Over 150 students filled Lee Hall on Tuesday evening where "Losing My Cool: Love, Literature and a Black Man’s Escape from the Crowd" author, Thomas Chatterton Williams visited Florida A&M University for a lecture and book signing event as a part of the FAMU Quality Enhancement Program. Williams, a Georgetown University and New York University alumnus, has written for the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The American Scholar, The Root and n+1.
The FAMU QEP focuses on improving freshman level student critical thinking skills and requires freshman students to read and analyze a book selected by a QEP committee as a part of the Freshman Summer Reading Program. Losing My Cool is the book selection for the 2014-2015 school year. Committee chairperson and FAMU alumnus, Michelle Roberts explained how the committee always seeks to select books that will interest and inspire students.
“Books that are introduced to the committee must meet specific requirements. We seek to select living authors so that they are able to come back and speak with the students. We always want books that are appealing to the student population,” said Roberts.
With a tall and slender build and a gentle demeanor, Williams openly shared his teenage identity issues as a black boy growing up in a white suburban neighborhood, struggling with the idea of “keeping it real."
Intrigued by the hip-hop culture and fighting to discover his own definition of blackness, Williams began to struggle both academically and emotionally until an uncomfortable experience with a college classmate drew him to long for and embrace his quest for knowledge. Williams encouraged students to embrace the college experience while also being exposed to new ideas and influences.
“So often we suppress ourselves in a cocoon of willful ignorance. If you cling too tightly to something you will miss opportunities to grow,” said Williams.
After the lecture, over 20 eager students flooded the aisles with questions for the author. Many of them, both male and female, expressed how the authors teenage struggles, penned in his memoir, resonated with their own.
Trey Walker, a first year criminal justice student from Jacksonville, Florida discussed his experience with hip hop culture.
“Hip-hop influences our thoughts, our actions and the way we spend our money, whether we know it or not. It plays a huge role in our communities, our upbringing and how we interact with others,” Walker said.
Williams urged students to understand that although society may try to unravel the definition of blackness, there are infinite layers of the black experience and culture that simply cannot be defined.