Tuesday, February 26, 2013

NECESSARY! at Frostburg State University

Frostburg State University presented “Black History NECESSARY! Exhibit and Talk” with founding member of the hip hop group Public Enemy, Professor Richard Griff, on February 25, 2013 in the Lane University Center Alice R. Manicur Assembly Hall. Public Enemy started with five boys from Roosevelt, Long Island, New York, “thinking that we were going to be dead or in jail after three years for what we were trying to do” says Professor Griff. What the group was trying to do was change the music industry, speak truth to power and move people out of their comfort zone so that they could hold a mirror image to American’s to show what was really going on with racism, all through the medium of hip hop.

Before getting into his speech he says to the audience, “get out of your comfort zone and open up to have this particular dialogue”. February is black history month to learn, understand, and acknowledge where the black culture came from, “act like it is impossible to fail”, Professor Griff says, to help engage everyone in the “Talk” no matter your ethnicity.
What is viewed in the world today about black culture is distorted with the biggest help of rap music. Yes, rap music and not hip hop. As Professor Griff puts it, “you are looking at what is going on in the world through a distorted lens”. His goal was to clear that away so that the audience can view black history and view themselves through a lens very clear. Bringing humor to the room as he gets ready to present his visual aid the audience laughs, he mentions being technically challenged like his height, being 5’5”, and his goal in life was to be tall.

We all have two things in common, being humans and sharing the same universe. What we do not have in common is our opinions and views on history. Starting a dialogue, Professor Griff says to the audience, “When the story of the hunt is told, and it’s always told by the hunter, will the lion fail”? Professor Griff quotes an audience member, ‘as the conqueror you are the one that’s writing the history books’, commenting it was beautifully said. Getting to his point about history being told, he asks “Who would you want to tell your story”? The best person that could tell your story is you; black history “should be told to us by us”, he says.

Black history month derived from “Negro History Week”, started by Cater G. Woodson. There was a book written by Cater G. Woodson called The Mis-Education of the Negro to “educating young whites and blacks” says Professor Griff. History being told of black people being bought with manillas (bronze or copper formed into a horseshoe shape) sold to the highest bidder, such idea of auctioning.  A quote by Malcolm X, “We declare our right on this earth to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary”. A different way to get Malcolm X’s message to people, Public Enemy put “by any, every, and all means necessary” into a song to get people to understand what Malcolm X was talking about. What is happening today is very different and distorted from where the black culture came from. There are lyrics being sung that are disrespecting black history instead of trying to get listeners to understand black history as Public Enemy did in their music. Professor Griff uses the example of the rapper Lil Wayne saying ‘beat that p**** up like Emmett Till’, “being very disrespectful to the legacy of Emmett Till, black people, and women”. Very eye opening to how music alone has changed and gone in another direction. Christine Parisi relates saying, “I think it was extremely eye opening and a rude awakening to our generation”.

It was for sure NESECCARY! for Professor Griff to acknowledge the change and distortion of black history and where is has gone. Jasmine Brown comments “Really informative, from earlier slave days to now”. I know that I learn new facts about black history and how today’s generation has changed and also did James Tyson saying, “I enjoyed the event overall. I learned that today’s generation need to step”.

When you have a chance take a look at Professor Griff website and also go to YouTube to hear his speeches.

-LaVonne Sauls

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