Carson addresses students

Published 11:42 am Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Dr. A.D. Carson, assistant professor of Hip Hop and the Global South at the University of Virginia (U.Va.), spoke about the ways that his music, academics and experiences shaped his activism both at his graduate school in South Carolina and in Virginia.

Carson delivered the keynote speech during Longwood’s MLK Week, where students engaged in community service activities, forums and a trip to the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, the Valentine Museum and the Maggie Walker house, followed by a group contextualized-discussion stroll along Monument Avenue in Richmond.

Carson’s doctoral dissertation, “Owning My Masters: The Rhetorics Of Rhymes & Revolutions,” is a 34-track hip hop album that detailed his experience as an African-American man at his graduate school in Clemson University in the midst of taking action against instances of racial injustices, his love of language and rhythm and homages to Malcolm X, Amiri Baraka and Martin Luther King Jr.

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His dissertation sparked headlines and conversations within academic and popular culture.

During the keynote, Carson addressed the inspirations behind the tracks and performed a few of the songs.

Carson said shortly after accepting the position at U.Va. and moving to Charlottesville, he and a friend had visited a church to participate in a vigil at the university in response to a rally organized by a white supremacy organization.

He said the vigil organizer told him and his friend the church was full.

“We walked, actually, walked past the Thomas Jefferson statue and then up the rotunda, down the lawn to our car,” Carson said. “And just about seven minutes later, I got a notification that a live stream had started. When I turned on that notification, walking the reverse of the route that we walked to the car, are those people that you saw on television, chanting with their tiki torches.”

Following the incident, he performed his poem, “Good Morning America,” at a peace march the next day, the day of the violent incidents in Charlottesville.

“We are trapped in history and history is trapped in us,” Carson said, citing an idea presented by Author James Baldwin. “And the work continues.”

Carson encouraged students, in the midst of an uncertain and dangerous time, to find and use their voice.

“I don’t imagine that you are all musicians or poets, I hope that my music and my poetry are reflective of my being in the world, my participation in these moments,” Carson said. “It’s my sincere hope that you take what you’ve read here and shape it in the ways that you can and continue the movement.”