by Ilyssa Weiner
Oswego, NY- Writer and Humanitarian Kevin Powell spoke at SUNY Oswego’s Sheldon Hall Ballroom on Feb. 16 as part of the school’s “I Am Oz” Diversity Speaker Series.
Powell stressed the importance of education and history to his audience. His mother, who only had an eighth grade education, pushed him to do well in school.
“She kept saying to me when I was a child ‘You’re going to go to college. You’re going to go to college. You’re going to go to college,” Powell said.
Powell went to Rutgers University. However, his love for reading and writing came at an early age when his mother took him to the library.
“She allowed me to roam around the library,” he said. “That’s how I ended up falling in love with books and eventually decided as a young person I wanted to be a writer.”
After his time at Rutgers, Powell joined the cast of the very first season of MTV’s The Real World. At the time of taping, he and the rest of the cast had no idea how successful the show was going to be. Because of the show’s success, Powell was able to dig deeper into the world of pop culture.
“I love pop culture,” he said. “I think it’s a useful tool for reaching people and talking about serious issues.”
In 2011, Powell co-founded Building Knowledge (BK) Nation, a progressive non-profit organization focused on civil and human rights. The organization has worked on several racial profiling cases, including the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown cases, and was also a deep supporter for the recent Women’s March.
Despite being the co-founder of the organization, Powell doesn’t believe in titles beyond that.
“We’re all equals and all our voices matter in the organization and that’s how we operate,” he said.
Powell’s most recent book, The Education of Kevin Powell: A Boy’s Journey Into Manhood, is available on Amazon.
Powell autographed copies of his latest book after his speech was over.