“I don’t plan on saying anything important or profound,” Lupe Fiasco said as everyone in Galvin Hall held their breath. “I’m not here to agree with you or be agreed with.”
There are a variety of privileges that come with attending a prestigious university such as Northwestern. Being an educational powerhouse and ranking among the top 20 universities in the country, Northwestern is a hub for interaction between well-known thinkers and artists, and eager students.
Eager, as well as critical students, which explained Fiasco’s disclaimer at the beginning of his talk.
Regardless, Galvin Hall was filled with a combination of Northwestern students, Chicago residents, staff and teachers on that Thursday in early November.
“Born a Muslim, not raised Muslim,” Fiasco said.
The opportunity to hear an artist not perform, but speak about his religious ideology was too good to pass up.
This wasn’t the first time the university hosted such an influential speaker on campus. In fact, around this time last year, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar came to speak about his experience as a black, Muslim convert in the NBA. Spring of 2016 was graced with the presence of Linda Sarsour, the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York and a “champion of change,” according to the Obama administration.
Besides the fact that these powerful and influential people are so easily and readily accessible to the Northwestern community, one of the most startlingly impressive parts about hosting these speakers is they are brought in by students.
In particular, the ones listed above were brought in by the Muslim-cultural Students Association (McSA). Because of the sheer size of other organizations on campus such as A&O Productions and The Dolphin Show, oftentimes the vast majority of people are unaware of which organization hosts speakers, especially if they’re small in number.
“I didn’t know who hosted him,” said Noelle McGee, a sophomore in the School of Social Policy and Education. “I actually didn’t hear much about the event until the day of, but it sounded really cool.”
There are nine members in the McSA, a modest number compared to that of larger organizations on campus that have different sectors dedicated to specific tasks. Though the cultural group brings extremely influential people to campus and often have an enormous turnout that reaches way beyond Northwestern’s community, people are frequently unaware of what the organization does.
“I didn’t know what McSA was until the event,” said Kahlil Ellis, a first-year journalism student. “I knew that they were hosting him only because I’m in Medill, but I wasn’t aware of who the organization was before.”
Their predicament is not too uncommon for smaller organizations of marginalized communities on campus.
In Lutkin Hall, no more than 20 people gathered to hear American hip-hop MC Kool Moe Dee and filmmaker James Spooner speak on the intersectionality of music in the black community. The event was hosted by For Members Only (FMO), the university’s black student alliance group.
Although the turnout for the FMO event was significantly lower than that of McSA, the validity of the accomplishments and prestige of speakers shouldn’t be overlooked. FMO is a small community of only six members, but their speakers touch upon many points of interests for a variety of Northwestern community members.
When students are unaware of which student group brings a speaker to campus, the group loses the chance to be part of a community. Students can no longer engage in dialogue with the student group and with the members. As these smaller organizations, such as McSA, continue to bring amazing speakers to campus, exploration of student groups needs to be further cultivated by Northwestern staff beyond the initial first-year days.