Simeon Roberts

Former professor highlights 'genius' of Bob Marley

Emmy Award-winning former professor Kwame Dawes returned to campus Wednesday to share stories from his newest book on the legacy of artist Bob Marley. Dawes discussion was a deep dive into why Bob Marley and reggae music are significant in the artistic world, human rights and faith. 

“Marley’s words are a path to understanding,” Dawes said, calling Marley a “prophet and higher servant for God.” In Dawes' eyes, Marley was a reggae poet and scholar who mastered lyrical vulnerability with public and prophetic roles. 

"[Marley] built freedom on backs of enslaved people,” he said.

Dr. Kwame Dawes, author of Bob Marley: Lyrical Genius, speaks about reggae's influence on his writing and society. Reporters: Spencer Buckler and Elena Barilla

Dawes, who studied at Jamaica College and the University of the West Indies, also acknowledged the role Marley played in his own life. He said Marley’s works helped him to understand that his faith had to be tested by the world and set the standard to strive for excellence. Dawes tied his thoughts together by saying, “Poetry and writing allows people to articulate the existence of our lives.”

Indeed, Dawes has worn many hats in his career. He's worked as a singer, critic, poet and playwright. He now teaches at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, but was an integral part of USC's English department during his time on campus.

Dawes' variety of interests and skills are what made him a prime candidate for the Provost Forum.

"He was being a poet even as he was being an analyst," explained Provost Joan Gabel.

Dawes is the third Provost Forum speaker. Gabel and other leadership in the Provost's Office launched this series of speakers because they wanted to stimulate broader conversation about the arts among faculty, students and the community. 

For people like Ian Wilde, a first-year pre-business student, Dawes' address exceeded expectations. 

"It was great to kind of see the the different mindsets people live with around here," he said.

Dawes was excited to return to USC and sees potential in the forum.

"As the event grows, it helps give the university an opportunity to learn,” he said. 

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