Hip-hop artist Talib Kweli was featured as the concluding speaker for a Stanford University course and public lecture series on “Race, Policing and Mass Incarceration.” This May 13 event was mediated by Stanford’s Institute for Diversity in the Arts Executive Director Jeff Chang.
The lecture series began six weeks ago with prominent political activist Angela Davis, who asked those present to imagine a world without prisons. As the final lecture, Kweli’s discussion focused on the obligation of artists in relation to social justice movements. Kweli believes that artists become champions of these movements when activists make it convenient for them. According to Kweli, one effective way to engage artists is to create content easily shareable on social media networks such as Twitter. At the same time, Kweli stressed the necessity of actions that move beyond social media.
The course comes at a time when the high-profile deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Freddie Gray have placed the issues of race and policing on the national stage, as well as coinciding with an increase of activism on campus and around the country. The course is part of an effort to continue engagement with issues of racial discrimination and the treatment of marginalized communities by law enforcement officers in the United States.