Coulter, others to ‘Bless the Mic’ at Philander 

Didn’t get enough of Ann Coulter’s singular brand of right-wing discourse during her appearance at the University of Central Arkansas last year? Then mark your calendar for Jan. 26, when she’ll be speaking at Philander Smith College as part of its new “Bless the Mic” lecture series. She’s one of half a dozen speakers college President Walter Kimbrough lined up for the monthly series, which kicks off Sept. 22 with author/scholar Michael Eric Dyson. The name of the series, “Bless the Mic,” is hip-hop slang for giving a skilled rap performance. It’s being billed as a contemporary spin on the traditional college president’s lecture series, and Kimbrough said he chose the speakers for their ability to communicate with college-age listeners. Coulter seems an odd choice for both the historically black, United Methodist-affiliated college. As a measure of Coulter’s controversiality, Harding University — the Church of Christ school in Searcy — recently cancelled a Coulter appearance there set for next March. Administrators decided the “image she portrays in her presentations” wouldn’t reflect well on the university, spokesman David Crouch said. Other scheduled speakers are the (first female) vice chairman of the NAACP, BET personality Jeff Johnson and three scholars — including Dyson, author of “Is Bill Cosby Right? Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost its Mind?” “We wanted to mix things up,” Kimbrough said. “We wanted to have someone who’d be a polar opposite to everyone else.” Coulter’s style will appeal to students regardless of whether they agree with her, Kimbrough said. “She’s sort of in-your-face, brash, and I think students will respond to that,” he said. Coulter will also attract folks who might not otherwise have occasion to visit Philander Smith, Kimbrough said. “It might be the first time people come to campus, because they want to hear her,” he said. Kimbrough said he hasn’t gotten any flak so far for bringing Coulter to campus, but he expects to. “During the course of a series like that, if you do it well, you should have somebody say something,” he said. The idea for “Bless the Mic” has been simmering in Kimbrough’s head for about eight years, he said, since he worked at Old Dominion University in Virginia. That school’s president’s lecture series once featured both the Rev. Al Sharpton and anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly. Coulter’s definitely the lightning rod among the group of speakers, but Kimbrough said she’s not the only one whose opinions have been controversial: Dyson, a professor of religious and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania, took on Bill Cosby — and the rest of what he calls the “Afristocracy” — in his latest book. Other speakers: • Thomas Shapiro, a professor of law and social policy at Brandeis University and author of “The Hidden Cost of Being African-American,” which looks at how inequality is created and passed along. He’s scheduled for Oct. 18. • Kimberle Crenshaw, professor of law at UCLA and Columbia University and founding coordinator of the Critical Race Theory Workshop, on Nov. 11. • Jeff Johnson, host of “Cousin Jeff’s Chronicles” on Black Entertainment Television and national director of the America Votes Young Voter Project, on Feb. 7, 2006. • Roslyn Brock, the youngest person and first woman to hold the post of vice chairman of the NAACP, on March 27, 2006. All lectures in the series are free and open to the public.

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