Monday, November 21, 2016

Brain Food: Roland Martin

For election years I work ahead to have someone preview the election, and someone else to analyze. I also like to present diverse political points of view. If we don't expose ourselves to other ideas, we never grow. So I had Rich Lowry in September, and wanted a strong liberal for November.

Van Jones from CNN was booked back in April. I figured he would be great. He was, in fact, so great election night that CNN made him work the following week- when he was to come to Dillard. I found out that Thursday, less than a week before his scheduled appearance!

So it is about 7 pm and I am at a board dinner trying to come up with an event, or maybe just skip all together. But I felt we needed something, especially after a contentious election and our own campus tension following a Senate debate. So I reached out directly to the person who did my 2008 post-election lecture at Philander Smith College.

Roland Martin.

I tell my students that relationships are important. I'm not sure how many college presidents can directly contact folks like Roland Martin and have him respond in minutes that he would be here. In so many ways, he was the only person who could have given that message last week.

In his usual "Bring the Funk" style, Roland really did lecture. He covered lots of history, asked questions, and engaged us in a reality check after the election of Donald Trump. One of his premises is that he wants us to change our consumption of news and information.

He characterized the election results as what happens when folks who are not part of a system decide to vote, and that this voter was part of a historical pattern of black success being followed by white backlash. He pointed to signs of racial battle lines being drawn but a portion of the nation that wants to hold on to an America that no longer exists.

His 90 minute address engaged us all. The most important impact though was his citing of numerous books- probably about a dozen. Students after the event even tweeted him about some of the titles. Hopefully he inspired many of us to more actively read!

The Prez