APEX Hour at SUU

3/25/21: Donovan Livingston - Inspiring Galaxies of Greatness

Episode Summary

In this week’s episode, educator, author and spoken word poet Donovan Livingston joins host Lynn Vartan for an insightful talk on how to inspire, care and motivate our students as well as all of those around us! The discussion also gets into the power of music and great books on the history and great culture of Hip hop music! Join us!

Episode Notes

APEX website: https://www.suu.edu/apex

Episode Transcription

[00:00:01] Hey, everyone, this is Lynn Vartan, and you are listening to the APEX Hour on KSUU Thunder 91.1. In this show, you get more personal time with the guests who visit Southern Utah University from all over learning more about their stories and opinions beyond their presentations on stage. We will also give you some new music to listen to and hope to turn you on to some new sounds and new genres. You can find us here every Thursday at 3 p.m. or on the Web at suu.edu/apex. But for now, welcome to this week's show here on Thunder 91.1.


[00:00:47] All right, everyone, well, here we are. It is the APEX Hour, and let me just tell you, this has been such an amazing day and I feel so honored to be talking to my guest today. But let's just welcome him in to start. Welcome, Donovan! 


[00:01:04] Hey, what's up, family? It's so good to be kicking it with you once again. Thank you for setting the stage and making me feel so welcome. I really appreciate that. 


[00:01:11] Well, it is a pleasure. Let me tell our audience a little bit about you. So we have with us Donovan Livingston, who's an educator, spoken word, poet, public speaker. And let me just say, super inspiring. You probably have heard of him from this Harvard graduation speech that he did called "Lift Off!" In 2016, which absolutely went completely viral. And it's so absolutely inspirational, inspirational. Hillary Clinton praised him, it's young graduates like Donovan, who make it clear that America's best days are still ahead. Since then, he's been on talk shows. He's been all over the world. And we get to talk to him here on the APEX Hour. So, Donovan, you spoke today for APEX, and it was absolutely so powerful. And I have so many questions about it. And basically, I'd love for you to just give maybe our audience a little bit of a snapshot of what you talked about today, kind of your story and and also where it's led you as an educator. 


[00:02:19] Yeah. So, again, so much for having me. Happy to be here on the APEX Hour. And to your question about this afternoon, you know, we kind of spoke, kind of spoke at length about this concept of inspiring galaxies of greatness, which was a line that was taken from the "Lift Off!" poem, but really expounded on that to say how do we inspire galaxies of greatness or rocket toward remixes for higher education? I use the term remix intentionally as a hip hop artist. Hip hop is all about taking something old and making it new. I don't know many other institutions that are as antiquated and slow moving as colleges and universities. So remix for me sort of indicated a sense of urgency. The idea that we were responding to issues and action, be it in the pandemic, be it in response to some of these racialized incidences that have taken place across campuses, across cities across the country. And it really is just I was excited to be in a space where I can talk more specifically about how faculty and staff at colleges and universities and students can sort of create spaces for hope to have the right to create moments of reckoning, to find ways to reconsider how we define success as institutions of higher education. Really, what I wanted folks to take away from that talk this afternoon was revisiting what is the purpose of a college degree. You know, you asked me to explain a little bit about my background, and I'm happy to do that. So I come into this work as a college counselor, college advisor. That was my bread and butter for like the first 10 years of my career as an educator. I was working with first gen, low income, historically underrepresented, indigenous, undocumented students and their families, helping them navigate the path from high school to college. And, well, all of those experiences and all those relationships, some of the consistent things that I've seen from those populations is, you know, it's sort of like this perfunctory, this idea that I am supposed to go to college after high school. And, you know, for most of those students were most of all students, that is the case, what colleges have become more accessible. But because of that, accessibility on colleges now have an increased responsibility to take care of and shepherd and nurture this increasingly diverse student population. Those students arrive to campus. So my career sort of been built around that idea of how can we take these old institutions that weren't historically designed to to to serve this marginalized group. And how can we create moments for them to realize the fullness of their potential and college experience?


[00:04:56] We were just so happy to engage in this conversation, because thankfully, I think that our institution is really committed to exploring this. I think I mentioned to you that we're really looking at attainment gaps. We're looking at, you know, accessibility. We're looking at really all the things that you were discussing. And so, yeah, it's just so great to get that inspiration and to move forward in that way. And I wondered if we could talk a little bit about how that powerful message that you have about how we can move forward and and the role of the student and also the role of the faculty member in it. One of the things as the faculty member, you were giving just some great cornerstones, your five Cs, as you called. To that, we could use to sort of like not regulate our conversations, but at least like frame all of our conversations and all of our programing. Is that the best way forward, do you think, to for the average university like us in Southern Utah to start really making positive change? 


[00:06:06] Yeah, thank you for that question. And I appreciate you highlighting the five C's. [They] essentially are sort of like a guideline. So when I think about the best way forward, right. it's one of many steps that can be taken, but it's a step that faculty on an individual level can implement and pedagogical practices that make students feel seen, valued and respected and how they're retaining and applying the information that they're learning in their classes. And so the five C's where creativity, curiosity, connectivity, collaboration and consciousness, I think when those five things are sort of in concert or faculty in their classes, in their fiefdoms right there, don't move that they lowered overwrite when faculty prioritized those things, that the level of curiosity that the fire to create something new, the willingness of a student to connect what they're learning from class to other facets of their life, their their desire to collaborate with others, and moreover, noticing how students are developing a sense of self and social consciousness. I think when all of those things are in concert, you created a space where students realize that I'm going to be assessed not for the grade. I get on an on an assignment when I perform on a test, but there will be, B, assessing how well they live out the things that they learn. And I think that although it's not maybe not the best overarching bird's eye view sort of way forward, I do think it is a logical first step to reimagining the space that you have control over as a faculty member or a staff member or whatever department you call. 


[00:07:45] Can I ask you maybe a difficult question that I certainly I mean, to be honest, I have struggled with and that is that, you know, when you when you start tacking on the years of teaching over time and and you have many just such wonderful moments, wonderful students, inspirational times, but you also can get burned and can get fatigued from some of the other students that you have who who maybe aren't holding up their end to reaching to the stars and maybe you get burned by that. How what advice do you have for for that? Because sometimes I think we get we want this so bad, but but we feel a little maybe worn out in a way too. What advice do you have for that? 


[00:08:41] Well, I just know I showed up for the hard questions. I appreciate you for throwing those out. Now, I'm not a OG. I ain't been in the classroom for so long. But when working with particular students that as you, as you put it, might not be holding up their end of the bargain, you might not see the level of effort that you might be getting in comparison to other students in the course or, you know, the student isn't bringing their full self into the space. One thing I know, burnout is real, you know, especially when you've been doing it for a long time. Those that stress and maybe not a negative sense of stress, but you stress.That positive type of stress that that might accumulate over time and start to weigh on you weigh on your heart. The first and most important thing to do is not take it personally. When I think my phone is about to ring in a second half, I don't know why people want to blow me up when to talk. It was out there with it might be one of my students, but I think one of the most important things to do, though, as a faculty member is to avoid that sort of burnout is to take a step back and not take what the student is giving you or not giving you personally. I used to be offended when someone wasn't, you know, engaged in the things that I took the time to create, that I poured my heart and soul. I used to I was younger, like, get offended by that. And that sort of you don't want to be in that space because that could then color your relationship with that student. But once you remove that that that ego, that sense of self from that student who might not be giving you what you're giving, what you're asking of them, reach out to the one thing that I've tried to be more intentional about this year, in the semester in particular, is reaching out to students one on one who might not be as engaged. I understand I am an extrovert. I am a gregarious, like I talk with my arms. We might be also what I try to create a space where people feel like they're sitting right next to me. Right. And everybody don't get down like that. Like I get that. And so my students who may be a bit more reserved or. Comfortable participating in class, I always try to follow up after a couple of weeks, get a sense of how they show up in the space, I always follow up with you getting what you came for. Are you getting what you need out of this experience? What can I do to adapt to your needs? And I give them options for how they want to participate. I think that's the the caveat. So don't take it personal. Reach out one on one. Give them options for participating. If you realize what they're, if you realize that it's not something personal or something related to their mental health that's keeping them from participating in obviously refer out if that is what you need to do. If you realize it's not any of those things, give them options. Like don't penalize them for not participating in those traditional ways. We imagine students showing up in class, raising their hand, leading a discussion, that sort of thing. And one thing I try to do in my hip hop in higher ed class is that I give my students options for how they want to participate. So if there's a documentary, for instance, the college admissions scandal, there's a that that that came out last year and has been all over the news and that sort of thing that Netflix just released a documentary about the college admissions scandal. We have a unit in my class where we focus on the college admissions scandal. Obviously, again, through the prism of hip hop, we break it down through lyricism and explain what's going on and who is this exclude who was harmed by this, who was complicit, like that sort of thing. But when I saw there was a documentary, I gave my students a chance to gain extra participation points by watching the documentary, writing a paragraph about how they felt about the film and how it connects to what we're learning. And for my students who don't speak up as much in class, this is a way for them to have their voice heard and entered into this space. I always look for ways to to enter those marginalized voices into the chat. So that's that's always what my goal is. And I think that's one way, although it's work on our end, I think it's a creative way of engaging those students we might be concerned about throughout the course of the semester. 


[00:12:45] I love it. Thank you. Well, I have tons more questions, but-


[00:12:49] I wanted to, I just, when the spirit moves, you know what I'm saying? 


[00:12:53] Absolutely. I mean, I thought we were going to play music right away and then we just got right into it. That's great. 


[00:13:00] But one of the things that we wanted to do was we've been sharing a bit about music. And I may have mentioned that I teach music here. That's my home area. And on the show, I told you that we like to play music sometimes. And of course, I want to know, like, you know, what's going on with you musically. You're involved in the music world and also who is inspiring you. And so you picked out a few songs and I definitely want to try to get to them. So the first one is yours. And so I wondered, can you give us a little background on "Molasses? "


[00:13:30] Yeah, most definitely. Thank you for that. You know, my wife was the one who was like, if you don't go on a radio show and promote your own stuff, bruh, what kind of rapper would I be if I didn't plug my own? I'm saying my own mixtape, my own work. So "Molasses" is an album that was written throughout the last year, year and a half of my doctoral program. So throughout my process, I would spend time doing research and writing, obviously, but as a form of self care to just step away. I was writing writing this album essentially. So essentially this is the concept behind "Molasses" is this idea of understanding the history of growing up in the South. There's a lot of text that focus on that. And I think especially last year in the wake of the murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd, we created a new moment to have an old conversation. And so it just seemed like the right time to release that body of work. But anyway, the concept of "Molasses" is thinking about growing up black in the South. It's a it's a thick, contentious, heavy, sort of sticky history to wrestle with. But at the end of the day, it's still incredibly sweet to be who we are in molasses rooms, all of those things to the fore. And I think the song you're going to play is the title track from the album that gets at some of the familial reasons why it was important to share this story, because I represent more than just what you see here, represent everybody important to me. So I'm ready when you are. 


[00:15:00] Thank you so much for sharing that. Well, as Donovan said, this is "Molasses," the title track from the album Molasses by Donovan Livingston. You're listening to KSUU Thunder 91.1.


[00:19:00] All right. Well, welcome back, everyone. You're listening to KSUU Thunder 91.1.That song was "Molasses," the title track from the album Molasses by our guest who's in the studio and that's Donovan Livingston. Welcome back, Donovan. 


[00:19:15] Oh, real quick, I want to shout out my homegirl Jenae Parsons, who sang her heart out on that song. She is amazing. Huge family. Like she's, that's, that's family right there. We met in college. She supported me and my music. And I tried to do the same ever since, but that was not possible. She sang that song to life. 


[00:19:33] So that's when making such an incredible, incredible voice said, thank you so much for pointing that out. Tell me a little bit about your musical process, you know, and the kinds of things that you're involved with now. And and, yeah, a little more about your musical life. 


[00:19:50] Yeah. So my musical life has been really tough to sort of navigate this now that I'm a new parent and COVID, it's real. And going to the studio isn't as much of an option as it used to be for both of those reasons. And I've tried to find new ways to tap into that part of myself. So I do this thing on my Instagram account, @dlive87, in case you want to follow. I do follow back. But my Instagram account, I do this bi weekly. I used to be more frequent, but once the semester started, it wasn't what, it's called "Thursday Verse Day" where I just take some time to write 16 bars about something that's going on in the world community. Sometimes I do a poll and ask people like, Give me a word and I incorporate it in the first next week, like, is this really a way for me to stay sharp and active and committed to the craft? What I'm always, always, always coaching young artists, young, who are looking to refine their craft. I don't have another album in the works per say, but I always have a song in my heart. So finding the right music, right producers, when you do like, let's say the weekly versus it's always a spoken word to music or sometimes is it just spoken, words always have a musical component of being 16 bars of music. For the most part, it's always 16 bars of music. So I'm always rapping on Thursday because they know I have done some like a cappella, like more spoken word type things. But for the most part, I am rapping on Thursday and I think for me that's that's intentional. Because a lot of ways within the academy spoken word might be a bit more palatable to a wider audience. And I want to make sure that, as I do in bathroom spaces in the territories and carve out niches for hip hop educators, I want to make sure that I hold you like I do spoken word, but also rap, too. And here's why it is, why it matters in this case. 


[00:21:49] Well, one of the things about your talk that was just so wonderful today was that you you broke down the culture of hip hop and and sort of your iconic, the iconic messaging for the culture for you, and that being peace, love, unity and fun, which is awesome. And I just wanted to, you know, acknowledge, you know, how incredible that many of the quotes that you associated with each of those. But the one that that particularly resonated with me right now was the Martin Luther King quote that you the quoted, that you said about peace is not the absence of tension, but the presence of justice. And I wondered if you could just elaborate a little bit more on that being the touchstone of your concept of peace and how we can use it, because there's just so many ways to use it now. 


[00:22:47] So most definitely. Thank you for teasing that quote. I think, you know, Martin Luther King always is always good for a quotable, right? But I think that one in particular is is unique because he's often his image, his legacy is often misappropriated, co-opted. A lot of times you see folks who would have, in the 1950s, '60s, been lambasting Martin Luther King, quoting him on MLK Day and that sort of thing. Like it's just it's this, it creates this cognitive dissonance, like, you know, that's not what he meant when he said that. Look, I said that to say this quote, one piece is really important. We often use the term just as a flippant sort of mechanism to move beyond something that might feel uncomfortable in. What King is saying here is that you can't dodge or avoid that ability just because


[00:23:45] Oh, I think maybe Donovan just froze. Let's see Donovan, maybe try turning off your video if you can. 


[00:23:54] Oh, well, while I work this out with him, I'm going to get a song going, one of the other songs that Donovan chose to play was a song called "Highrises" by Chika, C-H-I-K-A. And let's get to that song so we can figure out our little technical thing. So this is "Highrises." You're listening to KSUU Thunder 91.1.


[00:27:49] All right, well, we are back and we have Donovan back, so everything is back to normal. You're listening to the APEX Hour, KSUU Thunder 91.1. That song was "Highrises" by Chika. And before I asked Donovan why he chose that song to play, first of all, I love it. Oh, my God. It's just like,. 


[00:28:09] Oh, my gosh. Oh, my God, love her work, yo.


[00:28:12] Oh, it's just like, feel good. You know, I just just like, puts me in a good place. But for those of you who might be interested in the music, as you know, we have Played on APEX Hour Spotify playlist. It's an open playlist on Spotify that was created by me. And so you can just search Lynn Vartan on Spotify and it's called Played on APEX Hour or you can find it on our website, which is suu.edu/apex and go to the podcast tab and the Spotify playlist will be linked there. So welcome back, Donovan Livingston. 


[00:28:49] I'm sorry, I thought I unfroze. I'm ready to rock. Let's get it. 


[00:28:52] All right. I want to know why you chose that song. I mean, apart from just being like, sweet, you know, but why that song for this talk today? 


[00:29:02] It's so soulful. And there's just I mean, there's a several reasons, but I think the most important ones are she's speaking to sort of a coming of age, a sense of self awareness that is happening at a time where she's in high school/college and she's wrestling with all these ideas about fitting in, about what it means to be a black girl from the south as the father of a new Southern black girl like she's also wrestling with ideas about beauty and whether or not she'll be accepted in a world that wasn't built or designed for her. And I just, I just for me, that song falls differently on my heart today than it did the first time I heard it. And I mean that in a way where I get something new from it every time. I'm also highlighted that because as a heterosexual cis gender black man, a lot of times when we think about hip hop and rap, I am who comes to mind, maybe not me specifically what hip hop is dominated by this culture of sort of in a lot of ways toxic masculinity or hypermasculinity. And I wanted to any time I have a chance or a stage or platform to speak my mind about hip hop, I always want to insert the voices of black and brown women. They too are responsible for this culture, this movement. And it would be irresponsible of me to be gifted a stage and not use my space to elevate them. And Chika is a phenomenal artist. You don't need my help. But if I got the space, I want to do that. She was nominated for a Grammy. I can't remember which category, obviously Hip-Hop. But I don't know if her best new artist or something like that. But she was nominated for a Grammy and deservedly so, and just wanted to give her some time to shine. 


[00:30:45] That's awesome. Thank you for sharing that and thank you for, you know, looking to women in that way and spotlighting women in that way. I do have another question for you about that, but I want to make sure to close the loop on what we were talking about, which is that wonderful quote. And also the concept of of the more complex concept of peace and that peace is not the absence of tension. You know, something else. And so I'd love to just give you the opportunity to to finish what you were talking about with that. 


[00:31:16] Yeah. You know, very briefly, you know, all Dr. King was saying so often misappropriated and misused and have been over time. Essentially what he's saying here is that peace is not an avoidance of conflict and avoidance of that which makes you uncomfortable or that which you avoid for the sake of maintaining stability. Peace is leading into that thing and makes you feel tense, afraid because it might unearth the truth that you don't want to explore. I think a lot of times we use the word peace or be kind and love incorrectly. And I think what Dr. King is compelling us to do is reimagine what peacefulness means by saying this is accountability. Peace is having a hard conversation, pieces changing policy to serve the people who are most negatively impacted by the way things are. Peace is not something you just wake up and exude. Peace is something you work for. And I think that's what he's getting at here with that quote. 


[00:32:12] I love that. Thank you so much. I 100 percent agree. And I it sort of segues nicely into sort of what I wanted to get into a little bit next, which is you mentioned you said the word civility. And, you know, as we look to this concept of peace and this different definition of peace, which I 100 percent agree with, you know, how do we have those conversations? And in the context of the world today where it seems harder and harder, I know I see several people, you know. Speaking up and that that's amazing and I also see several people more afraid to speak up, and I I wondered, and that's going to maybe lead us to the next thing I want to talk about, which is I know you've spoken quite a bit about anti-racist teaching, and so maybe we can sort of open that up a bit. 


[00:33:07] Yeah, a lot of times people don't want to ruffle feathers. Some people do. And some people enjoy that. And that's their whole M.O. like shock value goes a long way. And I think we live in an era where a post truth era, where people can say the most outlandish things, the most inane conspiracy theories and people, you know, believe it. And it's really tough to have a difficult conversation with someone who has a different political ideology or stance than you, because inherently you believe that political identity is tied to your own dehumanization in some way. Right, no matter what side of the argument you might be on. And that's really tough. And I'm you know, it's. No, no, it's no there's no mystery what side of what ideology I espouse. But I think what what I try to do, at least in my classroom and in my dealings in the community, is to try to create a space around me that is welcoming of all ideas. But also I do draw a line in the sand to say this is a line you will not cross, because that's when where we get into the disenfranchisement, the humanization, the undermining of another's humanity, right to exist, the right to be. And that's why that's a non-negotiable for me, for sure. 


[00:34:27] Mm hmm. And so now going into that next topic about antiracist teaching, can you talk about what that means to you and and what and how you would like to see that on a broader scale in education? 


[00:34:46] Yeah, so I was an amazing, call them P.L.C.s: Professional Learning Communities at Wake Forest. Oh, my gosh. They just changed the name of the center. Our center for teaching is basically a clearinghouse for faculty teaching resources. Anyway, they sponsored like this six week series over the summer where professors can opt into some some discipline in myself. And several other faculty opted into the antiracist like teaching group. And I'm so excited because anti-racism is is it's a word that frightens a lot of people. The word racism frightens a lot of people, right. But I think, again, going back to King's quote, your your your your willingness to create a peaceful environment starts with you being willing to name the injustice that might exist within your learning space. And so I was like, I'm not running from this. I'm one of a few black men who have a teaching role on campus. I may be the only black professor a student has in their entire time at this university. And so while you're here, you're going to get this work. But you also want to know, like I want you to leave with the language of social justice. And so, yeah, I think anti-racism is a framework that allows you to have the difficult conversation. It names the sort of names and calls out the elephant in the room that people bring with them to the preconceived notions about race, the preconceived notions about difference. And it makes it primes the environment for change to happen. One way I do that, I have a right of anti-racism statement every semester that reaffirms my commitment to creating an anti-racist teaching environment. So I say I'm going to I'm willing to call myself out and I expect you to call me out if I make a mistake or misrepresent a community in this class based around race, gender, sexuality, whatever the case may be, I want you to hold me accountable. And I think as important as the person in power and in a teaching environment to be able to say, I'm going to make mistakes, please call me out on that so I can learn from it, not to put the onus on the students, but to know we're mutually engaged in this process. But there's there's several bullet points happy to share with share them with you along with my slides from today. But I just go down this laundry list of things that I'm going to hold myself accountable to as it relates to race in my class. And then I have a list of expectations from the students as well. We signed an exchange and we go forward. But I also have a list of non-negotiable around certain words. And, you know, I did a call response today. Words, words matter. Language is power. And I want to make sure that students, as they're using words that use them with intention, not just as catch for the ills of the world. 


[00:37:38] So and if that's something you'd like to see the broader level, I mean, do you think that's a great step? Is that if is if every let's say every professor had. Such a contractual commitment in that way, I mean. What do you think about that? 


[00:37:56] Yes, I think that contractual is the perfect word, right, because it implies that there's a responsibility on both sides. I'm going to live up to the expectations that I've written. And you as society have to hold yourself to to these things, too. And when we're in violation of that, having a structure to work that out is really important to my own. One of my professors in grad school had like this hat out statements. I don't know if you're familiar or have seen that done in class, but basically it's when a classmate says something that might be offensive, although in good intentions might be interpreted as offensive, another student in class can say ouch. And then you have a conversation about why there's there's debates about how that can work or does it was a burden on the oppressed person to, like, speak up as to why. What if you do the the work in the beginning? That work the three work leading up to when an incident occurs, you'll have a structure in place to know how to navigate navigate that conversation. So the offense doesn't have to be verbalizing to another person why their humanity matters in the learning space. 


[00:39:06] Right. Got it. Thank you for that. And that kind of leads me to, you know, this year as as an entity. And I was just curious how this year, of course, we've seen in some ways great strides in our social justice conversations and things like that. But the thing I'd like to ask you about is, you know, the covert the how is the pandemic affected you? How has it affected your work, your students? And then where do you think we go from here? What do you hope coming out of it? 


[00:39:41] Yeah, that's a great question, Lynn. The pandemic's had a detrimental impact on my students, and I see that in a number of ways, but mainly like we'll get to the midpoint of the semester. And it's just like, you know, I know what people didn't read or like do know, do the thing, listen to the album. I wanna do this. I know when that happens. I don't think I don't because I do what I don't get mad. I don't trip about that. Like, I know this ain't the only class you're taking. I know you got other assignments. I know you deal with stuff back home. I know your cousin back at home just got like I know there are very serious circumstances that you all are bringing with you. We all come into every room. We enter with some baggage. And so what I try to do is create moments in class to acknowledge that I use the writing prompts. I use certain writing prompts to tease that out so students learn to normalize their ability to externally process and community. I think there's something to be said about meeting. Making in public in hip hop is a form of public discourse. And I think it's a it's much easier. Well, for my students, I've seen for them it's much easier to articulate how they're feeling in those 16 lines rather than just have a sit down conversation and bare their soul in front of all of their peers. One thing I'd try to do to sort of normalize where students are at on my discussion boards, we use we use a canvas at Wake Forest and think, oh, cool, that's what's up. I didn't know the campus school did that, I'm not plugging one over the other. But we on the same page, so cool. But on our discussion boards, I have students submit their verses in public. And then I have them. You have to you don't get credit for the assignment until you comment on two of your classmates versus like you have to show some words of affirmation, show love, get feedback. I like to call it audible feedback, right, that the snaps you might get in audience are the gasps or the oh, like that's what creates the hip hop element that that giving and receiving, like from a, I'm [gonna] spit these bars. I expect something back from you and that's what I try to create and to sort of lean into the next part of your question about how this is impacted my teaching. Like I've only been an adjunct professor online, like I've never taught this class in person. And for someone who gets his energy from people being in space, in community with others. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to curate a hip hop, hip hop ish environment on zone, and that hasn't been the case. I'm actually more nervous about going back into the classroom next year because I've noticed in my personal interactions with people when I'm at the grocery store, a gas station and I'm messed up and everything, like I still haven't I still don't feel like me in public just yet. There's enough I haven't had enough conversations about that. You know, I'm not able to like that. People give hugs because that's who I am. And I love I love people that I love being in space with folks. But I definitely can feel myself retreating from who I used to be pre pandemic. And so I'm wrestling with that right now. I know you didn't expect this to turn into a therapy session, but but yeah, that's where I'm at right now. 


[00:43:06] No, I appreciate your candor. I mean, and you're certainly not alone. And, you know, I mean, I feel that we all feel it. So to hear, to hear you express it is, it's very comforting. So thank you for your candor on that. And what do you hope that we take from this going forward? Do you have any hopes and dreams for the future in the context of the pandemic? 


[00:43:29] Yeah, I mean, I hope we continue to find ways to make higher ed more accessible via online mechanisms. Right? Like, obviously, there's some tough things to replicate in a virtual classroom. But, you know, we talk about, you know, we talk about accessibility. We talk about leveraging resources for well, I talk a lot about in my own work about how to make colleges more responsible to the to the to the service of the communities in which they're situated and who are working class populations, who might want to continue their education in some way or acquire a new skill, like how can we create learning moments for the people in our cities, towns, communities at our university to give them a university experience to credential them in some way? I talk about the American meritocracy and how that sort of undermines the American dream. I actually opened with that and my talk this afternoon. And although credentialing and this excessive like need to to to get a degree in order to give yourself a leg up in society is very real. That's not changing any time soon. And even though that might be the case, like how can we as an institution provide moments for the community around us to to sort of have access to those credentials, have access to that economic opportunity that a higher education affords? So I hope that we can bottle some of this online energy up and still provide valuable, rigorous but liberating online experience for people in our communities that aren't necessarily students but deserve our attention. 


[00:45:12] All right. Well, thank you for that. That leads me to my next question about other changes. And you talked about parenting a bit just in a moment or two in our discussion today. And I just kind of wanted to circle back to that. And I know that this has been a very profound change in your life. And and then you mentioned, you know, raising a daughter in the South right now. And I wonder, you know, what what kinds of things are you and your wife thinking about, talking about, dreaming about in terms of how you would like to shape this experience for your daughter or shape your life for your daughter? 


[00:45:58] Yeah, I might need to stretch out on the couch for this one, Lynn. But I think one of the things Lauren and I wrestled with and let me just say Lauren is the real star in the family. She's a Ph.D. She's wrapping up. She finished her Ph.D. in February when she was nine months pregnant and now last year of medical school. So she is just like she's the star. I'm just looking with the telescope to make sure she's good, man. 


[00:46:25] Ah, that's so beautiful.


[00:46:26] I think for us, thank you. I think for us, one of the things that we hope for, for our daughter is to she's only known people with. So she was born, to put it in context for you, aight? So COVID is happening. Sports get canceled. You know, Trump still isn't saying it's airborne yet, is very, very know. I don't know where Anthony Fauci is yet, like it's very early. Lauren goes into labor. We're in a hospital. The hospital has a rule now because it is a thing kinda that you can only have one person in the delivery room with you. So we tell our parents that what have you have you when we left the house. Our parents were here, No mass, just chillin, sitting on the couch, watching TV, not six feet apart, all hugged up. We go into the hospital there for a couple of days after morning, gives birth. We come home on the weekends, like two, three days later. Nobody's in the hospital. Everybody has on a mask. There's hand sanitizer stations like every two couple of steps, you know what I'm saying? Like, man, some different isotope rolling around. I'm saying the hospital parking lot, it was just it felt like a different world. And that's all Joy knows. And because of that, we are trying to figure out how to fuse, what we remember about the real world before with what we can potentially expect for her in the future. We don't even know if we're sending her to daycare yet. As long as I can work from home, I'm still trying to to be the dad and professor all at the same time. And like, we just trying to find balance. So we're remixing things in the moment. What's your, I guess, larger question? I think we just want her to be happy and we want her to have friends. We want her to feel accepted. We want her to be one of, her to be herself. Like, you know, she'll play with her little baby piano. She'll dance a little bit. She'll, her, when I'm practicing a new poem, like she's, she's starting to become a person with interest. And that excites us to be able to see those little milestones in those lights go off at certain points just throughout the day. 


[00:48:37] That's fantastic. 


[00:48:39] Yeah, that's a blessing that we've gotten in this moment amid so much suffering. But as time changes, ask me that question again. Next year, it'll be something different. 


[00:48:48] Right. Right. Well, it's a beautiful way to capture this moment in time, you know? So thank you for that. And amazingly, we're almost out of time. I don't think we're ever going to get to the last two songs, but I do have a couple more sort of fun general questions for you. And the first is, what books do you love? And that you if you had your way, like the top three books that everybody should read, what are those top three that everybody should be? 


[00:49:21] Man, that's a, oh, man, I wasn't, man, I lowkey wasn't ready for that one. 


[00:49:27] I'm sorry! Or it could be whatever comes to mind. It doesn't have to be, I mean, earth shattering or anything like that. 


[00:49:34] I got you, Lynn. Don't worry, we homies, man. Um, I'm a hip hop head. I read any hip hop text. Black. No. So my dog ate this part of the cover, I want to say my dog ate my homework. I'm not lying about homework, but it's called Black Noise by Tricia Rose, foundational hip hop scholar. That's really important to read. I think Black Noise provides an excellent perspective, not just on hip hop, but the culture as a movement. More broadly, this is from '94, but still relevant and I think her work is particularly timely. One thing that I am excited about reading that I haven't cracked open just yet, it's called Hood Feminism. Again, it approaches, it approaches feminism from a from an African-American woman's perspective. Definitely some hip hop language undertones there. I have not started reading that. But as soon as I get a free moment in these weeks to come, when the semester wraps up, that is going to be the first thing I crack open for sure. And I always like to have practical things in my repertoire. And I know I might be talking to a lot of educators out there. This text right here, Open Mic Night is, it really changed my life. Focuses on the role of sort of spoken word poetry in educational settings, more specifically colleges and universities. But there's something in here that I think K-12 educators can take away, too. It's called Open Mic Night: Campus Programs That Champion College Student Voice and Engagement. Again, another dope hip hop text, Black Noise, Hood Feminism. I think that's sort of like how I'm piecing together where I'm at in this current moment, and it's informing what I want to do when I'm able to be in person with people. 


[00:51:26] Again, I love it. Thank you. I can't wait to pick one of those. I know the other two. I can't wait to pick up that. My last question for you is just a playful question and it's just what's turning you on this week. And it can be anything. It's a way for people to have another insight. And it could be a favorite TV show or movie or a book or a song or a favorite food or whatever it does. It could be anything. But I will ask you, Donovan Livingston, what is turning you on this week, though? 


[00:51:59] That, that is a hard question to answer, because there's a few things that really light my fire. One is starting to get warm out here in North Carolina. I know you can't see out here. Today we had a little rain, but it is getting warm and I am so, so ready to fire up my grill. That is my love language. I'll be out there with the kids to cook, ready to cook, apron on with the. I'll just be out there battling it up like that. So well, any time you in North Carolina, I got you on a ribeye. I don't know, if you vegan, I could do a plant based situation, but either way. 


[00:52:33] Well, and when you come to Utah, I'll smoke some salmon for you. 


[00:52:37] Let's go, bruh! I'll hold you to that.But that's one thing that's really got me got me excited this week is like I hope to hop on a grill, if not this weekend sometime very, very, very near future. Another thing this got me excited is, you know, working from home and having joy here all day is like I've really gotten into kids show theme songs. And the soundtrack to this show called Rastamouse is my new favorite thing. Basically, real quick, quick synopsis. It's a show about Jamaican mice who solve crimes and they don't just solve crimes. They have a restorative justice framework for solving crimes. So when they catch the criminal, they don't just like lock the criminal up. They rehabilitate the criminal and reinsert them in. Society is dope. And a soundtrack is fire, bruh, it's reggae, you know what I'm saying? So if you look in, Rastamouse is a great, great, great way to go. But those are the two things that really got me going right now. Kids old theme songs and the prospect of hopping on a real. 


[00:53:40] That is fantastic. Thank you so much for that. Well, Donovan, this has been such a pleasure. I thank you. It's been such a fun conversation and I've just loved every minute of it. And with that, I will just say thank you to you and we're going to sign off. So thank you so much, Donovan. 


[00:53:58] Peace and love, family. Let's do it again. 


[00:54:00] Awesome, everyone. All right. Well, we'll see you then next time. 


[00:54:06] Thanks so much for listening to the APEX Hour here on KSUU Thunder 91.1. You can find us again next Thursday at 3 p.m. for more conversations with the visiting guests at Southern Utah University and new music to discover for your next playlist. And in the meantime, we would love to see you at our events on campus. To find out more, check out suu.edu/apex. Until next week, this is Lynn Vartan saying goodbye from the APEX Hour here on Thunder 91.1.