Kevin Powell speaks for Black History Month

Kevin Powellcropped

Bellevue College kicked off Black History Month with a keynote presentation by Kevin Powell. He has made appearances on television such as “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and other media to talk about major issues in society. He has been nominated for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for his book “The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life.” Powell also made three runs for the U.S. Congress in New York’s tenth congressional district.
In observance of Black History Month, BC Vice President for Diversity Yoshido Harden and other members of the Office of Equity and Pluralism is holding multiple events throughout February in order to recognize the accomplishments of African Americans and other groups.

On Tuesday, Feb. 4, BC hosted a keynote presentation by Kevin Powell who is, according to his website, “one of the most acclaimed political, cultural, literary and hip-hop voices in America today.”

Powell is the author of 11 books and he plans on releasing a memoir of his  childhood and a biography of Tupac Shakur. Powell’s writings have been published by a variety of news organizations, from CNN to Rolling Stone.

During the event, Powell gave two presentations, each an hour between 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The lecture was centered on multiculturalism, diversity and celebrating all types of people. Powell explained that Black History Month should commemorate not only African Americans, but also all cultural diversity in general. In his first presentation, Powell shared some of his personal experiences growing up and explained how those experiences shaped his beliefs.

In the second hour, Powell spent most of his time conversing with the audience. He encouraged questions and comments, discussing the audience’s views on diversity as well as his own. Powell also posed his own questions to stimulate the conversation. For example, he asked, “Do you guys think categories like white or black are important?” One student answered: “I don’t think so. We are all human and we shouldn’t categorize each other based on our skin color. We are all alike and we all belong under one race.” Another student disagreed stating: “It’s important that people express their culture and background because it’s what creates diversity. These cultural diversities create a community and it defines who we are. The U.S. is not a melting pot, it’s a salad bowl.” Powell also asked the audience about their definition of diversity and how it affects them. One audience member shared: “Diversity and multiculturalism is about learning about various cultures and expanding your own sense of the world. We have to keep learning and accepting the different cultures.”

Powell concluded his first presentation by expanding on the idea of multiculturalism and diversity:

“If we’re talking about multiculturalism, then what about our lesbian, gay, bi and transgender sisters and brothers? Some of my friends ask me ‘Kevin, you’re a Christian. How can you say stuff like that?’ And I tell them, because I’m a human being first and I have to love my sisters and brothers. I believe in love and in a world where there’s so little love, people have the right to love each other.”

Furthermore, he shared a story about his experiences in running for Congress and how he realized that multiculturalism spans beyond race:

“When we’re talking about multiculturalism and diversity, we don’t talk about the disabled community.  It’s like they don’t even exist. When I was running for Congress in 2008 and 2010, I went to a disabled group to get an endorsement and they said something to me that I’ll never forget. They said, ‘Every single person here is one injury or one accident from being a part of the disabled community.’”

The last thing Powell shared in both presentations was his method to promote diversity. Powell explained: “We come together through love. We have to respect each other and we have to take care of our mental and spiritual health. We need to practice love for ourselves and to each other.”

The Office of Equity and Pluralism plans to fill February with more events related to Black History Month. Runoko Rashidi will be coming on Feb. 19 and will speak about the different identities of African Americans and how people look different all over the world. He’s traveled the world so he’ll bring snapshots which show Black people with different colored eyes. A relative of Kunta Kinte will be coming on Feb. 24 to speak and on Feb. 26 there will be a multicultural potluck.