“Nobody” author discusses vulnerability in keynote address

Images courtesy of Danny Bush

By Kelly Haberstroh

Dr. Marc Lamont Hill gave an impassioned address to St. Bonaventure University students on the importance of acknowledging social issues as the first step to solving them.Hill 2.jpg

On Sept. 26, Dr. Joseph Zimmer, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, introduced Hill by referring to him as one of the leading intellectual voices in the country, who also worked on campaigns to end the death penalty.

His primary value is the poor and marginalized in our society. These ideas reflect what he discusses in his bestselling novel, “Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, From Ferguson to Flint,” required for the freshman class, and his speech.

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Hill started by saying when he wrote his book, he didn’t fully understand or appreciate what he was getting himself into. He didn’t know the same voices and stories would resonate with people kneeling and presidents tweeting. “I just wanted to tell a story,” he said.

He leads into where his story began, by telling the account of Mike Brown. He started talking in a soft, slow tone until he became more passionate as he emphasized how Brown laid on the ground dead for four and a half hours and talked faster as he described how no one called for medical treatment for two hours.

“Like he didn’t belong to nobody,” Hill repeated in a quiet voice. “Mike Brown wasn’t nobody. He wasn’t just a victim.”

This message remained throughout his talk, as he references this notion of “nobodiness,” who he considered to be rejected and despised by society.

“When did we decide only certain lives are worth protecting?” Hill asked, following up by saying everybody’s life is worth protecting.

Hill asked, “What good is freedom without equality or without justice?” and continued by saying that some of us are rendered indisposable and stealing from a store doesn’t mean you should die.

He segued into repeating Eric Gardner’s final words of “I can’t breathe,” and compared his death to being put down by a dog.

“None of us are free until all of us are free,” Hill said.

Chris Brown, director of First Year Experience, said the All Bonaventure Reads selection committee brought up Nobody as a possibility last year, so they received a sample of the book on Kindle and then a copy of the full book from the publisher.

The committee had an almost unanimous consensus, which is rare, because they felt Nobody represented the new theme for SBU101, which emphasizes the role of community in our lives and our experience at St. Bonaventure.

“This talk is important and timely, especially for the course, because Lamont’s book explores the history of the headlines,” Brown said.

At the very least, Brown hopes students will start discussions with each other after this address and how as a society, “we want to be a healthy community.”

“I think this talk is important to maintain open-mindedness and to be fully educated before making judgments,” Leah McCluskey, freshman journalism and mass communications major, said.

“When one person creates an argument, some injustices can see actual change,” she said.

 

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