Ibram X. Kendi
Oct. 19 at 6 p.m.
Madam Walker Theater
As a youth, Ibram X. Kendi, wanted nothing more than to go out for the NBA and make it up to the big leagues. And while his hoop dreams were dashed when he failed to make the JV basketball team in high school, he did go on to score big with another NBA — the National Book Award, wining for Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. At age 34, he is the youngest winner ever for non-fiction.
But it wasn’t straight from the bench to books, albeit fairly close. Aspiring to a career in sports journalism, Kendi freelanced for several sports sections while studying at Florida A&M University; however, he was eventually drawn to racial justice work and picked up a second major in African American studies.
Upon graduation, Kendi worked in journalism, but grew disillusioned with media and left to pursue his doctoral degree in African American studies at Temple University. As he began teaching, publishing, and receiving awards and fellowships, his work on the history of racism began to spread.
“People would ask me, in a very concrete way, how to be antiracist,” Kendi said in an interview. “Eventually I realized that it was a question that I could answer. It was a question that I should answer.”
The question prompted Kendi to write How to be Antiracist — a veritable slam dunk in the academic and diversity world alike. And following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, Kendi’s book became a mainstay in the resulting deluge of antiracist reading groups, including the one IUPUI hosted last year as part of the White Racial Literacy Project.
Kendi currently serves as Andrew W. Mellon endowed professor in the humanities, which is pretty much the MVP of professorships, and as the inaugural director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. How’s that for the big leagues?