Activist, teacher, writer and speaker Kevin Powell came to Ramapo College on Monday to give a talk on African Ancestry Month and pass down his knowledge of U.S. history. His speech included an overview of various topics, including women’s rights, sexism, civil rights, homophobia, classism and diversity in the workforce.
He clarified how important it is for millennials to actively participate in fighting social problems plaguing the U.S. He also went on to describe what African Americans have done for the history of the country and how intercultural understanding is needed to facilitate progress in the world.
“What I am going to share with you all is basic American history we all should know. I am talking information professors should know, students should know and my peers should know about this country and this world,” said Powell.
He later continued, “I got to Rutgers University just like some of you students got to Ramapo College, because of the civil rights movement.”
Powell, a New Jersey native, stated that he was happy to speak in his home state. A Jersey City kid, he was raised by a single mother and lived on welfare for most of his childhood.
He states his mother’s determination and the local library gave him the strength and knowledge to attend Rutgers University.
He affirmed, “My mother did not go to high school, yet she pressed me to read and get educated.”
Powell noted that having to speak on Presidents Day provided him the ability to inform the crowd on whom the U.S. presidents really were.
“George Washington was a slave owner,” he stated. “12 American presidents out of 44, a quarter of our presidents, engaged in slaving and human trafficking. Half of them, six, had slaves in the white house.”
Powell further addressed the audience by validating to them that one’s time in college can be greatly impactful if spent wisely.
“You will never have enough free time, believe it or not, as you do in college,” he said. “But it is what you do with that time, how serious you take education and self-education around reading, studying and traveling.”
In fact, the latter idea was an affirmation that Powell repeated throughout his speech. He explained that, “you have to read, you have to study, and you have to travel.”
Ramapo students who attended the talk seemed to respond favorably to Powell’s inspirational and educational speech.
“This man brought an excellent speech tonight. I learned a lot of how America shields us from education,” said junior Patrick Travis, expressing that Powell was, “a very powerful speaker and he got on to a lot of topics that I was not expecting really when I read the description of the speech.”
Senior Matt Salermo cited the theme of tolerance as something that stood out to him.
“He did a good job of preaching leadership to college students,” said Salermo. “He also said to love everyone as a person, and to not see them by their color or religion.”
Powell will be traveling the country and giving his presentation to many more schools. At the end of his presentation, he shared what he professed to be an invigorating proverb in his life, “Education is about love.”