As students gathered in the University of Pennsylvania’s Irvine Auditorium, they were encouraged to change the world by cast members of The People Speak.
On November 17, Lupe Fiasco and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels of Run DMC, along with executive producer Chris Moore came to the University of Pennsylvania as part of The People Speak Tour. The national college tour for the upcoming documentary, The People Speak, is based off Howard Zinn’s book, A People’s History of the United States.
Lupe Fiasco and Darryl McDaniels set the tone for the evening with dramatic readings from the film. Fiasco performed a piece by Muhammad Ali titled “Comments on the Vietnam War,” Ali’s defense against the 1966 Vietnam draft. McDaniels recitation of Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” stirred an enthusiastic response from the audience.
Film excerpts shown during the event reflected the idea of social change. The People Speak also includes a dramatic reading of Fredrick Douglass’ “West India Emancipation” speech by Don Cheadle.
“Power will never give up power without struggle,” said Cheadle from Douglass’ speech.
Film excerpts also included McDaniels’ recitation of David Walker’s Appeal, Fiasco’s reading of Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party’s “Petition Against the War in Vietnam” and a performance of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” by John Legend.
During the panel discussion, moderated by UPenn sociology professor Tufuku Zubrei, Fiasco and McDaniels talked about how the film relates to their music and hip hop.
“It’s an extension of my music and what I’m always trying to do which is upset the system, “said Fiasco.
Along with his performances in the film, Lupe Fiasco contributed to the film’s soundtrack with his song “American Terrorist” from his second album The Cool. For McDaniels, being a part of The People Speak was a way “to feel the emotion of people in history.” He also talked about how Run DMC’s music related to the documentary.
“We talked about what people where going through and The People Speak does the same thing,” he explained.
Executive producer Chris Moore also discussed the significance of The People Speak.
“We wanted people to get clear view of history,” stated Moore. Moore hopes that the documentary can be a teaching tool for teachers to show students a different view of history.
Throughout the Q&A, the panel constantly emphasized the students’ power to make history.
“You guys have the capacity to change the world,” said McDaniels, who then declared his allegiance to neither the Democratic Party nor the Republican Party, but the “Hip Hop” Party. The night ended with panelists last words about their experience with the film.
Lupe Fiasco’s final statement summed up his relationship with the film:
“It made me proud to be an American.”
The People Speak will air on the History Channel on December 13 at 8pm.
Lauren Gill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.