Author Michael Datcher Addresses College and High School Students as Part of Black History Month
February 6, 2004
Love is not just a word to author Michael Datcher - it implies action. Datcher addressed Mount Union College students, as well as high school students visiting the campus as part of a multicultural visitation event, on Thursday, February 5, telling them they need to love themselves enough to succeed in life.
Datcher, the author of "Raising Fences: A Black Man's Love Story" and the keynote speaker for Mount Union's Black History Month events, is also a poet, playwright and journalist. Raised in a dangerous neighborhood in Los Angeles, Datcher made it his goal in life to succeed by getting an education, and his message to the students in attendance was to "make school your job."
That is exactly what Datcher did when he became a student at the University of California, Berkeley. Told that the drop out rate for students attending the college was 50 percents, and that for black students it was more like 80 percent, Datcher made the decision that he would not be one of the dropouts. To make sure he accomplished his
goal of graduating, he determined that school would be his job, and he would devote 40 hours per week attending classes and studying.
"My determination to stay was evidenced by my actions," explained Datcher. "If you love yourself, your actions will support you. You go all out for your happiness. Big talk by itself is weak. You have to put action behind your words."
Datcher talked about what he saw growing up in his neighborhood - dangerous gangs and men without jobs who couldn't support their families.
"Where I grew up, people weren't getting out of the neighborhood. There were fathers who left their families. They couldn't support them, so they ?bounced,'" said Datcher. "Education is the great equalizer. You can get an education, get a job and break that cycle."
Datcher encouraged the students to take their education seriously as he did at Berkeley.
"Are you really educating yourselves or are you just messing around? Are you treating college like high school? Are you cramming for tests only to forget everything a week later? You are paying a lot of money to forget," said Datcher, addressing the college students in attendance. "It is time to grow up. Do well in school. That is not just a weak slogan. I am a living testimony to a great education."
Datcher further encouraged the students to research and learn for themselves about the history of African-Americans and their ancestors. He encouraged them to be active as a citizen of the United States by asking questions and being involved.
"My knowledge of black history was very limited when I went to college. I knew that we were slaves, that Abraham Lincoln set us free and then Martin Luther King set us free again," said Datcher. "When I learned that life first began in East Africa and that black people were the originators of the human race, my understanding of who I am was broadened."
The film rights to Datcher's critically acclaimed New York Times Bestseller, "Raising Fences," have been optioned by actor Will Smith's Overbook Productions. Datcher is currently at work on the screenplay adaptation.
He has written for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Vibe, Ladies Home Journal and The Source, among others. He is a frequent commentator on BBC Radio and has appeared on news shows Nightline and Dateline as an analyst.
Datcher teaches English at West Los Angeles College and the University of California Los Angeles extension. He is the director of literary programs at the World Stage Writer's Workshop in Leimert Park.