GVSU MLK Day keynote speaker talks race relations post-2016 Presidential Election

Jan 17, 2017

Kevin Powell, Activist, author & founder BKNation
Credit KUOW.org / Naomi Ishisaka

Activist, Author and creator of the website BK Nation, Kevin Powell, was keynote speaker at Grand Valley State University’s Martin Luther King Day celebration. WGVU asked Powell about the future of race relations in America following the contentious 2016 Presidential Election.

“As a media person like you are, I may a point of going to both conventions last summer. I wanted to cover them. I spent the whole week in Ohio, your home state, at the Republican one, then the Democratic one. It was disheartening to be honest with you the things that I witnessed on both sides. I feel that, yeah there are elements of white nationalism that is there. I feel that the people who were supporting Bobby Kennedy in 1968, which were a lot of white, working class brothers and sisters, and some middle class ones, still buy into the notion of racism and the blaming of the ‘other’ for their issues as opposed to looking at the bigger, societal problems that lead to these things because it’s easy to blame people. It would be like me as a heterosexual man just blaming women for all my problems. It’s brought out the worst of who we are. There’s a lot of fear out there that I’m hearing. When I spoke at Grand Valley State a woman came up to me, she just grabbed me by the hand, a white sister, she looked me in the eye and said, ‘Can you just give me some hope? Can you please give me some hope today?’ That hurts. That touches your heart. But people feel like that everywhere I go. They’re shocked. They’re dismayed. What I remind people, and I said this in my speech, is that we’ve got to go back in our history. Whoever we are, wherever our people come from in this world, someone in your family has struggled, has survived a lot of stuff, and they figured out a way to come together. We’ve got to do that again and I believe that we can. My whole life is testimony to that. I was raised by my mother. She has an 8th grade education. My grandfather could barely read and write. My grandmother couldn’t read and write at all. And so, we have to know that we can do better and we will do better.”