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Interview with Dr. Joshua Wright Author of A New Book on Kanye West FREE and Open to the Public via Zoom-March 16

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Updated March 14, 2022

The Challenge of Race for Kanye West and Other Black Celebrities

Wednesday, March 16, 6;00 pm: Free and open to the public via Zoom: Link available here.

As part of Trinity’s Global Perspectives on Race and Racism Symposium, Dr. Joshua Wright, associate professor of global affairs at Trinity, will discuss his new book: “’Wake Up, Mr. West’: Kanye West and the Double Consciousness of Black Celebrity.”  His biography examines the hip-hop icon’s career and controversies. In a recent interview about his book, Dr. Wright notes, “I wanted to use Kanye’s career and life as a case study on the Black celebrity in America. I hope that people can use this book to engage in deeper dialogues and conversations on race, class, fame, identity, and what it means to be an exceptional Black man or woman in a white-centric American society.” Dr. Wright is a scholar of Black celebrities and has written extensively on this and other topics. He is the author of “‘Empire and Black Images in Popular Culture,” which examines the evolution and potency of black images in popular culture and explores the television show “Empire” and its place in a diverse body of literature and media, data and discussions on respectability. Dr. Wright is also the host of “Woke History,” a new podcast series streaming on the National Public Radio app, NPR One, that is also available at WESM-FM.

Dr. Jamal Watson, director of Trinity’s Strategic Communications and Public Relations program and a renowned journalist, will interview Dr. Wright.

Trinity Media Contact: Ann Pauley, pauleya@trinitydc.edu, 202-884-9725.

“’Wake Up, Mr. West’: Kanye West and the Double Consciousness of Black Celebrity”  was just published by McFarland Books in January 2022 and is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, Walmart, mcfarlandbooks.com, and other booksellers.

 

WASHINGTON, DC (January 28, 2022)Black celebrities have historically possessed immeasurable influence as it pertains to the overall experience of black people in America. For that reason, justly or unjustly, they also inherit the expectation of championing their personal agendas and the causes of their community. Few stars, however, have been both celebrated and vilified by Black America to the extent of polarizing pop culture icon, Kanye West.

He is the subject of a captivating new biography by author, professor, and Hip-Hop culture analyst Dr. Joshua Wright.  The book is available and is entitled, Wake Up Mr. West: Kanye West and the Double Consciousness of the Black Celebrity.”

Here is my exclusive interview with Dr. Joshua Wright.

When thinking of Kanye West, more recently referred to simply as “Ye,” one of the following likely comes to mind.

  • –       Hip-Hop legend
  •        The Kardashians
  •        Taylor Swift
  •        Yeezys
  •        Drake
  • –       Bipolar
  •        “George Bush doesn’t like black people!”
  •        “Slavery is a choice!”
  •        Donald Trump…. and the list goes on!

While these things may or may not be worth a second thought for lesser-known individuals, Kanye West has clamored for attention from the masses his entire career and received his wish. His words carry significant weight. Consequently, when he used his national platform to publicly support a President most black Americans opposed, or he declared that the darkest period in American history (slavery) was a choice, he swiftly faced the confusion and wrath of the black community. After all, they supported his rise to fame, not only due to his musical genius, but because he was a voice for the voiceless on issues that mattered most to them. He was a hero of sorts who was unapologetically black. Now, depending on whom you ask, not so much.  

However, Wright, a professor at Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C., and host of the NPR One podcast Woke History, seems to have figured it out.

“Kanye is the ultimate contrarian,” Dr. Wright said. “Whatever people say he should do, he will do the exact opposite. For example, when the norm was for rappers to wear baggy clothes and talk about drugs, hustling, and gangsta stuff, he came out with the pink Polo, backpack, and loafers saying, “I’m so self-conscious.” Then, when you fast-forward to the 2018 TMZ interview, and he’s wearing the MAGA hat and saying slavery is a choice, here is the contrarian again.”

Dr. Wright indicates that his theories are solely to open the doors for more dialogue around one of the music industry’s first billionaires. He expects a broader discussion regarding black celebrities and the tightrope they must inevitably walk between two worlds – one black, one white.  This dilemma is the double consciousness that the noted scholar W.E.B. DuBois spoke of in the late 19th century.

“This book should be used as a case study to think about how we view this idea of black identity in America, what it means to be black, and what it means to be an exceptional black person,” he said.

“For any of us who are somewhat successful, there is always that challenge of figuring out should we have a responsibility to ourselves, to the black community as a whole, or should we just focus on the world in general? Does moving to the suburbs, sending one’s kids to a private school, or marrying a white woman make one less black? Do I need to marry a sister, give to black causes and go to an HBCU?

These are a microcosm of issues that many successful blacks ponder.

With that said, Dr. Wright does not intend to sway the thinking of readers in any direction, rather to understand the degree of pressure, expectation, and responsibility that an iconic figure must live with due to their elevated status. He further shows how words, actions and ideologies can be empowering or dangerous.  

As one of the most influential creatives of this generation, Kanye West has immersed himself in many issues, ranging from the black community, music and fashion, to interracial marriage, the black church, and politics. This book will explore all of these areas, allowing people to formulate their own conclusions and further understand the consciousness of the black celebrity.

Dr. Joshua Wright’s book Wake Up Mr. West: Kanye West and the Double Consciousness of the Black Celebrity” is set for release on February 1, 2022. 

More on Dr. Joshua Wright – Dr. Wright, a proud graduate of Howard University, specializes in African-American studies, U.S. History, Global Studies, Oral History, and Popular Culture. The full-time professor at Trinity Washington University in Washington, DC, currently hosts Woke History, a new podcast series on National Public Radio (NPR) One. His notable guests have included Michael Wilbon, Lil Rel Howery, Jeannie Mai, Dawn Weaver, Caron Butler, Dr. Todd Boyd, Stanley Nelson, Vic Mensa, and Andy Shallal. In addition, Dr. Wright has multiple publications, including two recent books: Wake Up, Mr. West: Kanye West and the Double Consciousness of Black Celebrity (McFarland & Company, Inc., 2022) and Empire and Black Images in Pop Culture (2018). He helped develop an undergraduate course on hip-hop in the Afro-American studies dept. at Howard University and a graduate hip-hop seminar in the History department while studying there as a graduate student.  He also designed and developed the first hip-hop course as a professor at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in 2012 and Trinity Washington University in 2021.

To schedule an interview, contact Ivan Thomas of Intrigue Media Group at 202.904.4790 or intriguemg@gmail.com.

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