This month, Kanye West flew to Washington D.C. with his wife and kids for a surprise visit to Howard University. The historically black college accepted his invitation to perform for the students during their homecoming celebration where Rotimi, DaBaby, Saweetie and others also performed. West took the students to church with his famous Sunday Service concert and sang his popular hit “Jesus Walks” from his debut album, “The College Dropout.” West seemed delighted to prescreen tracks from his unreleased album, but not everyone jumped for joy to hear about the rapper’s abrupt arrival.
Howard University students received word about the concert at 6 a.m. on the day of the event, which resulted in tons of mixed reviews from those on campus.
If you don’t know why such an affair could be seen as problematic and culturally insensitive, then here is some more information detailing the past couple years of Kanye’s actions.
West has been publicly shamed and “cancelled” for his views on race, culture and politics. While his career began with political statements like “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” the public has not been in agreement with his more recent ventures. In 2018, the 42-year-old was photographed with Donald Trump in a “Make America Great Again” hat. West explained his reasoning for siding with the Trump administration and how inspired he was by the President’s unusual qualities. However, the meeting was not taken lightly by the public.
A week later, TMZ interviewed West about the photograph, Trump and his political views. The newsroom interview took a sharp turn, however, when West revealed his troubling ideas about the history of slavery.
West said, “When you hear about slavery for 400 years: For 400 years, that sounds like choice.” He added, “You was there for 400 years … And it’s all of y’all?”
Van Lathan, a TMZ employee, confronted him about the statement and lamented his inaccurate portrayal of black people. West apologized to Lathan and then apologized on air with WGCI, a live radio station in Chicago. He claimed the moment was a result of a difficult time in his life and how that impacted his mental state.
“This is something about the fact that it hurt people’s feelings and the way that I presented that piece of information — I could present in a way more calm way, but I was ramped up. And I apologize,” he said. “That happens sometimes when people are … I’m not blaming mental health, but I’m explaining mental health. I don’t know if I properly apologized for how the slavery comment made people feel. I’m sorry for the one-two effects of the MAGA hat into the slave comment, and I’m sorry for people that felt let down by that moment.”
The “Love Lockdown” star, however, was still not as well received as he once was. He became the budding joke for thousands of memes, spiraled into countless rapper feuds and continued to face criticism on all media platforms.
Then he found Christianity.
In a Beats 1 interview with Zane Lowe, the artist said he adopted his Christian values and beliefs after being admitted to a mental facility for treatment. Although his political views were not altered, West began to see the world in a different light.
“Now that I’m in service to Christ, my job is to spread the gospel, to let people know what Jesus has done for me. I’ve spread a lot of things,” he told Lowe. “There was a time when I was letting you know what high fashion had done for me. I was letting you know what Hennessy had done for me, but now I’m letting you know what Jesus has done for me and in that, I’m no longer a slave. I’m a son now, a son of God. I’m free.”
At the start of the new year, the Chicago native started putting on what we now know as his Sunday Service concerts. The gospel-influenced performances started at his family home in Calabasas and later on in other states across the country.
But Howard University students never anticipated their school would be next.
West came to preview his recent album “Jesus Is King” and support the school in the midst of Yardfest. The star allegedly brought out an entourage to enhance the turnout of the event. There were some students in attendance, who were genuinely happy to join the festivities and welcome West to their campus.
Travis Cleveland, a fan, tweeted, “Kanye West at Howard University. This was awesome. It’s amazing to see what God is doing through his life.”
West rapped, sang and opened the floor for discussion amongst the crowd. He talked about his journey to welcoming faith into his life, the current issues impacting society and slavery (again). While there were some questionable moments during the conversation, the visible crowd seemed to carry on as if nothing happened. A lot could be said about the reactions considering not all participants were students of the university, but West had an answer.
He told the crowd, “He [God] took everything away. I was in debt. I was in a mental hospital. I was cancelled, but the power belongs to God. As I stand here on the lawn of Howard University, do I look cancelled to you?”
Well, West, that is still up for debate.
According to some of the students and staff, the concert was not an approved event. Many of the people on campus did not condone the performance, yet Howard University allowed for the promotion and spread of the event via email.
Apparently, a large sample of students were against the performance since West had historically proven to be a controversial public figure in the black community.
To my fans
Thank you for being loyal & patient
We are specifically fixing mixes on “Everything We Need” “Follow God” & “Water”
We not going to sleep until this album is out!
— ye (@kanyewest) October 25, 2019
One student said, “Kanye West at Howard University…leave him alone. Why Howard? Why not? Bringing up things Kanye’s said before his conversion is irrelevant. Only fake Christians do that…talk forgiveness and love but not practice it. Give change a chance.”
On second thought, mixed reviews may have been a gross understatement.
“If you’re not intelligent enough to recognize that Kanye West is exploiting Black Christian culture and Howard University to rebrand from supporting a racist, xenophobic con artist… please stay away from me,” said another student.
It is difficult to know the reasoning behind the actions of the rapper, and it is another story to attempt to justify them. As a black man, there are just a lot of things he should not have done and should have never said. But as a human being, one thing is certain: Kanye West made a mistake.
Whether or not the world opens its arms to accept that is up for debate. Ask Howard University.