding director of Voto Latino. She was great. After another speaker talked about how young people are “seen, but not heard”, she made the point about how in Latino culture and in the over-all immigrant community, it is young people who have always been looked towards for leadership, knowledge, and translation. We have been listened to, we have been put in uncomfortable situations where we have to interpret to get things done for our family. I really appreciated her acknowledgement. She also mentioned how the historic immigrant marches were fueled by teenagers who sent text messages and myspace messages about walking out of school and participating in the movement.
I was very inspired and re-motivated about where we are as a people in the movement for social change. We do need to take advantage of this era because we do not have one Malcolm X or one Rosa Parks, we have hundreds. Obama is not Jesus, but from his campaign to involve people at a very grassroots level, we can really keep going longer ways. I have a lot of faith in us. I have a lot of faith in young people. I love my youth whom I work with and I am very dedicated to their growth, even though it is they who teach me a lot every time I meet with them. I am a young person myself and this forum confirmed how everything I am doing at a creative level in voicing my mind and experiences through art, blogging, social networking, radio production, and now film, is what I need to be doing to contribute to our movement. I am documenting our movement and I do it with honor and privilege. I am blessed. And I can not deny this.
I am a powerful person in my own right. So I gotta keep doing what I am doing, following my heart and my passion.