Kevin Powell statement on MTV’s The Real World, Tupac Shakur, and the present and future of America
As many of you know by now I am participating in new reunion episodes of MTV’s The Real World, of which I was a cast member on the very first season in 1992, nearly 30 years ago (it premieres on new streaming outlet Paramount Plus on Thursday, March 4). Since that time I have published 14 books and written numerous cover stories on figures like Stacey Abrams, Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Dave Chappelle, Lauryn Hill, Kerry Washington, and Tupac Shakur. I have also been completely committed to my other life-calling of civil and human rights for all people, including work around COVID-19, Hurricane Katrina, September 11th, doing an annual clothing drive for homeless young people, and even running for Congress twice, in my adopted hometown of Brooklyn, New York. It has not been an easy life for me, not even close: there have been many ups and downs, many stumbles and many hardships, since that first season of The Real World, and I honestly feel very lucky and blessed to be alive, and still fostering my childhood dream of being a writer, still speaking truth to power for any and all who have been affected in some way by oppression, by discrimination, by hate. I agreed to do the reunion shows because I have not been with my 6 castmates, all of us together, since the 1990s; and because if COVID has taught us nothing else, life can be gone just like that. So I cherish any moment to connect with other human beings. I also returned because it is very rare, in life, to be able to go back to go forward, to be able to review who we were, and to show people who’ve we become. And I returned because I had some serious healing to do around this show, too, and all the reactions to it, to me, through the years, including many many ugly and harsh things that have been said to me, or about me, because of folks’ own challenges and or shortcomings on race, on racism. It was not easy to return, emotionally, spiritually, trust me on that, given my traumas and triggers with this, but I have no regrets about the original 13 episodes nor about these new reunion episodes. It is my prayer and hope people will see themselves in me, in us, and use both the old and new shows as spaces to talk, listen, agree, disagree, and do, for the good of us all. Many of you also know that my 15th book will be a biography of Tupac Shakur, who was a fan of mine, of The Real World, which helped to create our bond where he said to me, “I want you to be Alex Haley to my Malcolm X.” Tupac is also going back for me, to go forward, as I am committed, as a writer, to producing an honest and empowering book about his life in a way never done before. I cannot say when it will be done, but it will be, I can guarantee that. I work on the Tupac Shakur book in some way daily. Lastly, I encourage any and all to read my newest book, WHEN WE FREE THE WORLD, or listen to the audiobook version, which is in my voice, as soon as you can. It is about all of us, in America, on this planet, a very sincere look at who we are, who we can be, as I navigate, in the book, necessary conversations on things like racism, sexism, homophobia/transphobia, able-ism, poverty, fear, division, violence, hate, and, yes, our souls. On the cover for WHEN WE FREE THE WORLD is a group of diverse, multicultural young people, ranging in age from little children to 20something adults. It is inspired by the famous Richard Avedon photo of youthful Civil Rights Movement workers in the 1960s. This is my hope for the present, and for the future. People honoring who they are, no matter their identities, but also having the courage to come together, too, to have difficult conversations, to change things, to fight for freedom, justice, equality, and opportunity for all, together. Finally, I humbly appreciate all the texts, emails, social media posts, and incredible excitement around The Real World reunion shows. But I ask, respectfully, that this not just be about pop culture, or celebrity, or television, or trips down memory lane, or sensationalism; but more importantly that it be about love, yes, and a real inward look at who we are, and who we can be, for the good of us all.
Kevin Powell is one of the most prolific literary, political, cultural, and hip-hop voices in America. He is a poet, journalist, civil and human rights activist, public speaker, filmmaker, a former two-time candidate for the United States Congress in New York City, and author or editor of 14 books. Kevin’s newest book is When We Free The World, a short collection of essays plus one poem about the present and future of America. His next book will be a biography of Tupac Shakur, the global pop culture and hip-hop icon. Kevin’s writings have appeared in a wide range of publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, HuffPost, CNN, The Guardian, British GQ, The Nation, Utne Reader, Vibe, Esquire, NPR, and The Progressive. Kevin is currently completing an indie film as a first-time director/writer/producer entitled What’s Going On, about healthy manhood versus toxic manhood, about fathers and sons, inspired by Marvin Gaye’s landmark album of the same title. Kevin lives in New York City, the borough of Brooklyn.
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