Black History Month Keynote Speaker Speaks on Afrocentrism and Hip-Hop

Photo Credit / Temple University Youtube Dr. Aaron X. Smith was nicknamed the "Rapping Professor" because he frequently teaches students through music.

Charlese Freeman

Student Life Editor 

Students, alumni, and faculty were met with a vibrant and rather unorthodox lecture style from black history keynote speaker, Dr. Aaron X. Smith on Wednesday, Feb. 6. in Abeloff auditorium.

Dr. Smith, also known as “The Rapping Professor”, shared his views and research on the black community and his knowledge of the truth.

Dr. Smith presented the crowd with his lyrical rapping abilities – posing his version of the rapper, Meek Mills’ “Dreams and Nightmares.”  Smith explains his decision to use hip-hop and rap as educational tools.

Quoting Dr. Maulana Karenga, founder of Kwanza:

“’If you can connect with people, you can teach them anything. If you can’t connect with people, you can’t teach them anything’,” Dr. Smith said. “Often times I come into high schools and they’re looking for specific energy, a specific frequency. ‘Do you believe in us? Can you relate to us? Are you here for use or to get paid?’ So, by the second bar, they have answers to all those questions.”

Dr. Smith explained that he respects his students enough to become like them.

His unique style is about teaching about artists, insisting that it would be academically foolish to ignore the obvious influence hip- hop music has on many students.

He pointed out unpleasant facts about historical figures (Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson) that are freely taught in classrooms today.   

“How can I be so academically arrogant, so methodology ignorant that I refuse to speak the common language of every student I encounter,” Dr. Smith said, “and demand of the 250 students I teach in that class that they all come over to my side and speak the language I speak to receive the message.”

According to Dr. Smith, failing to connect with students in a manner that is relatable contributes to the disconnect between students and their teachers.

Dr. Smith holds a B.A. in Asian Studies, an M.A. in Liberal Arts, an M.A. in African American Studies and a Ph.D. in African American Studies from Temple University where he also teaches in the Department of Africology and African American Studies.   

Although he is a very involved professor, he does not spend all his time on Temple’s campus.

Dr. Smith has had the pleasure of making guest appearances, hosting a radio show for several years and many other activities outside his career as a professor.

Ideas of race relations, race understanding, and accepting reality were ideas at the core of Smith’s Wednesday presentation.

He asked: “What kind of professor are you if you are not teaching about Tupac?” Dr. Smith highlights why Tupac and his works were and still are vital historical references.

Chronology is key, Dr. Smith said. Historical accuracy continues to be controversial and debated. The arrangement of events and times are essential to accuracy.

According to Dr. Smith, if you don’t recognize and appreciate that two-thirds of human history occurred in Africa before humans migrated to other parts of the world, then you do not appreciate or truly understand human history or intersectionality.   

“Miss me with that multiculturalism ally talk,” he said. “If you don’t want to even acknowledge the fact that we all come from one common root and shouldn’t be acting like this in the first place because the root is too black to acknowledge.”

Dr. Smith’s presentation spoke about the recognition that historical accuracy would help appease generations of racial tensions and identity crisis.

The lecture stresses the idea of history excluding parts the origin and foundation of humanity – the African roots.

In modern society, remnants of the African culture remain. Some of the most well-known monuments are inspired by African architecture. Dr. Smith criticized the educational system for teaching the history incorrectly and stated essential parts of history are being omitted.

Dr. Smith encourages those in power, specifically, educators to teach the truth. He admitted to empathizing with the logic of the feminist. Dr. Smith said people have clear thoughts about the inequality within gender, but ignore the issues of race. Those who fail to admit the truth are a part of the growing issues that plague society.

“Anybody who downplays the significance of the reality of the inequality that predicates most of my existence is my enemy by default,” he said. “You cannot be neutral when it comes to death, oppression, and marginalization.

Dr. Smith says he has fun as an educator, which was evident in his amusing voice fluctuation and inviting demeanor, dressed comfortably in his temple sweatshirt.

Dr. Smith urges students, especially those of African descent to understand that the foundation of America is built on an institutionalized lie. He notes this is why many lack any knowledge of their heritage and their identity. Dr. Smith teaches draws students to his classes where he can get them eager to learn the truth.

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