Six-time NBA champion, journalist and social justice activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spoke in Bramlage Coliseum on Tuesday evening. The event was free and open to the public, and it included an audience Q&A session.
Sheila Ellis-Glasper, owner and founder of the SEG Media Collective and Kansas State graduate, and Andrew Hammond, a Kansas-based journalist, moderated Abdul-Jabbar’s talk.
One of the first questions Abdul-Jabbar was asked was how students can promote change and action. His answer: communication.
“The fact that so many segments of our society don’t talk to each other,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “Everybody’s voice has got to be heard.
“We can talk to our neighbors,” Abdul-Jabbar continued. “We can find out who they are, and usually what you find out is they’re just like every other American. They want their family to have an opportunity for the American dream. That’s why we’re all here.”
When asked about athletes who participate in activism and NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Abdul-Jabbar said he “wasn’t surprised” by Kaepernick’s protest.
“All you have to do is watch the film of the killing of Tamir Rice in Cleveland, and you will understand what Colin was talking about,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “And I think the pushback against him was as severe as it was because he would not stop what he was doing. He would not leave the issue alone because it’s an important issue to him. And it’s a lot more important than his job was. … He had something important to say, and he said what he had to say. So I have a lot of respect for him.”
Abdul-Jabbar spoke about many different social issues, coming from his experience as a black man and a Muslim. Abdul-Jabbar said we have to critique instances of what he calls “wallpaper” racism, like stereotypes and prejudices.
“If you speak up, the people can’t hide behind your complacency,” Abdul-Jabbar said.
Abdul-Jabbar also offered advice to college students: “Be patient; you’ll figure it out.”
Brittany Harden, senior in American ethnic studies, said Abdul-Jabbar’s appearance at K-State is “extremely significant” because of the recent “issues at K-State that have to do with racism and anti-Muslim acts.”
Harden shared what she thought students should take away from Abdul-Jabbar’s event.
“I think they should take away that everybody needs to stand in their truth and be true to themselves and their future and work hard — no matter what your major or minor is … you need to work towards tolerance and equality in our nation,” Harden said.