Motivational speaker Eric Thomas stopped at Vashon High School in St. Louis last month to speak to a group of students for free despite the fact that he usually gets paid between $50,000 and $100,000 for his services. When students continued to interrupt him, he went off, telling them that the disrespect and disinterest he was experiencing is something he only experiences from Black students.
He began by telling the crowd his story of dropping out of school and living homeless in Detroit until he met a preacher who inspired him to go back to school, turning his life around. But his speech took a turn when he had to tell a group of students to be quiet several times. His tone shifted completely, as he began to plead with the students, telling them that they are better, and stronger, than they believe.
The whole video is fantastic, but the action starts around 3:30 minutes in:
“When people love you, you don’t do them like dirt. When people care for you, don’t disrespect them. You ain’t got but a few people who care about you in this world," he says, continuing, "You got the nerve to act the fool when somebody cares about you? You’re talking when I’m talking. Do you know that if I go to a Jewish school, those kids are quiet."
He goes on, "If I go to a white school, those kids are quiet. If I go to a Latino school, those kids are quiet. The only kids that disrespect me are Black kids," adding, "That's it, my own, are the only ones who disrespect me."
His tone changed quickly, and the camera pans to show the same students who were joking near the front row, wide-eyed and inspired. "What they don’t know is that you’re not even trying when you take a test. You didn’t give your best. They think you’re dumb. You ain’t dumb. We survived slavery, and you can’t pass a test? Come on!" He goes on, becoming more and more emotional as his speech continues, "I ain’t stupid. You take everything from us and we still survive. You want to tell me that you don’t want to learn how to write? Have you lost your mind? We are survivors. That is all we do is survive."
The video ends showing students standing in applause, and Thomas posing with students for pictures, while others approaching him for a hug. Then, an inspirational quote fades in over the video, "Always know where you're going, but never forget... where you come from."
Last month, David Johns, the White House aide who Obama trusts to shine the light on educating Black students, spoke to BET News about closing opportunity and achievement gaps:
(Photo: etthehiphoppreacher via Youtube)