N.C. Central University’s McDougald-McLendon Arena was filled with eager students, staff, and members of the public on March 30 as hip-hop artist, actor and producer Clifford “T.I.” Harris Jr. hit the stage for a memorable Rock the Lyceum lecture.
According to an NCCU community newsletter, the event was a “special Eagle Preview edition” of the Rock the Lyceum Lecture Series after its previous cancellation last semester. Harris’s appearance was originally scheduled for Nov. 14, 2018, but the performer was unable to appear due to scheduling conflicts.
After prospective students experienced just a snippet of what NCCU has to offer them in the future, they (along with current students) had the opportunity to hear words of wisdom from the “ATL” film star.
Prior to T.I. appearing on stage, four NCCU students recited original poems with topics ranging from police brutality to colorism to society’s treatment of African-American women.
Junior Telisia Smith, who sometimes goes by “Blu the Poet,” was one of the student performers, reciting her piece “Still No Justice.”
“My time on stage was nerve-wracking,” Smith said after her performance. “I had to remember that God gave me a gift and that people needed to hear my voice.”
Following the students’ poetic stylings came a musical performance from Carolina-based rapper Demi Day. Day performed her single “Back to the Root,” which is available to listen to or purchase on all major music-streaming outlets.
After the opening acts, T.I. walked onto the stage along with psychology senior Jessica Watson, who served as special guest interviewer for the evening.
During the interview, Watson asked Harris a variety of questions, including some related to his experience in the music industry, and asked about words of wisdom for students.
“I think the most important message is [that] in life, most of the time, we are not in control of the things that happen to us,” Harris explained. “The only thing we can control is how we respond to it.”
Harris also shared his perspective on how HBCU students can be involved in his future projects.
“I surround myself with the most creative people with the best ideas whether or not they’re from HBCUs,” Harris said. “I don’t just target any specific area, or region, or category, because I want to have all of the access to the best ideas and greatest talent.”
Harris also gave his opinion on the things that he would change in today’s music industry.
“If there was one thing that I could change about the industry, it would be the balance of power to the artists versus the distributors,” he explained. “If the balance of power was placed back in the favor of the artist, I feel like the whole ecosystem would be more self-sustainable.”
As a whole, the audience was pleased with the lecture, frequently cheering and applauding at answers. Telisia Smith described her overall experience at the lecture as being “informative and exciting.”
“I would describe the event as a whole as a great experience,” Smith said. “The wisdom T.I. poured into the audience and his charisma makes him very approachable.”
The lecture not only showed how much NCCU’s Rock the Lyceum lecture series has evolved, but the audience was able to obtain valuable encouragement from T.I. himself.
“Focus your attention, your efforts, and your energy on doing everything possible to get you closer to that dream, and don’t let nobody else tell you what you can and cannot do,” Harris emphasized near the end of his talk. “Be unwavering, unapologetic, but strategic at the same time.”
Video by Siegee Dowah, courtesy of Eagle Access.