From the Desk of the National President


October 18, 2019

Fellow Talladegans and friends,

Shortly after my graduation from Talladega College I invited friends over to socialize and listen to the eponymous album “The Last Poets.” If you are not familiar with the recording it was the protest album of the time, delivered in language that was a precursor of current rap.  In the middle of a song “(N-word) are Afraid of Revolution” my aunt came in and unplugged the stereo.  She said that she never felt the need to censure what I read or listened to, that she always hoped that my choices would reflect the values and morals of our home. This music, she said, does not reflect our values and you disrespect me and your friends by playing it here.  You owe your friends, your uncle and me an apology.

I have received several emails asking me about the campus appearance of the rap artist David Banner.  I can categorize the responses as falling into two camps: 1) The administration’s apology was an “Uncle Tom” moment, similar to the Trump inauguration parade decision; or 2) The administration should never have invited a rapper to deliver an honors convocation address. In preparations for this letter I talked to Talladegans who attended the honors convocation to get firsthand input about the content, the method of delivery, and reactions from the audience.  Words that were common in the interviews were “embarrassing, inappropriate for the audience, insulting, profane, abusive, and degrading.”  In conversations with the administration I was told that this speaker selection was an effort to bring in someone that students would identify with, and that his music was familiar to the students.  The administration felt ambushed and betrayed, stating that the speaker veered away from agreed upon topics.

My response puts me into the second camp—that a rapper was the wrong person to deliver an honors convocation address.  The traditionalist in me would rather have seen an accomplished professional, preferably a Talladegan, given that role.   Echoing my aunt’s words, this did not reflect our values and we were disrespected by having it in our house. 

But there is one other point that I find disappointing.  In my opinion we should never have known the identity of the individual(s) who recommended bringing in this speaker.  The issued apology should have been a “the buck stops here” letter.  Problems with the vetting process are internal, personnel matters, to be handled by Dr. Hawkins and his staff.

During the late 70s or early 80s the graduating class from the University of Michigan Medical school proposed having Robert Young, star of the popular television series Marcus Welby, MD, as their commencement speaker.  Students “identified” with the character.   The administration denied that request.  Sometimes the adult in the room must make the hard decision to pull the plug.

Russell Holloway, 70


Note:   It was not my intention to devote an entire update to this issue, but, as I was informed while attending the Stars of Magnitude Luncheon in Atlanta, I tend to be a little longwinded. I will send out a general release later this month. In the meantime, please remember that Founders Weekend is November 14th – 16th.  Also, don’t forget to contribute to the Legacy Fund Campaign.



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