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Kevin Powell

Humanitarian; Writer; Public Speaker; Pop Culture Curator; President & Cofounder of BK Nation

Travels From:
New York
Fee Range:
$10,000 - $15,000


Kevin Powell is one of the most acclaimed political, cultural, literary, and hip-hop voices in America today. He is the author of 11 books, including "Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and the Ghost of Dr. King: Blogs and Essays." Among his upcoming books will be Kevin's memoir of his very difficult childhood and youth, to be released in 2015 by Simon & Schuster; and in 2016 he will publish a biography of Tupac Shakur, the late rapper and controversial American icon. Kevin's writings have also appeared in CNN.com, Esquire, Ebony, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, ESPN.com, and Vibe Magazine, where he worked for many years as a senior writer, interviewing public figures as different as Tupac Shakur and General Colin Powell.

Kevin also routinely appears in interviews on television, radio, and in print and on the internet discussing major issues of our time. As an activist Kevin is the president and co-founder of BK Nation, a new national organization"progressive and multicultural, and focused on matters like education, civic engagement and leadership training, health and wellness, social media, and job and small business creation. Kevin was also a Democratic candidate for Congress in Brooklyn, New York, his adopted hometown, in 2008 and 2010. He routinely travels America and globally as a public speaker, at colleges and corporations, at various institutions, and in a wide range of diverse communities.

His most recent speaking engagements include stops at Microsoft headquarters, Stanford University, the U.S. Department of Justice, the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the "March on Washington," a one-week residency at the American University in Nigeria, visiting lecture positions at Central State University and Virginia State University, and, a Hip-hop Scholar-in-Residence at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; and on behalf of the U.S. State Department, a national tour of Japan on the relevance of Dr. King's famous "I Have A Dream" speech in the 21st century. Kevin also visited Wales in the United Kingdom to do a series of lectures and workshops on the 100th birthday of 20th century poet Dylan Thomas, and the connections between Welsh and American poetry and spoken-word traditions. Indeed, as a pop culture curator Kevin produced the very first exhibit on the history of hip-hop in America, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, which also toured America and overseas. As a humanitarian, Kevin's work includes local, national, and international efforts in the movement to end violence against women and girls (including a very well-regarded appearance on "The Oprah Show" highlighting domestic violence); and he has done much philanthropic and relief work, ranging from Hurricane Katrina to earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, to Superstorm Sandy in New York, to his annual holiday party and clothing drive for the homeless every December since 9/11. As an acknowledgement of Kevin's life of public service and his dedication to literature and the arts, Cornell University recently became the owner of The Kevin Powell Collection, documenting nearly 30 years of his work to date in print, photos, videos, books, handwritten notes and speeches, and select memorabilia.

Speech Topics

In this deeply personal lecture and workshop, Kevin Powell talks about his past experiences as a highly successful professional journalist while working for Vibe magazine, then owned by Time Warner. In spite of numerous cover stories and critical accolades, Kevin fell into a routine of work, heavy drinking, depression, and anxiety. It was a routine that nearly ruined his personal and professional lives by age 30.

In this insightful and thoughtful presentation, noted hip-hop authority Kevin Powell traces the history and evolution of hiphop culture; discusses why it is the dominant global culture of the new millennium; and offers practical and innovative ways for corporations to leverage hip-hop culture into its business strategies. A particular emphasis is placed on generational diversity, or, rather, how to approach Generations X and Y, the two generations most affected by hip-hop culture over the past two decades. Solution-oriented ideas will include how to develop multiple marketing strategies; how to listen and hear the voices and concerns of young people influenced by hip-hop, including employees within your company; and how to make your company and your product cool to this demographic; and readily accessible to this vibrant and consumer-ready population.

Kevin Powell has consulted and worked with a number of major corporate brands through the years, including Coca-Cola, Best Buy, Nike, Virgin Mobile, Clear Channel Communications, Nissan, Microsoft, and Random House. In this presentation, Powell details moments in American history of corporate generosity; highlights some of the issues and crises affecting the American social fabric in these early days of the 21st century; and offers a concrete and multidimensional game plan for corporate involvement in the community, including ways a corporate entity can boost brand awareness or repair their brand image in the aftermath of not so positive media attention while giving back.

Kevin Powell feels he has been a leader his entire adult years, practically from the moment he set foot on the campus of Rutgers University in the mid-1980s as a teenager. Inspired by the presidential campaigns of Jesse Jackson and the antiapartheid movement filtering through colleges nationwide,

Kevin threw himself into the role of student and youth leader on campus and off. Over time those early experiences have been translated into very visible and influential careers at MTV and Quincy Jones’ Vibe magazine, as one of the most prominent voices of the hip-hop generation, and in New York

City as a very active and well-respected community leader, trendsetter, business owner, and mover and shaker. Kevin also ran for Congress in Brooklyn, New York in 2008 and 2010. Indeed, Kevin’s varied experiences in academia, media, corporate America, politics, and the arts and entertainment worlds have afforded him the unique opportunity to develop a comprehensive action plan for leadership and leadership development in corporate America. This simple and accessible approach to leadership development includes a step-by-step guide on how individuals can identify their inner leadership qualities and skills, and how best to highlight those qualities and skills for the good of themselves and their company.

A product of post-Civil Rights and post-integration America, Kevin Powell brings to this presentation decades of personal and professional insight around diversity in America: he grew up in a segregated inner city environment and he spent the last of his adolescence in a predominantly White neighborhood; he attended Rutgers University, which had a small community of color and he was very active in Black student initiatives; Kevin has worked for some of the biggest corporations on the planet-MTV/Viacom and Vibe when it was owned by Time Warner-and he has witnessed the embrace of hip-hop, a culture created by working-class Blacks and Latinos, by White America and mainstream entities. These experiences and more have led Kevin to create a talk/ workshop that gets at why diversity and mutual respect are so important in the workplace. Kevin maintains that if individual workers are not even comfortable with their own lives, their own particular social, political, and cultural heritages, then they cannot even begin to have proactive and healthy conversations with their employers or fellow employees. When talking about diversity, the obvious place to start is race and ethnicity. Kevin does indeed begin there, but he broadens out the lecture to include probing observations about gender, class, sexual orientation, religion, as well as cultural and generational diversity. And through concrete examples Kevin establishes why corporate diversity makes sense for the bottom line of a company in 21st century America.

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