Rev Run Encourages Spirituality and Hard Work at Half-Year Event

January 17, 2012

Joseph "Rev Run" Simmons, a founding member of influential hip hop group Run-D.M.C. and an ordained minister, told students at Wheelock's 6th Annual Half-Year Program that if they want to make a positive impact in the world, they should "let go of [their] sense of entitlement," work harder than everyone else around them, and maintain a strong sense of spirituality.

"If you want to make it in life, let go of your sense of entitlement," he said. " Go forward and outwork everyone else around you. "

Watch a video from the Half-Year event:

Simmons said his path from hip hop mogul to minister was not always easy, requiring hard work and daily conversations with God. "This Rev Run thing was not a popular thing to do at first," he said. "I had to figure out what I believe.... God allows you to test and see. It doesn't matter how you speak to God. You don't have to be eloquent."

The goal of Wheelock's Half-Year Program is not only to celebrate the beginning of a new academic year, but to also bring together students, faculty, and staff to collectively explore the important topic of diversity. Simmons was part of a panel discussing the topic "Having Open Conversations about Spirituality and Faith on a College Campus."

Simmons, who proselytizes on Twitter, said many people find it difficult to discuss faith openly because they are afraid of being judged. "I try to be less judgmental, loosen up people, and let them know God is a kind God," he said. "There are many ways to get to God."

Wheelock College kicked off this year's Half-Year Program with a morning keynote address by noted theologian Dr. Irene Monroe, who spoke about the "Role of Religion in the Discrimination against the LGBTQ Community." In her address, Monroe talked about her own journey as a gay, black woman determined to become a pastor in a black church.

After being rejected for admission by a predominately black seminary school for refusing to keep her homosexuality a secret, Monroe attended seminary at Columbia University and went on to lead a predominantly black church during the early days of the AIDs epidemic. She said she was frustrated that many in the black community were willing to discuss racism, but not other types of oppression—such as sexism, classism, and homophobia—that affected many of those dealing with AIDs.

"This is the hierarchy of oppression. This notion that my oppression is far greater than anyone else's oppression," she said. "But if you say that racism is the only thing on the agenda, then you ignore sexism [and other forms of oppression] that is also happening in the black community."

Monroe argued that the best way to open up a healthy discussion about diversity with other ethnic or racial groups is to talk about the diversity among your own group. "I can't separate being black from being gay, from being Christian, from being woman," she said. "Look at what about you and your background also makes you a person of diversity. Understanding that about ourselves allows us to do that sort of bridge work with other people."

Dr. MonroeHighlights of the day:

10 am: Morning Welcome by President Jackie Jenkins-Scott and the Half-Year Student Committee (Wheelock Family Theatre)

10:30 am - noon: Morning Keynote given by Dr. Irene Monroe, an African-American lesbian theologian from Cambridge, on "The Role of Religion in the Discrimination against the LGBTQ Community"

Noon - 1 pm: Break-out Sessions focusing on various aspects of diversity:

  • Classism in America: Perfectly Legal Inequality, led by Dr. Joyce Hope Scott (Multipurpose Room)
  • Many Faiths, One Conversation, led by Dr. Adrienne Kisner and Rabbi Joseph Berman (Activities East 321)
  • Invisible Diversity: My Hidden Disability, led by Paul Hastings and Wheelock students (Campus Center 302)
  • LGBTQ: The Black Experience, led by Dr. Irene Monroe (Wheelock Family Theatre)
  • International Cultural Exchange: Home and Abroad, led by Inela Selimovic and SUSI program students (Classroom Building 104)

1 - 2:30 pm: LUNCH, featuring South American Cuisines and Grupo Fantasia (Latin Music).

2:30 - 3:30 p.m.: Afternoon Keynote given by Joseph "Rev Run" Simmons, who in addition to being a founding member of influential hip hop group Run-D.M.C. is a minister. Followed by a panel moderated by members of the Half-Year Student Committee on "Having Open Conversations about Spirituality and Faith on a College Campus."

3:30 - 4:30 pm: Class Council Meetings

  • Class of 2012 - Wheelock Family Theatre
  • Class of 2013 - Campus Center 302
  • Class of 2014 - Classroom Building 104
  • Class of 2015 - Activities East 321

Classes will not be in session until 4 p.m. on this day to allow the entire Wheelock community to fully engage in this out-of-the-classroom scholarly program. Professors have been encouraged to include Half-Year on their syllabuses and to invite students to get involved.

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