Activist and author Kevin Powell discussed his commitment to justice and equality for all at the Frederick Douglass Humanitarian Lecture Monday in Morgan Auditorium.
Powell brought up the recent Oscars controversy, praising host Chris Rock for shining a light on the lack of diversity in Hollywood.
“If you look at the world only through your lens and impose your privilege on others, you are an oppressor and will be going against someone’s humanity,” Powell said.
Powell talked about how true diversity is encouraging people to be who they are, no matter their race, gender or sexual orientation.
Powell told the audience that he was raised in poverty in Jersey City, New Jersey, because his father “fell in lust” with his mother and abandoned her before he was born.
“Poverty is a form of violence,” Powell said. “It taught me the difference between proactive anger and reaction anger.”
Powell asserted that both sexism and racism will never end, if people do not put in the effort and do something about it.
“Use your privilege to empower people because racism and sexism is real and parent today,” Powell told the audience.
Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Lawrence Potter said he believes Powell’s lecture was timely and relevant.
He also appreciated the references to Chris Rock using his comedic skill that did not allow anyone to escape the issues of diversity.
Potter brought Powell to the University for this event.
He felt that Powell has a personal story that speaks to many La Verne students, and hopes this will motivate students in the future.
“Powell comes from a single parent home, he was a first generation college student, and he was a minority student at a predominantly white institution,” Potter said.
“It was really important to me to have a speaker that resembles much of what we were trying to accomplish in the lecture.”
Powell is the author of 12 books.
His latest book, published in Nov. 2015, “The Education of Kevin Powell: A Boy’s Journey Into Adulthood,” is a memoir that discusses his journey through hardship, touching on his life of poverty, racism and abandonment.
Powell is the president of BK Nation, which is a blog for diverse voices and writers to combine grassroot activism, pop culture, technology and social media to embrace the motto, “The leadership is us.”
Previously, as a senior writer at Vibe Magazine, Powell interviewed public figures from Tupac Shakur to Gen. Colin Powell.
Freshman business administration major Yaner Dai explained how raw and insightful Powell’s speech was, and praised the inspirational messages.
“His passion not only showed in his words but how he said them,” Dai said. “I was incredibly moved by his ability to make the need for equality universal and not specific to a certain race or gender.”
Powell then spoke on a personal level.
“I have to do twice as much to prove myself and am expected to, to some degree, conform to society,” Powell said. “I am at a point in my career where I am extraordinarily authentic and I do not believe in compromising my identity.”
Powell said that the purpose of his speech was to show how blessed his life is today and everyone should do the same, despite how hard it may seem now.
“I will never forget where I came from,” Powell added. “I will never forget those who came from the other end of human rights.”
Joshua Bay can be reached at email@example.com.