By Tara Lerman '15
Ta-Nehisi Coates, a celebrated American journalist, will deliver the Student Government Association (SGA) keynote speech on Thursday, March 5 at 8p.m. in Gannett Auditorium. Coates is a national correspondent and blogger for The Atlantic, where he covers significant social and political issues such as poverty, drug abuse, and racial discrimination. In 2008, Coates published his memoir The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, a moving story about inner-city adolescence and the power of family. Coates served as the Martin Luther King visiting associate professor at MIT for the 2012-2013 academic year and held the position of Journalist-in-Residence at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism this past fall.
But before Coates was a nationally renowned author, educator, and journalist, he was just a student who loved to read and write. After high school, he matriculated at Howard University but later dropped out to pursue a career in journalism. He began working as an intern at the Washington City Paper under the mentorship of David Carr, the editor-in-chief at the time. Coates eventually went on to work for The Village Voice and TIME, and has contributed to The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, and O, The Oprah Magazine. Coates' recent articles include "King David," a piece commemorating David Carr and "The Broad, Inclusive Canvas of Comics," an investigation of the lack of diversity in Hollywood adaptations of comic book characters.
The SGA Speaker’s Bureau has worked hard to provide funding and logistical support for this event. “The piece that brought Mr. Coates to my attention was ‘The Good, Racist People,’ written after Forest Whitaker was accused of shoplifting in a deli near his NYC apartment in 2013, about the impact of well-meaning white people. He’s been on my radar since, and I always thought he’d be an incredible voice to hear on campus,” said Hope Spector, the elected Chair of Speaker’s Bureau (who is also an Op-Ed Editor for The Skidmore News).
Coates was awarded the Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism in 2012 and the 2014 George Polk Award in Commentary for his in-depth study of institutionalized racism in housing and development, "The Case for Reparations." Coates is also well respected for his investigative skills and innovative prose throughout the sphere of professional journalism. In an article featured in The New York Observer, Jordan Michael Smith writes, "Mr. Coates is the single best writer on the subject of race in the United States." Hendrik Hertzberg, political commentator for The New Yorker, calls Coates "one of the most elegant and sharp observers of race in America." And Rachel Maddow of MSNBC has admitted that she "doesn't know if, in U.S. commentary, there is a more beautiful writer than Ta-Nehisi Coates."
At the lecture, Coates will discuss how race is lived in the United States. This event is free of charge and open to the public.