Fisk University Announces Commencement Speakers
3/19/2012 8:57:27 AM
Fisk University announces Speakers for its 138th Commencement, Monday, May 7, 2012, 10:00am on the campus grove.
(Novelist,Songwriter and Educator Alice Randall)(President and CEO of The Smiley Group, Inc. Tavis Smiley)
Alice Randall Biography
Alice Randall is the author of The Wind Done Gone, Pushkin and the Queen of Spades, Rebel Yell, and forthcoming Ada’s Rules. She was born in Detroit, MI and grew up in Washington, D.C. As a Harvard undergraduate majoring in English, she studied with Julia Child as well as Harry Levin, Alan Heimert, and Nathan Huggins.
After graduation, Randall headed south to Music City where she founded Midsummer Music with the idea she would create a new way to fund novel writing and a community of powerful storytellers. On her way to The Wind Done Gone she became the first black woman in history to write a number one country song; wrote a video of the year; worked on multiple Johnny Cash videos and wrote and produced the pilot for a primetime drama about ex-wives of country stars that aired on CBS. She has written with or published some of the greatest songwriters of the era including Steve Earle, Matraca Berg, Bobby Braddock, and Mark Sanders. Four novels later, the award winning songwriter has over twenty recorded songs to her credit and is a frequent contributor to Elle magazine. She is also Writer-in-Residence at Vanderbilt University. She teaches courses on Country Lyric in American Culture, Creative Writing, and Soul Food as text and in text.
Randall lives near Vanderbilt with her husband, a ninth generation Nashvillian who practices green law. Her daughter graduated from Harvard and is now teaching and writing in the Mississippi Delta. After twenty-one years Randall has come to the conclusion that motherhood is the most creative calling of all, and health disparity is the dominant civil rights issue of the first quarter of the 21st century.
My work is characterized by an interest in text and contexts where issues of race and identity and language and intimacy converge. I am particularly interested in depictions of the African-American experience of motherhood, reading and being southern. In my work I balance these concerns with the questions: Is there an African-American experience of motherhood? Of reading? Is there “southern-ness” that is not inherently African? Above and beyond ponderings of race, I am interested in defining, examining, and depicting, “the good mother.”
I write novels that comment on other novels, and on other readers. I write in my mother tongue, the black English I learned as a child, in an enclave of Detroit inhabited by refugees from Jim Crow Alabama. I write in a language I understand to be “the vanishing language of an illiterate people.” I am concerned with the questions and problems of discovering fact, discerning history, and making meaning when cultures that privilege written language collide with cultures that give primacy to oral language. I am deeply intrigued by the problems and possibilities that began to arise when southern rural blacks migrated to the industrial North, including the particular difficulties encountered by black Americans when they seek to return home.
My abiding interest in and appreciation of country music song lyric and southern foodways inform my understanding of the South and is informed by my understanding of the South. More and more my subject has become the black woman’s body.
Tavis Smiley Biography
From his celebrated conversations with world figures to his work to inspire the next generation of leaders, broadcaster, author, publisher, advocate, and philanthropist Tavis Smiley has emerged as an outstanding voice for change. Smiley is currently the host of the late-night television talk show Tavis Smiley on PBS as well as The Tavis Smiley Show and Smiley & West from Public Radio International (PRI).In addition to his radio and television work, Smiley has authored 16 books. His memoir, What I Know for Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America, became a New York Times best seller, and the book he edited, Covenant with Black America, became the first nonfiction book by a Black-owned publisher to reach #1 on The New York Times’ best-sellers list.
In his book FAIL UP: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure, Smiley steps from behind the curtain of success to recount 20 instances of perceived “failures” that were, in fact, “lessons” that shaped the principles and practices he employs today. Readers will find a kinship in Smiley’s humanness that inspires, informs, and reminds us of our inherent ability to achieve and grow in spite of life’s inevitable setbacks.In his latest title The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto, Smiley and his co-author Dr. Cornel West take on the “p” word — poverty. In this game-changing book, they challenge all Americans to re-examine their assumptions about poverty in America — what it really is and how to eradicate it.Smiley is the presenter and creative force behind America I AM: The African American Imprint. This unprecedented traveling museum exhibition, which debuted in January 2009, will tour the country for four years, celebrating the extraordinary impact of African American contributions to our nation and the world, as told through rare artifacts, memorabilia, and multimedia.
Smiley’s most gratifying accomplishments are rooted in his passion to inspire the next generation of leaders. The nonprofit Tavis Smiley Foundation was established to provide leadership training and development for youth. Since its inception, more than 6,000 young people have participated in the foundation’s Youth to Leaders training workshops and conferences.
His communications company, The Smiley Group, Inc., is dedicated to supporting human rights and related empowerment issues and serves as the holding company for various enterprises encompassing broadcast and print media, lectures, symposiums, and the Internet.Smiley’s achievements have earned him numerous awards and honorary doctorate degrees, including one from his alma mater, Indiana University. In 2009, Indiana University named the atrium of its School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) building “The Tavis Smiley Atrium.” Smiley is also the recipient of the prestigious Du Bois Medal from Harvard University and the 2009 Interdependence Day Prize from Demos in Istanbul, Turkey.