The Power of Influence
Earlier this month, Provost Bill Bussey sent a note to the Nobles community letting everyone know he had purchased several copies of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book, My Beautiful Struggle, in anticipation of the author’s visit to the school. Class II student Ben Kent picked up the last copy outside Bussey’s office, not knowing what to expect. It didn’t take him long to be blown away. “I was hooked from page one,” Ben said, as he introduced Coates to the Feb. 23 Long Assembly crowd.
Standing at the podium, Ben gleaned several lessons from the book that he deemed applicable to not only himself, but his Nobles peers. Throughout My Beautiful Struggle, Coates explores his relationship with his family, in particular his father and oldest brother, and how their influences and expectations helped guide him through life. “Even though Coates’ background and upbringing is so different from many of our own backgrounds,” said Ben, “I think everyone can understand facing the expectations of their parents.”
Coates, a senior editor for The Atlantic magazine, was born in Baltimore, Md., in 1975, the sixth of seven siblings. Despite that most of his siblings were half-brothers and half-sisters, he described his family as “very tight knit” and said it was a family rule to only refer to one another simply as “brothers and sisters.” Coates recognized the unconventionality of the family’s circumstances, but explained, “When you grow up only knowing one way, you don’t think of it as weird. It’s just life.”
After providing some personal background and family history, Coates read several passages from My Beautiful Struggle. His powerful use of language, although gritty at times, painted a true picture of his life. By baring so much of himself, he allows readers of all life experiences to find common ground in his journey to define himself and find success in adulthood. After a Q&A session that touched on everything from his career as a writer to his thoughts on modern rap music, Coates ended his Assembly talk by pointing out that what made the difference in his life was the influence of his parents. “There will always be a conflict between the culture of kids and the culture of adults,” he said. “But the lessons my parents provided have turned out to be true life lessons.”