Luke W. Morrow
A Santa Rosa Junior College Umoja coordinator captured the attention of a packed house while he passionately engaged them during a Black History Month presentation where he spoke about the rebellious and popular musical form “hip-hop,” Feb. 25 at the Bertolini Student Center.
Just shy of 100 students, staff and faculty attended the two-hour long program, “It Was All a Dream: Hip-hop and Black Lives,” presented by Byron Reaves, coordinator for SRJC’s student success program. In his rousing presentation Reaves shared the history of black people in America from slavery to the 21st century and how hip-hop is a vehicle for black people to change the status quo and pursue their “dream deferred.”
“We don’t want a dream deferred given to us. America owes black people a financial check,” Reaves said about the economic share black artists receive from their work and how far it is from what they deserve. He added that record labels, producers and others in the music world who are not black definitely benefit where the dollar is concerned.
Many folks consider the current wave of hip-hop the “vehicle of the 21st century black voice,” Reaves said. “America owes us black folks reparations going all the way back to slavery.”
He shared a simple message, quoting in part James Baldwin, a distinguished and renowned black author.
“What is the definition of the American dream?” Reaves asked the audience.
“Something that you aspire to occur,” “Makin’ it,” “A desire” and “The one thing you want more than anything else in the world,” were some of the answers the audience shouted back.
“Yes! Hell yeah,” Reaves said. “I don’t want what you’ve got. We want our dreams in FULL, not deferred!”
Reaves was fiery and animated when he called the American justice system “anti-black” in front of the racially diverse crowd that was large enough to ensure there was standing-room.
Tyler-Avery Lewis, 2018 Miss Sonoma County and head of the SRJC Black Student Union, was one of the notable attendees of the event.
The audience occasionally showed their support by cheering Reaves on saying “right on,” “you got it” and “say it brother,” along with other affirmations.
Reaves was born in New Haven, Conn. but shared hip-hop from Black artists across the U.S., because he believes all hip-hop provides the same outlet for Black people regardless of the style. He played Black rap and hip-hop artists throughout his presentation, including greats such as: The Notorious B.I.G., Dr. Dre, P. Diddy, Lauryn Hill, Nicki Minaj, Sam Cooke, Kanye West and Jay-Z.
“I thought it was awesome. It gave a glimpse and insight towards my community, the Black community,” said Staja Edwardsone, a 21-year-old SRJC student and sociology major. “No matter what people think about hip-hop, rap, we have a story to tell, and it’s different from what is portrayed in the media,” she said.
“This is very timely,” he said, “we are very much misunderstood in this institution as Black folk – and I guess people want us to be a particular way, which is not really our reality,” said SRJC George Sellu, an agriculture professor who has been with the school since 2013.
Reaves shared passionately that hip-hop is Black America’s voice in a society where they don’t always feel heard.
“Hip-hop gave us a vehicle to do this – it gave us the vehicle to say f*ck the status quo. I’m going to be as rude and as ignorant as you see, but I’m gonna go get my dream deferred and if I can’t I’m gonna tell you about it,” Reaves said.