Former U.S. Congressman Kweisi Mfume discusses Obama’s America

Kweisi Mfume addressed his audience on Feb. 20. (Photo by Chantelle Simmons)

“To celebrate black history month is to celebrate the history of America. And why should non-blacks celebrate black history month? Because of the interconnectedness that make up this great, complex nation,” John O. Bello-Ogunu said.

On Feb. 20, as a part of the signature speaker series, the Office of Institutional Diversity welcomed former congressman Kweisi Mfume as a speaker. Mfume’s speech was centered around the late jazz poet Gill Scott Heron’s composition “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” in which he discussed the revolutions of the 1960s and whether America is on the verge of another social revolution or sputtering.

Mfume believes that family, meaning people bound and tied to one another by common need or condition, is shifting and a sense of “community is becoming unrecognizable,” he said.

He affirmed that America is becoming less of a community each year due to unbridled poverty,  second class citizenship, violent crime, hate speech and hate crimes.

“If we lose sense of that community that Dr. King spoke of from an old Birmingham jail, we will lose much of what has made America distinct among the nations of this world,” Mfume said.

He then went on to discuss the notable issues facing the current America. Socially, he argued that the issue of race and skin color still dominate too many aspects of American life at home and abroad.¬†Educationally, he attests that public schools are ill-equipped, overcrowded and they promote students based on age, size, and athletic ability. Drugs are easier to obtain than textbooks. In regards to the economy, Mfume believes that the “haves” have more and the “have nots” still have not at all.

Mfume went in-depth on the difference between the “haves” and the “have nots.” He argued that this difference among other differences between Americans, produces anger, frustration and fear.

“America at her best has treated these differences with a blend of common sense and compassion. America at her worst has treated these differences with the empty, even handedness of Marie Antoinette: let them eat cake, we can’t be bothered,” Mfume said.

According to Mfume, youth, race, orientation, and class make the way to the American mainstream almost out of reach.

“The issues that matter to this generation seem to be reduced to discussions on the ¬†discussions, proposals on the proposals, studies on the studies, and another plan B for the plan A that failed,” Mfume said. He also reminded students of the percentage of young men and women who are not in college, the military or trade school, but instead are fighting to survive in the streets of the city in which they live and they have no control of their destiny.

Lastly, Mfume argued that in a society where there is small revision, rampid apathy and celebrated mediocrity, there is a need for men and women who will fight for what is right.

“To bring about the next revolution, there must be moral outrage and indignation about the things that are still wrong and that we [Americans] have a problem with,” Mfume said.

Mfume believes the next social revolution will not be televised. Instead, it will be live.

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