David Banner Speaks to University of Delaware
Hit record producer David Banner gave a talk Feb 26th entitled "Cope, Conform or Resist: A Lecture on the Double Consciousness of Young African-Americans" at the University of Delaware to a packed crowd in the Clayton Hall Auditorium.
The program was sponsored by Black American Studies and the Department of English. The services were opened by Yassar Payne, assistant professor of Black American Studies.
PAR team member, Carl Suddler, introduced Banner and cautioned the audience that judging Banner based on what has been heard in the media does not create an complete picture of the man.
"We tend to take pieces to develop our own understanding of something rather than examining the whole picture," Suddler said. "I say all of that to say this: just because you've heard one or two lyrics and watched the YouTube clip, doesn't mean you understand the man speaking here tonight."
The Mississippi native Banner, born Levell Crump, discussed his experiences growing up in America and the racism he still faces despite being a multimillionaire rapper and actor.
An animated Banner darted throughout the auditorium addressing the students in attendance as he discussed national race relations, the U.S. involvement in the slave trade, and the importance of education.
"Knowledge is true power," he said. "You can go to school, but until your consciousness is raised, you truly don't have an education."
Though Banner prepared notes for his talk he clearly improvised much of his speech. Part way through the lecture this humble reporter was escorted to the stage by Banner and invited to demonstrate a James Brown step. After my dazzling display of footwork Banner declared that this is "how white people dance." The crowd was delighted.
Banner talked about his philanthropy and last year's testimony before congress in a hearing about African American Media Stereotypes during which he stated, "I can admit there are some problems in Hip-Hop but it is only a reflection of what's taking place in our society. Hip-Hop is sick because America is sick."
Local topics were also touched upon, such as the reported noose sighting on the University of Delaware campus last November.
The school has been criticized in the past about treatment of minorities, though UD enjoyed enrollment of its most diverse freshman class ever last year.
In 2006, members of the Phi Sigma Pi honor fraternity were scandalized for attending a Cinco de Mayo party dressed at landscapers with racial slurs written on their costumes.
The University of Delaware attempted to address race issues last year with a highly controversial Resident Life program which was stopped after a firestorm of criticism.
Following the lecture the floor was opened to the audience who asked several pointed questions. Local rapper Fred Knuxx was in attendence, "They were asking some off the wall questions," he said. When a member of the audience suggested that Banner disliked white people, Knuxx recalls Banner's reply with a chuckle, "He hugged this white girl."
Banner stated that his appearance at UD was hotly debated by the faculty before the invitation was finally extended.
Steven Bernhardt, UD English Department Chair, posted his thoughts after the lecture on the UDReview website, “He certainly brought good energy to the room, and he was entertaining, because it is fun to watch someone be outrageous and animated and provocative.” Bernhardt continued, “But I wasn't sure it all added up. He made a lot of claims and offered a very loose version of Black history, and he kept saying he was going to give us the truth. But because it was all just top of his head, you would have to trust him or want to believe him. In academic environments, we usually try to do better than that--we make sure our listeners know where are facts come from, why they can be trusted, and we carefully order our arguments. We don't trust someone just because they are a public figure.”
Despite the controversy surrounding his lectures, Banner spoke recently at other universities in Arkansas and North Carolina to mixed receptions. He continues to tour and speak with the youth in America.