Shaun Boothe raps about black icons for Black History Month

Story and photos by Maddie Lajewski

Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammed Ali, Oprah Winfrey and Bob Marley. All of these iconic black figures were included in Shaun Boothe’s Black History Month event.

Boothe was invited as a Black History Month guest speaker for Central Michigan University by Program Board on Thursday, Feb. 24. He is known for his Unauthorized Biography Series, which features raps on all of the influential black icons mentioned above.

“Due to covid things, Shaun could not be here in person,” Program Board lecture director Jenna Worthington said. “But he is live streamed. It was still going to be very interactive, he was going to interact with the audience and anyone was more than welcome to come. Then after the event there was a live Q&A, followed by a prize raffle for a lot of people.”

The event was held in French Auditorium in the Education and Human Services building on campus, which provided good space for students and two screens for Boothe’s livestream to be projected on to.

Throughout the raps, Boothe included uncommon facts about each black icon, some that students and faculty may not have known.

“I learned a lot about people that I knew, but their challenges going deeper and the obstacles that they’ve had to face,” Jen Nottingham, director of recreation programs and student activities said. “I really appreciated the one about Oprah, and what Oprah taught Shaun is really to kind of meditate and reflect and how to focus on within versus the external influences. How do you focus on the inside, the internal versus all of the external, the peer pressure we’re measuring ourselves against.”

Both Worthington and Nottingham emphasized the importance of inclusivity and representation when planning these kinds of events, especially during black history month.

“Personally for me as lecture director, one of my biggest goals has been creating inclusive programs that can relate to anyone,” Worthington said. “I thought he would be a very good person to bring to campus, very uplifting, very inspirational, and it would be someone that anyone could relate to because a lot of his focus is on hip-hop and history, so anyone could like him.”

Nottingham, a white woman, explained how she goes about programming to make sure CMU is being as inclusive as possible.

“I have to challenge myself knowing that I’m a majority,” Nottingham said. “Knowing where my skin color is, ask questions from students who don’t look like me, who have different backgrounds to kind of make sure we’re checking in.”

Worthington hopes students and faculty learned a lot at the event, but most importantly that black students and faculty feel represented.

“Personally the biggest goal I have for this event and what I want people walking away with is to feel represented,” Worthington said. “Having enough speakers on campus that can speak about black experience. Obviously I’m a little white girl, I don’t have the best experience, I don’t know the best way to do programming. I’ve talked to a lot of people, I personally do the most that I can. But for right now, for my experience if that’s bringing in an interesting speaker that can motivate and inspire students on campus, that’s kind of my main goal is for people to walk away and feel like ‘oh, program board does care about their students.’”