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Upcoming Coates event creating buzz at Detroit Mercy

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March 30, 2017

Coates photos at book store.By Dave Pemberton


The issues of race and racial inequality will be brought to the forefront at University of Detroit Mercy when renowned author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates speaks at Calihan Hall on Tuesday, April 4.

Coates, considered one of the top and most original writers on race today, won the 2015 National Book Award for his book Between the World and Me, which is written in the form of a letter to his teenage son and addresses what it means to be black in America.

He’s a national correspondent for The Atlantic where he’s written thoughtful pieces like “The Case for Reparations” and “My President Was Black.”

Thousands are expected to attend Coates’ appearance at Calihan Hall, and the anticipation for the event has created a buzz among the Detroit Mercy student body.

“A lot of people are talking about it,” said Jhayla Mosley, a Detroit Mercy business major and event coordinator for Detroit Mercy’s Black Student Union. “I feel like it’s being promoted a lot. Everyone is seeing the flyers and talking about coming.

“I definitely think it’s a huge treat that he’s coming because he’s world renowned. I feel people should really take advantage of this opportunity. In the future, I feel like they’re going to regret if they don’t come. He gives a lot of insight. I think everyone should come.”

Students can get up to two free tickets with their student I.D. The event is free to Detroit Mercy faculty and staff.

Tickets are available to the general public for $10 and can purchased at udmercy.edu/coates or at the Calihan Hall box office.

Seating is general admission, and doors open at 5 p.m. for the 6:30 p.m. event.

Detroit Mercy Student Government Association President Dhruv Patel is excited to have someone of Coates’ significance on campus to talk about the issues of race. He hopes it sets in motion more action from the student body.

“I’m hoping he’ll bring excitement to the campus,” Patel said. “A person of his stature, his name and his accomplishments coming on to campus is a great thing.

“I’m hoping his talk energizes the student body enough that they keep moving on their own. That’s been a key thing, finding something to energize students so they keep on going. I hope whatever he says generates enough excitement that it continues on its own.”

Coates’ appearance already has the Detroit Mercy community discussing the issues of race. A roundtable discussion put on by the African American studies program to discuss the context of Coates’ work was highly attended by both faculty and students.

“It’s really important to talk about race,” said Detroit Mercy student Dohna Dudley, who attended the roundtable discussion. “Having someone of significance (like Coates) come, and it’s a black voice, that’s important. It’s important to hear an expert talk about race.”

Coates’ upcoming appearance has also motivated students and faculty to read Coates’ work if they weren’t already familiar with it. Detroit Mercy’s student newspaper the Varsity News featured four articles discussing Coates and his work in its latest issue.

Mosley said she was motivated to read Coates’ Between the World and Me once she heard he was coming and really enjoyed it.

“He puts it in a social and political perspective, rather than a literal sense,” Mosley said. “It gave me a broader sense of things like the government, police brutality, so that was the main thing. I know a lot of people are saying racism is a physical experience and that came from one of his interviews.”

Many Detroit Mercy professors are offering extra credit to students for attending the Coates lecture. One of them is Alex Zamalin, director of the African American Studies Program, who is hoping students will walk away from the Coates’ lecture understanding there are important voices speaking to the issues of race and racial inequality in America.

“Too often there’s the assumption conversations of race simply don’t matter or they’re not necessary,” Zamalin said. “I think the fact that we’re having a distinguished African American writer, who specifically talks about racial inequality, and his talk will be accessible and available to the community and the student body, is incredibly important because it will show these things matter. It’s a statement from the University that this is a conversation the University wants to have.”

Related story: Friendship with professor brings Coates to Detroit Mercy

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