Mount Union College Celebrates Black History Month

April 15, 2010

In celebration of Black History Month, Mount Union College welcomed Saul Williams as the 2007 Keynote Speaker on Tuesday, February 6 in Dewald Chapel. The event was sponsored by the Black Student Union and the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs.

Williams, an influential poet, screenwriter/actor, author of three poetry collections and MC, has made an impression on thousands with his words and song (most notably, 'Ocean Within,' a track appearing on the award-winning Sundance film 'Slam,' which he also co-wrote and starred in).

Williams was born in 1972 and grew up in Newburg, New York. After obtaining a philosophy degree from Morehouse University, he continued on to New York University to pursue education in the field of acting. The 90s welcomed Williams with many awards and honors and he has since become a figurehead in the world of word/slam poetry. This movement has spread across the United States, as well as the rest of the world, truly showing the power of the spoken word.

LaTashia R. Reedus, Director of Multicultural Student Affairs, opened the event by introducing Williams as 'a truly down to earth person.' She also noted that the diverse crowd filling the pews before her, ready to hear the speaker was 'refreshing.'

Williams opened with a piece from his collection of poetry, 'said the shotgun to the head.' His voice was strong and his words were hurried. The poetry coming from his lips began to come together as a rhythmic verse that sounded close to hip-hop.

'Vulnerability has been thought of as a bad thing,' he said. 'However, vulnerability is power. It is Black History Month. It is time to keep dancing and singing and exploring beyond.' Part of the vulnerability characteristic is its ties to femininity. When asked if the possibility of a female president could open this up, Williams replied, 'seeing people of color in high positions has shown that it is possible. I think it would bring forth high esteem and the courage to question.'

Williams spoke of investing in qualities that have been deemed weak for centuries. Characteristics of nurturing and loving have been pushed back, but 'if we invest in these,' he said, 'it will be good for society.'

When asked from where he receives his inspiration, Williams said, 'inspire is a latin word that means to breathe. Inspiration comes as easy as the air I inhale.'

He spoke of a time in graduate school when his professor taught the basics of technique.

'Technique is here for the days when my inspiration doesn't strike. I don't believe in writer's block, but that there is a time and place for everything,' said Williams.

His father, Rev. Saul Williams, has had great influence over him. He was trained in classic opera, but was 'called' to ministry. 'It was such an impact that a career 'called' him,' said Williams, 'my calling just happened to be theatre.'

There is a difference between being called and having a career; money. Williams's mother, a kindergarten teacher, 'loved her job every day.' The result of happy parents guided Williams to do what made him happy, and he has been doing it ever since.

'The original goal for me started out being good at poetry and being an amazing actor,' he said, 'Now it is just being what everyone should strive for: a balanced and harmonized individual.'

On Thursday, February 8, the Black Student Union hosted the Soul Food Dinner and Fashion Show. To view photos from the Fashion Show, click on the photo gallery link below.

The annual Black Student Union production will be held Thursday, February 22 at 7 p.m. in the Presser Recital Hall.

For more information, call (330) 823-7288.

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