This year’s Distinguished Lecture Series featured Jasmine Guy, who is famous for her role as “Whitley” in “A Different World.”
Guy stressed her views on social issues, women’s rights and even telling audience members to put their phone away to take in a moment in real-time.
“I don’t like talking to people who ain’t looking at me,” Guy said in reference to the numerous millennials in the crowd who were holding their phones up to record the famous speaker.
On Feb. 21, Bennett Auditorium was filled to near capacity as not only students were invited to attend the festivities, but also community members, who took part in the hour- and-a-half long lecture. The lecture also honored the legacies of previous Southern Miss students Gwendolyn Armstrong-Chamberlain and Raylawni Adams Branch and their impact on the community.
The two women enrolled at the university in the 1960s and were met with harsh criticisms in their daily walks at Southern Miss. Guy says that she would have handled the criticism in the only way that she knows how.
“I had my own personal compass,” Guy said. “I wasn’t an explosive person. I’m not going to go at people every time someone comes at me like that.”
Ajanae Tolliver was one of the people in the crowd with their phones up in the air when Guy starting speaking. Once Guy told the audience to put their phones down and pay attention to what she had to say, all of Tolliver’s attention went straight to the NAACP Image Award winner.
“When she told us to put our phones up, I was one of the ones that had my phone out, too,” Tolliver said. “I wanted to record it, and I wanted to have this memory for a long time. I wasn’t realizing what she was actually saying in real-time.”
During her speech, Guy spoke about her experiences working with celebrities such as Jamie Foxx, Will Smith, Whoopi Goldberg and even Spike Lee on the movie “School Daze.”
Through all of the prominent actors that she shared the stage with, she showcased the history of black prominence and how it should not be overlooked.
“Our history is not racial history – it is American history,” Guy said. “Our black American history should be incorporated into the American story. Be smart about what you’re learning.”
She spoke about social and racial issues facing minorities today.
“Do we care about white people losing their jobs?” Guy asked the crowd. “Let me tell you something, it’s not trickle down – it’s trickle up. If you help us at the bottom, we’ll help y’all. Y’all will still be billionaires. But give us a chance to educate our kids and take care of our parents. We’re in this thing together.”
In her closing remarks before giving recognition to both Armstrong- Chamberlain and Branch, Guy said something that seemed to resonate with most of the students in the audience.
“While you’re in school, please take advantage of the people who are interested and invested and educated to give you enough to help you get into your field,” Guy said. “I still don’t see a lot of kids rising to the occasion, rising to the present. We may not be able to change the world right now, but you can also self-educate.”