And yes, I’m still shook.
Through following Jemele Hill on Instagram, I found out she was going to be at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) a couple of days before her keynote conversation. With my usual will to enjoy life, I signed up to attend her conversation two seconds before I fell asleep three days before the event.
The evening started with a-little-bit-longer-than-necessary performance from the NCCU drumline. Don’t get me wrong; the performance wasn’t bad. It’s just… Every time I thought the performance was over and I was ready to clap, the drumline would keep going.
From Jemele’s introduction, I learned she spent the entire day at NCCU. The students who spent the entire day with her are very lucky; it was one of those rare moments where I wish I was still in college.
The second I saw her walk onstage, I was left flabbergasted. By complete coincidence, we both ended up wearing pink dresses. I found the coincidence a little funny, since it’s already funny that we almost had the same name, spelled the same way, something I talk about in the review I did for her book.
The moderator started the conversation by asking Jemele Hill her famous question, “When did you become unbothered?” It’s the first question she asks all of the guests who come on her podcast. In her answer, Jemele clarified what “unbothered” actually means. “Unbothered” does not mean you don’t care; it means being comfortable enough with yourself to block out the noise/what others have to say.
Most of the early conversation was spent talking about sports, which means I kind of got lost a lot of the time. Like when she said, “If the NCAA made some concessions, they would not be on the brink of destruction.” I semi-understood, but there were also question marks flying everywhere. In regards to the topic, one of the most thought-provoking things she said is, “The history of what’s happened in sports is a mirror to society.” After she said that, I realized how correct her statement is.
As I listened to the sports talk, I was mesmerized by Jemele’s memory. I could never drop as many names as she did. There were several names she said, and I had no clue who she was talking about. However, I did enjoy the story about Kobe Bryant, their relationship, and how it started; Kobe called her “The Oprah of Journalism,” and I feel like that is a very fitting title.
Along the way, the conversation shifted to journalism and writing. I have no intentions of being a journalist (because I don’t think I would be the best at it or have the motivation to change careers), but I love the idea of being a writer—a well-known blogger and author, to be specific. As a side hustle to teaching, of course. Jemele said something along the lines of “The more you write, the more confident and comfortable you get.” I’m pretty sure I’m missing part of this quote; my brain was struggling to keep up. Still, it was reassuring.
Another topic of conversation, though brief, was the hate she receives, especially how it amplified after she called Trump a white supremacist on Twitter. One thing she said was, “The people who want to misunderstand you will always be intent to misunderstand you.”
If I had to give the tiniest critique of the actual program, some of the questions asked by the moderator were not the most thought-provoking. I could find the answer to a lot of the questions in her memoir.
Now is where the awkwardness settles in. I don’t vibe with how impersonal meet and greets are, and I was nowhere near prepared for there to be one. As I stood in line like everyone else, I did my best to control my nerves and figure out what to say in a normal way. Still, awkwardness won. Here’s how it went down:
Me: *towering over Jemele like an idiot*
Jemele: “Jamilah, huh? That was almost my first name.”
Me: “I knoooow. It’s spelled the same way too.”
Me: *proceeds to ramble about the spelling of Jamilah while Jemele signs book & doesn’t respond*
Me: *does a horrible job of bending down to take a picture together*
I smiled the entire time Jemele spoke; I could literally listen to her all day. Thank you to the McNair Scholars Program at NCCU for making this happen and for making a community member’s dream come true.
“Your best stories are never by people everybody knows.”– Jemele Hill