Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Welcoming Dometi Pongo back to SIUE

[from the Arts and Issues program booklet]
In 2010, I served as the faculty director for what I view as one of the greatest student projects I ever witnessed. I passed along recordings of Malcolm X speeches to one of my students, Dometi Pongo, and he produced this wonderful artistic project known as the Malcolm X Mixtape.

For the project, Pongo produced 11 songs (raps), each one beginning or ending with an excerpt from a Malcolm X speech.

I loved the project, though I always wondered about one of the tracks. At the end of a piece entitled “Mental Slavery,” Pongo closes by rapping:
“I take the wool off my eyes 
fightin' my demise 
And when the sun rise, 
 I look myself in the eyes 
and say...”
That’s how he ends it, saying what he’ll say but never uttering the words before the song seemingly abruptly ends. “What would you say, Pongo? What will you do next?” I was curious.

Pongo eventually gave me answers. After some moves here and there, he became a radio host in Chicago. Then, he began to work in news programming in the city. After that, he was off to New York City and MTV, here he hosted various programs. He is the host of True Life Crimes as well the reality show, The Exhibit. He regularly interviews famous musicians and actors on the red carpet for award shows like the Grammy’s and the MTV Video Music Awards.

He reached incredible heights, and yet through it all, he remained the Pongo so many of us knew when he was a college student. Intelligent. Creative. Inquisitive. Warm. Lively. Forward-thinking.

What an honor and pleasure to welcome Dometi Pongo back to SIUE.


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