John Legend is known for his music, but he came to the Tampa Convention Center last week as an advocate for students of color. He told students and educators there that poverty and racism often stand in their way.
"We need to change this reality that where a child is born, the zip code they grow up in, and how much money that child's parents make, determines the quality of his or her education and life prospects," said Legend, the keynote speaker at Hillsborough Community College's annual "Black, Brown and College Bound" summit.
He also spoke about the "school-to-prison pipeline," pointing out that education and the criminal justice system are closely linked. According to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, African-Americans represent 26 percent of all juvenile arrests and 58 percent of youth sentenced to state prisons.
Legend pointed out that students' minor offenses in the classroom often lead to police involvement.
"They may end up with a criminal record. They may end up ripped away from their families and their communities, shoved into a system that keeps well over 2 million people locked in cages and disenfranchises millions more," Legend told the audience of students and educators at the Tampa Convention Center.
The goal of the 'Black, Brown and College Bound" Summit is to increase access and graduation rates, and to provide students with opportunities for mentorship. The four-day event also features educational research panels tied to its 2017 theme: "New Pathways to Success: The Next Decade for Black and Latino Males in Higher Education."