The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff knows that if you want to change the way black people think, change what they're listening to. So a few of black America's influencers like Nikki Giovanni, Cornel West, Rev Run, T.J. Holmes and MC Lyte are coming to the Pine Bluff campus to lecture this school year.
How can celebrity lecturers comfortably connect with Pine Bluff's remote African American audience? Much of Arkansas, even its one urban area Little Rock remains culturally disconnected from the busy, international, diverse and engaged world that fills the lives of a big city dwellers like Rev Run and MC Lyte.
The average college freshmen was born in 1995 - 1996 and has no idea who Rev Run is, but his parents do. Lyte is the nation's first female rapper. Her first solo hit, "I'm Not Having It" blew up 1988. RUN DMC's first record, "It's Like That" debuted in 1983.
The black consciousness revolution of the 80s has a chance to reach Gen Yers in Arkansas if each celebrity lecturer resolves to continue the work of unlocking the indoctrination that keeps black communities in Arkansas from reaching its highest potential.
Rev Run's lecture begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday, August 26. If the Rev wants to be real with his Christian identity, he'll throw a nod to Christian rap and hip hop musicians and suggest that local deejays get it on AM talk show versus what's out there now. Rev Run will acknowledge the dirty South for what it is, call out urban contemporary radio as a destructive root of young and capable minds in the black community. He'll call out local dee-jays at the biggest watt black music station in Arkansas, Power 92 Jams and its morning deejay Broadway Joe for feeding black minds explicit carnal love, sex, lust and violence everyday.
Dr. Cornel West speaks 10:00 a.m. Thursday, September 25. Not every student will "get" West as he speaks from the perspective of a giving, nurturing, and sacrificing academic. He raises black consciousness until it intersects with intellectualism and that's where a lot of young folks may get lost. If anyone under 20 has heard of West, it means that student has professors who are on the black consciousness raising job. West gained big attention when he dogged fellow ivy league grad and current US President Barack Obama in 2012 with his sidekick Tavis Smiley. Gamer and techie students may recognize West from one of the "Matrix" flicks.
Mitzi Miller speaks 11:00 a.m. Tuesday, February 3. Miller is another New York native who'll have her work cut out for her when she visits Pine Bluff. For many east coasters, Pine Bluff is a throwback to any major urban east coast city in the 80s devastated by crack cocaine trafficking and use and white flight. Miller's current bragging right is her head honcho gig at Jet Magazine, a Johnson publication that's been around for as long as most of the freshmen class's great grandparents.
MC Lyte speaks Tuesday, February 24. UAPB press didn't release the time, but Lyte's speech is sponsored by the Youth Motivational Task Force. Lyte's Hip Hop Sister Foundation awards two $100,000 scholarships each year. If MC Lyte really wants to strengthen and motivate young folks in the Bluff right now, she'll need to reach back to her 1991 hit "Eyes Are the Soul" and empathize with the young people devastated by absence and disconnected from black consciousness, especially in academia. When it comes to African American studies and Women's studies, Arkansas is thirty years behind. In the 70s and 80s, black students in urban cities across the US, thanks to academics like Cornel West and Nikki Giovanni, knew enough to demand afro-centered studies as part of their university's curriculum without fear of retribution.
Lyte could also address the bravery hundreds of minority women in Arkansas need to succeed with their college degree. Arkansas has made it clear that black women are not its priority and not on its short list in terms of economic achievement. Consequently, minority women who find success after the college degree tend to do so outside of Arkansas. That discriminatory phenomena will change without innovative and bold leadership. Lyte could inspire young Christian centered youth to challenge what contemporary black radio distributes here in the state.
Nikki Giovanni Wednesday, March 4 6:00 p.m. "An Evening of Poetry, Love, and Enlightenment". Nikki Giovanni remains totally zen and totally relevant for the UAPB campus and the Pine Bluff community where self-hatred can be the root of all evil. Dr. Cornel West's theories for a better universe are rooted in the idea that we must love others. Arkansas is an incredibly Christian state, however, racially and economically devastated communities have to be taught to love and give without immediate reward. It's the only way to build safer and stronger black societies. Nikki Giovanni's work stomps out the haters and teaches people to love the skin they're in and what's more, she can reach back to her work as far back as the sixties and Arkansans in the audience will relate to the work in their present day lives.
T.J. Holmes Monday, April 13 6:00 p.m. Hathaway-Howard Fine Arts Building | J.M. Ross Theatre. Holmes, who's off the market and has recently written to The Root about his marriage and what led him to the alter, titled his lecture "Representing Something Greater than Yourself". T.J. Holmes made CNN cool on Saturday afternoons before he took on a talk show at BET. Holmes currently serves on the Chancellor's Board of Advisers at the University of Arkansas, his alma mater.