As part of KINGS Org.’s series of Higher Learning Seminars, founder of the I Will Not Die Young (IWNDY) campaign and Flood the ‘Hood with Dreams Muhibb Dyer spoke in Spotts World Culture Building on Wednesday, April 19.
President of KINGS Org. Adam Leeper introduced Dyer with a sincere monologue about Dyer’s upbringing and early life in the most incarcerated zip code in the United States: Milwaukee, Wis., where he started IWNDY and Flood the ‘Hood. According to the official website, the mission of IWNDY is “to help millions of at-risk youth world-wide secure their God-given birthright of greatness instead of succumbing to the belief that they are worthless human trash with a meaningless existence.”
Leeper said Dyer spent the majority of that Wednesday with the executive board of KINGS Org., answering questions and providing wisdom to the young men.
“He really inspired me in that short amount of time,” Leeper said to the audience.
When Leeper finished his introduction, Dyer began his theatrical presentation, which featured poetry, costume changes and a PowerPoint slideshow with pictures and videos. He opened with a video of woman speaking about her son and his friends who were killed during a drive-by shooting and continued with a photo slideshow of others who had died in similar ways.
The final photo in this first slideshow was a photograph of Dyer’s godson, a picture that was also on t-shirts Dyer had made in his memory. He told the audience about the funeral, and stories from when they were young.
“Sometimes, in the quiet of the night, I can still hear him speak,” Dyer said. “He says, ‘Goddaddy, don’t let them forget about me.’ I promise you, son, that I won’t.”
Dyer then began another slideshow of contrasting pictures, comparing photos of famous modern rap artists to artistic depictions of Egyptian pharaohs and queens, and photos of young men “showing their butts off to the world” were contrasted with photos of young men like Benjamin Banneker “showing their minds off to the world.”
“You see, history is his story while my story, the story of black people, the story of our greatness, is a mystery,” Dyer said. “But I will keep telling it because there is the voice of a king inside me that keeps moving and pushing and struggling.”
Dyer’s first costume change came after a video of a dance representing the relationship between a king and his queen; Dyer changed from a IWNDY t-shirt into a traditional African king’s robe and headwear reminiscent of a kufi cap to represent the voice of the king inside of him.
Dyer continued with more poetry, diving into a short history, starting with the slavery of African Americans through the 19th and 20th centuries, when the term ‘picnic’ had an entirely different meaning having to do with lynching. This segment ended with another costume change: the robe was gone, and Dyer stepped halfway into an orange jumpsuit worn by prisoners.
The next poem was about a young boy living in a bad neighborhood who had “one foot in school and one in the street,” and eventually put both feet in, which Dyer physically represented by putting on the suit fully.
“I ain’t gonna cry no more,” Dyer said. “Crying tears is for punks; I ain’t no punk, I’m a thug. I’m a real thug.”
Another video and slideshow followed, ending with a photograph of former U.S. President Barack Obama. Dyer strode from the back of the room, having changed his costume again, this time into a well-fitted suit.
“We are the ones we have always been waiting for,” Dyer said.
Dyer finished his presentation discussing college degrees and their importance, then he took questions from the audience. Through his answers to those questions, Dyer expressed how he had written poetry since he was young, and in realizing that he wanted to inspire people, he was able to continue writing and spread his message at the same time.
For more information about the I Will Not Die Young campaign and Flood the ‘Hood with Dreams, visit www.iwillnotdieyoungcampaign.com.