Speaker challenges students to lead


Activist and author Boyce Watkins challenged Grambling State University students to think for themselves, to respect women and to push aside eight damaging messages in some of today’s hiphop music.

During the Constitution Day event in the T.H. Harris Auditorium Tuesday, Sept. 18, Watkins said though he enjoys much of today’s music, it worried him that so much of the music encourages negative actions and perspectives. Some of the most popular music says Black men should drink, smoke, “have sex with everything walking,” carry a gun at all times, be proud if your ignorant, don’t save money when you get it, gain a badge of honor by going to prison and never respect women for any reason.

Watkins, is a distinguished scholar with the Barbara Jordan Institute for Policy Research, has appeared on several radio and television programs, including Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, National Public Radio and The Tom Joyner Morning Show. He was invited by Rory L. Bedford, director of the university service learning with assistance of federal Title III funds. Bedford contacted Watkins after seeing him on CNN one day, and he wanted someone old enough to provide context and young enough to connect with students without being too “preachy.”

The invigorating speaker provided a different approach by focusing on the African-American males. Watkins related by mentioning how he was faced with a challenge when he had a baby at 17-years-old. Although he really did not enjoy school, he knew that going to college would be his only outlet.

 Watkins said, “College is a place to learn how to think critically because if you are not able to think for yourself someone else will.”

Frank G. Pogue, president of Grambling State University said, “…he challenged students to be good citizens, [and] challenged our students to think for themselves. If they’re going to become leaders they have to first define leadership for themselves.”

The social commentator said the reality for some black males is that they are in communities where it is easier for a Black male to get a gun than to get a quality education. The topic of hiphop music provided a crowd provoking response from some audience members as they clapped when Watkins questioned rapper, 50 Cent, and why he chooses to “feed black America ignorance, but is feeding others the secret of [his] success.”

Ambra Brice, a junior marketing major from Gibsland, expressed that she hopes that after the speech, more students want to lead, than to follow. 

Brice says she hopes that students “take initiative at home and in their communities.”

Watkins closed by instructing the students to stand firm in their leadership. 

“There is a difference in failure and failing. Anything worth achieving is going to break you down to the point you want to cry…and you can either die and give up or keep going,” said Watkins.