Donovan Livingston. Harvard Graduate. It has a certain ring to it, and one would expect things from such a name and title; and I believe that Mr Livingston stood up to the hype that was expected of him. The SBE lecture hall was an enthusiastic and talkative crowd, perhaps because of what was expected but also perhaps of what was unknown. The African American culture is one far removed from the heart of Europe and justly so. We all know what happens in the United States but it is seldom that we come face to face with the vibrant and expressive peoples borne from such a unique situation. Mr Livingston did not disappoint.
An energetic man and a clearly a born performer, he dominated the stage. From his personality to a clearly hip hop inspired vernacular, he was attention grabbing. When the topic of empowering his people came up, one could immediately sense the passion and pride he conveys in his work. From his slam poetry to his dynamic speech, Livingstone embodies the swag of an African American while adding in what is quite clearly a thorough Ivy League education.
The topic of black empowerment through tertiary education in America has long been a contentious one, although often overlooked in Europe because of the relative lack of racial diversity on the continent. I did notice, from talking with a few students, that the habit of looking at racially-divided statistics in terms of education is a slightly unfamiliar notion to a fair few Europeans and this is understandable, considering the demographics of Latinos/Asians/Pacific Islanders/African American in a European context are by far outweighed by the Caucasian population. And this is what Livingstone addressed in the lecture organised by Ambassador Lecture Series.
In the United States, the proportion of minorities who graduate with a tertiary education compared to that of white Americans is massively skewed in one direction. Hardly surprising considering their history. And what Livingston highlighted is the direct correlation between higher education and a higher income. Of course, the relationship between the two is going to be scrutinised because of the obvious benefits of obtaining such a qualification. The main issue to keep in mind,however, is the disparity in quality of life in the US. In terms of median household income, the African American population is on the wrong end of the scale. How does one tip the scales to even out the situation? Mr Livingston proposes tertiary education.
His speech and his poetry that described in no uncertain detail the African American life, clearly demonstrated how life is for the average African American today. It was a picture painted brightly and colourfully, he is clearly a proud man (and with good reason), but he did not spare the more painful side of life. And so he demonstrated his passion for helping his community as an educator who puts much time and effort into helping the youth apply to enter college and, once there, help them through the stressful ordeal of being a student. A point I think we could all appreciate.
From my perspective, having obtained a Bachelor’s in North Carolina myself, I can appreciate the effect that Mr Livingston has on his community. His is a success story, having studied at Michael Jordan’s alma mater, moving from there to an Ivy League graduate program (Harvard no less) and then turning into a PHD candidate back in his home state. Not a story many from the African American community can tell for themselves. The effect that he has in his community, and even outside when he highlights the often underthought problem, is undoubtedly influential. There is no doubt that he has a positive upliftment effect with the African American community, someone that is simultaneously relatable as well as a role model, and we from the Diplomat wish him all the best luck in the future with his efforts. Follow him on @dlive87 on Instagram to see his story and @thediplomatunsa to see ours.