Speaking up

GVL/Michael Dykstra
Marc Lamont Hill Address

GVL/Michael Dykstra Marc Lamont Hill Address

Hannah Lentz

Grand Valley State University students gathered in the Grand River Room to hear author and activist Marc Lamont Hill speak about social injustices in the world today and the role of college students to create change.

In addition to being a social justice activist and award winning journalist, Hill is the host of HuffPost Live and has been a political contributor for both CNN and Fox news. Hill has also been named one of the nation’s most influential black leaders.

In line with the theme of “No More Silence” for Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week, Hill focused his speech on the idea that people need to not only speak up about the problems the world is experiencing, but also listen to what others have to say to work together toward a common goal of equality.

Hill talked about the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., the idea of American optimism, integration and the necessity for young people to stay involved in the problems of today.

“We live in a world where people don’t listen,” Hill said. “Part of it is the culture of selfishness that has become our norm. We are told that to be successful, we have to beat each other.”

Hill applied this idea to the current fascination with social media outlets such as Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat as well as the competition that exists across the world for who is “doing more” than the other. In today’s culture, everyone is looking to be the star of their own show and not looking into the long term and larger picture developments that are possible, Hill said.

Additionally mentioned was the necessity of integration and working together for the greatest possible result. By working together, there can be a closer connection between different issues such as education, nutrition, the environment and the war on drugs, Hill said.

“There is a clear connection between these issues,” Hill said. “Work together, struggle together, but you have to listen to each other.”

Kin Ma, assistant professor of geography and planning, said Hill was chosen to speak at GVSU because he is one of the prominent, young intellectual voices for the African American community.

“Hill has been consistently engaging young audiences to think more deeply about the American experience,” Ma said. “He speaks directly about the current issues of the day, such as racial discrimination and sexuality, and the challenges of high rates of incarceration for minorities. He has really dealt with some of these societal problems.”

Ma said if he were to describe Hill in two words, those words would be thoughtful and engaging.

As Hill is a professor of African American Studies at Morehouse College, he has acquired many opportunities to talk with young people about the issues emphasized in his speech.

Bobby Springer, associate director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, said Hill is making his mark on things happening around the country.

“What he has learned in his studies and his travels, he’s a very bright individual and a traveled man, not just around the country but abroad as well,” Springer said. “He has a feel for what’s happening around the world.”

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