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Ta-Nehisi Coates delivers the inaugural Olivia J. Hooker Distinguished Diversity Lecture

Ta-Nehisi Coates and Don Pope-Davis speak at the inaugural Olivia J. Hooker Distinguished Diversity Lecture on Wednesday. Credit: Momina Tashfeen | Lantern Reporter

Drawing students, alumni, parents, and fans from all over the state, Ta-Nehisi Coates delivered the inaugural Olivia J. Hooker Distinguished Diversity Lecture on Wednesday at Mershon Auditorium.

The Olivia J. Hooker Distinguished Diversity Lecture Series is named to memorialize the legacy of Olivia J. Hooker, a 1937 graduate of Ohio State University’s College of Education.

Opening the event was Don Pope-Davis, dean of the College of Education and Human Ecology, who shared a description the kind of life Olivia J. Hooker lead.

“Her legacy exemplifies what the college of education and ecology has to offer our community and the world,” said Pope-Davis before introducing Coates.

Coates, a distinguished writer and author, started his talk with a description of the kind of student he was when he was younger.

“I was not known as a particularly distinguished student, so the notion that I would be giving any sort of talks on, or be asked to appear before an August audience as you have here at Ohio State, is unthinkable,” Coates said. “While my parents loved me — and they had a great degree of faith — but I think they would laugh at this. This would have been hilarious to them.”

Coates has discussed the two realities he faced while in school in much of his writing. One reality being the belief that his parents and teachers held, that he was an intelligent and capable boy. The other reality being what his grades had to say about him; that he was lazy and sometimes not capable.

He went on to talk about his experience growing up with his other black friends. They were a group of 10, and in the seventh grade, eight of them decided they weren’t going to go to school anymore. Coates said part of this was due to school being a dangerous place.

“The person in the back of the stands will look at a situation and say we have a truancy problem,” Coates said. “As a young boy growing up in that neighborhood I would have told you we had a safety problem.”

Coates said that his situation at home kept him from following suit and kept him continuing to go to school.

“I was one of the only one of my friends who had two parents in the house, and I don’t mean to fetishize that,” Coates said. “When you’ve got two parents with a hand on a kid, that makes a bit of a difference. So, I went to school because I was scared as hell of my parents.”

Pope-Davis returned as a moderator after Coates spoke and asked him a series of questions ranging from how he felt about being praised, to further expounding on concepts present in his book.

Pope-Davis specifically asked Coates to elaborate on his quote “the fight for equality, is really the fight to be mediocre.” Coates said the quote is explained in the last two presidencies and that President Barack Obama couldn’t have gotten away with the things President Donald Trump does.

Coates told the audience filled with students that life after school is a different experience.

“Life is a little different from school. You get out into the world, and there’s no rules, there’s no multiple choice, it’s a different environment,” said Coates.

Correction at 3:25 p.m. on Feb. 26, 2019: Quote from Coates originally said “before such an honest audience.” It has been corrected to say “before an August audience.”

One comment

  1. Is there a transcript/video of the address?

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