The black freedom struggle in the 21st century, the practice of deep listening, and ‘the age of Obama’ were some of the main topics Dr. Marc Lamont Hill focused on while talking to students and faculty on Thursday night in the Hughes-Trigg Theater at SMU.
A crowd of almost 70 people started taking their seats around 6:15 p.m. while others mingled outside the theater doors.
“I follow Dr. Marc Lamont Hill on Twitter and on the news, so I would like to see his personality in real life,” said Bobby Williams, administrative assistant at SMU.
The lecture was hosted by SMU’s Association of Black Students (ABS) in order to shed light on Black History Month.
D’Marquis Allen, president of SMU’s ABS, greeted everyone. He introduced MacKenzie Jenkins, freshman chair of SMU’s ABS, who introduced Hill to the stage.
Hill flew in from New York just to speak to the students at SMU.
“I am always excited to speak to people,” said Hill. “But I am particularly happy to be here at SMU for Black History Month.”
Hill is known for covering topics on culture, politics and education. Hill also provides commentary on outlets like “NPR”, “The Washington Post”, “The New York Times”, “CNN”, “MSNBC”, and Fox News Channel where he was a political contributor and regular guest on “The O’Reilly Factor”.
Black History Month is one of those opportunities where people of color and those who are not of color come together and honor the life, legacies, ideas, values and cultures of African people here in America.
Hill explained the age of Obama, and that it marks an important moment in history for the collective condition of blacks in America.
“When Barack Obama walked into the office in 2009, it was proof of our collective success,” said Hill. “It is not about whether you like him or not.”
The age of Obama and everything surrounding his presidency is cause to be inspired. Hill said people have to appreciate the fact that he becomes president in 2008, just a few hundred years after Jamestown.
When people talk about Black History Month, they should start at 1619, Hill pointed out.
When black folks came to America, they came as property and black hands picking cotton; picking up, arguably, the most significant piece of the engine that drives America’s capitalist age. In the same way you had machinery, in the same way you had tools, you had black folks.
Hill then moved on to the topic of deep listening.
The practice of deep listening is a belief that all voices are worth listening to. People live in a world filled with talk, not just with voices, but with all this technology around us like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Everyone’s voice is being released in a way we couldn’t even imagine 20 years ago; everybody is the star of their own show.
“All of this cacophony of of our own voices makes it hard to realize that other people’s words, morals and lives are worth listening to,” said Hill. “Deep listening is a humanizing project and realization that there is value in the voices of people who are different than you.”
Suddenly, Hill interrupted himself and moved away from the podium.
“Even though y’all didn’t do it, at the beginning of Black History Month, we sing the Black National Anthem, do y’all know it?” Hill asked the audience.
The crowd slowly stood up and started singing their freedom song in unison after his reminder.
“Young folks have a vision and voice, that is why we have to invest in them, all of them,” said HIll.
Hill pointed out that we have no idea who’s going to be the next person to make a difference.
“Do you think Dr. King’s kindergarten teacher knew she had Dr. King in her class?” said Hill. “We must operate from the assumption that all of our children have the capacity to be extraordinary.”
Schools in America are filled with black, white, red and yellow geniuses, and we have to mine it for all that it is worth. Hill said to listen to the young folks and listen for every generation’s freedom song, and every generation’s song is not going to sound like the others.
Hill recalls “when those airplanes hit the buildings” and people thought America was under attack on 9/11, and suddenly everyone felt unsafe and subjected to random violence.
“That reminds me of one of Jay-Z’s lyrics,” said Hill. “‘Bin Laden been happenin’ in Manhattan, crack was anthrax back then, back when police was Al’Qaeda to black men,’ sometimes we have to listen to a different kind of freedom song.”
Hill urged the students in attendance to join organizations at school and around the community.
“All y’all don’t have to make something, you just have to join something,” said Hill.
“There are thousands of names out there that never got recorded in the books but were still vital to the movements.
Jesus was a radical Palestinian Jew who tried to change this world from the inside out. Don’t be part of an organization where all you do is party and brag about what you did. Don’t be good for nothing, be good for brave action and brave truth-telling.”
“Brave action is,” as Hill quoted Dr. King, “when dogs bite us in Birmingham, we bleed everywhere.”
According to Hill, what that means in 2015 is, when police shoot us in Ferguson, we die everywhere. When we get choked down in Staten Island, we can’t breath anywhere.
We need a collective sense of work, but a local sense of action.
Hill then quoted the Prophet Muhammad, “speak the truth though it may be bitter.”
That means that you have to tell your Democratic friends that getting corporate welfare is bad no matter who is president. You might have to tell your friends who are team Obama, that some people aren’t “feeling the love” on the less fortunate side of town.
Hill went in to further detail explaining how people who are young should get the truth out.
“You think that Iraqis and Syrians being gassed by their own government is better now that it is a democrat not doing anything about it? You think if you are in Yemen or Iran and you’re only 16 and in combat, you feel better that it is Obama’s drones and not Bush’s drones that are killing you? You think if you are occupied in the largest open air prison in Gaza or in the apartheid state of the West Bank, you feel better that it is our nation supporting it not than when it is was 20 years ago? You have to be brave, you have to speak the truth when it is bitter.”
Hill pointed out, when you stand up for the truth, you may feel alone sometimes. There are going to be people who turn around when they get harmed, but it is your job to keep going.
“Just because we have an Obama and Oprah, and Tyler Perry does not mean we are done,” said Hill.
You have to continue to convince people that the world can be different, the world can be freer, more loving and more livable.