ASM Speaker Mitchell S. Jackson Educates on the Lessons in Black Male Prominence

Mitchell S. Jackson speaks to students regarding important Black, male figures.

Mitchell S. Jackson, Pulitzer Prize winner and renowned author, visited Andover to speak on the lessons taught by Black males in positions of prominence at All-School Meeting (ASM) on February 10. Introduced by Black Student Union (BSU) board members Suhaila Cotton ’24 and Emerson Kington ’24, the speech detailed themes of philosophy, ego, nurture, ambition, and pride, connoted through quotes from prominent Black men Jackson has interviewed through the years. 

Jackson began his speech reflecting back on the interviews he conducted with Chris Rock and Kendrick Lamar, who are succeeding individuals in their respective fields. From discussing the importance of a mother’s empathy to “seeing yourself in the main character and glimpses in the villain,” Jackson analyzed and explained interview quotes to describe the stories of Black men who have made their own way in the world and the takeaways he has learned from them. 

“There might be a lesson in the works, in the lives of Clarence Thomas, of Chris Rock, and Colson Whitehead, and Michael B. Jordan, Kendrick Lamar — men whose lives testify to the impact of nurturing for better, whose perspectives about art compel consideration of our shared humanity. Men whose ambitions challenge not only to dream big but to do the work of realizing those dreams, to do that work again and again. Men who remind [us] that a person of prominence is not simply a celebrity or someone famous, but a human who has earned their consequence in the world,” said Jackson. 

During the question and answer portion of the ASM, Jackson focused on the importance of home, and how to rely on the support of your home to only challenge and push yourself further. Jackson also touched on topics of inequality in America, how to remedy it by looking at every aspect of daily life, dedicating yourself to work you’re passionate about, and ended the ASM by describing how the words of his father which are written into his literacy legacy. 

“For me, it seemed like the other men drew strength from where they were from and that there’s something to be said about feeling that source of home as a place to draw confidence and inspiration from. I think you need a source of pride, and if you come from a place that’s not affluent, if you come from a place like where I come from, where there was no wealth, it’s not a point of shame, it’s a thing to understand,” said Jackson. 

Cio Hernandez ’23 shared how, while he found the message of the ASM important and moving, he felt that the organization of the presentation was not entirely developed properly. He also expressed that the presentation should have included both females and males, not just males, so the audience could better engage. 

“He had a very good point, [but] I don’t think he executed it effectively, he used a lot of quotes and didn’t provide a lot of context. I actually really did like how he shared why these men are making great strides in their industries, I just thought it was a little weird why he only focused on male prominence and not female prominence… There’s a place and time for everything and you can’t get through everything in one ASM, but you can still kind of mention it,” said Hernandez. 

Similarly, Sonya Caro Del Castillo ’26 signified how they found the ASM very evidence-driven with little contextual information provided to link back to the main topic. Caro Del Castillo, however, did appreciate the messages of dedication and ambition that the speaker shared with the audience. 

“[My main takeaway from the ASM] would be the importance of dedication. I thought [the ASM subject] was an important topic, [and that] there was good analysis of the quotes. [While] the details were important, I would’ve excluded some of them to go back to the main point. I felt like as soon as the point was stated, the speaker [only discussed] evidence. There was a lot more evidence than analysis,” said Caro Del Castillo. 

Cotton highlighted the idea of embracing life and moving forward as a main takeaway from the ASM. She also expressed the importance of representation in ASM speakers, noting the success of how Black students could see themselves in the speaker. 

“I thought it was cool to hear the amount of work that he’s done in researching and interviewing Kendrick and Michael B. Jordan, how they were brought up. [I enjoyed how] he talked a lot about not asking for pity, really just acknowledging that it’s your life. If it’s rough, don’t see it as something that’s sad, see it as ‘this is what you’re at, what’s next?’  After ASM, a lot of the students who went up to ask questions were Black students, so I feel like it was successful in people seeing themselves represented in the speaker,” said Cotton.