Ellison Lecture speaker shares life’s lessons


TUSKEGEE, Ala. (April 1, 2014) -- The 19th Annual Ralph Ellison Lecture was held on Monday at 3p.m. in the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center at Tuskegee University auditorium. This event is one of four in the 2014 Tuskegee University’s Lyceum Series, which also includes the William L. Dawson Lecture and Concert, which will be held Saturday. The speaker for the Ellison Leture was Haki R. Madhubuti, a leading figure of the black arts movement and a central figure in the development of a strong African American literary tradition. 

“We have to celebrate our own culture,” Madhubuti said. 

The title of this year’s lecture was “Words Matter: What it means to be Black and literate in the 21st Century and the Importance of Art in the Maturation of All People”. A successful writer who has published 31 books of poetry and nonfiction, Madhubuti expressed to the audience some of what he had been through in his 72 years of life. 

Born to a young single mother, Madhubuti, experienced instability and hardship as a youth. At 16, he lost his mother and he joined the U.S. Army at 18. Although he was not always in the best surroundings, Madhubuti constantly read to better himself. Although he may have let his body succumb to worldly pressures, his mind was always free. 

“Don’t ever let anybody tell you what you can’t do,” Mahabuti told the audience. “One thing nobody can take from you is knowledge.”

In an emotionally revealing lecture, Madhubuti shared his losses with the audience, but also his wins. Madhubuti said the works of black authors heavily influenced him. He read books like “Black Boy” and was inspired by people like Malcolm X and Gwendolyn Brooks. After leaving the Army, he went on to Chicago and directed his life onto a new path. Although he may have had a rough early life, he was able to positively use the tools he had acquired and wrote books, married, had children, and even started his own publishing company, Third World Press. 

He ended his speech by sharing the “12 secrets of life” and some of his more personal works with the audience. After the event was over, there was also a book signing as well as an opportunity to talk with Madhubuti. 

Audience at lecture.

Speaker meeting with audience.

Story by Karlette Sullivan, Tuskegee University Office of Communications, Public Relations, and Marketing

Photos by David Nixon, Tuskegee University Office of Communications, Public Relations, and Marketing

© 2014 Tuskegee University

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