Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Rapper Killer Mike tells USF students to cross boundaries, mentor kids, be radical

Michael Render, aka Killer Mike, speaks about racism and social justice at the Marshall Student Center at the University of South Florida on Wednesday night, January 20, 2016. [ZACK WITTMAN  |  Times]

Michael Render, aka Killer Mike, speaks about racism and social justice at the Marshall Student Center at the University of South Florida on Wednesday night, January 20, 2016. [ZACK WITTMAN | Times]

TAMPA — Killer Mike came to the University of South Florida on Wednesday night with no speech planned for the hundreds who packed into the Oval Theater to hear from the rapper and social activist.

But Killer Mike a.k.a Michael Render, the Grammy-winning artist of Run the Jewels fame, didn't need index cards to deliver his message. Fans know that's not his style anyway.

A fast-talking, passionate Render paced the stage and told a sea of USF students this:

You need to get out in the community if you want to make a difference.

"It is time for you to take your butt off campus and find a child that does not look like you (to mentor)," he said.

Render was the university's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Week speaker. His talk was the signature event in the campus' weeklong commemoration of King's legacy.

The thrust of his speech focused on the importance of mentoring: Black college students need to be living examples for younger minorities, Render said. And white students must engage with the black community — not just to help struggling kids, but to learn themselves.

"It is time you find black people to teach you and become your friends," he said, then later emphasized: "You will grow from the friendship. I am not the activist I am because I only trained with black people."

Render kept the mood light, often cracking jokes about himself. But he also touched on several serious topics involving race in America.

He also came to the defense of presidential hopeful and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who Render has supported on social media and interviewed for a series of online videos on

Earlier Wednesday, Render took to Twitter to defend Sanders from bestselling author Ta-Nehisi Coates, who criticized Sanders in the Atlantic magazine for failing to support the idea of reparations for slavery as a way to combat white supremacy. Coates wrote that it was hypocritical for Sanders to propose a wide range of policies and ideas that have little chance of ever becoming law — but then offer no support for a radical idea to combat racism.

"Sanders says the chance of getting reparations through Congress is 'nil,'" Coates wrote in the January issue, "a correct observation which could just as well apply to much of the Vermont senator's own platform."

But Render said Coates' criticism was unfair, that Sanders has ideas for dealing with racism and improving the lives of black Americans.

"I'd like to say that fact that (Sanders) doesn't directly come out and say, 'Hey, I can definitely see reparations happening,' doesn't turn me from the fact his policy directly affects black men getting out of jail right now," Render told the crowd Wednesday.

The 40-year-old related rapper to the auditorium packed mostly with 18- to 20-somethings with ease. Render touched on the complexity of what King left behind after he was assassinated 47 years ago.

"I don't accept that 'dream' they sell you on Martin Luther King," he said. "He was a radical … Don't say you want to be like Dr. King unless you really want to be like Dr. King."

He told students who aren't engaged with protests erupting across the country over race relations to stand alongside the black community and "pick up a sign, yell and scream" and then, afterward, "ask to understand."

"As white people, it's time for you to help," Render said, "and we need your help."

He told the crowd they're not going to fix global problems if they don't fix the ones "5 miles" away. He also encouraged students to "leave their team." That meant they should leave behind whatever culture, religion or racial group they may have been raised to believe they belong to exclusively.

"You can create a new team based on truth, based on honesty, based on love, based on integrity," Render said.

Contact Sara DiNatale at [email protected] or (813) 226-3400. Follow @sara_dinatale.

Rapper Killer Mike tells USF students to cross boundaries, mentor kids, be radical 01/21/16 [Last modified: Thursday, January 21, 2016 7:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. College basketball scandal dips into Tampa Bay


    Tuesday's national college basketball scandal has recruiting ties to Tampa Bay.

    In this March 15, 2012, file photo, San Diego State assistant coach Tony Bland, left, talks during NCAA college basketball practice in Columbus, Ohio. Bland was identified in court papers, and is among 10 people facing federal charges in Manhattan federal court, Tuesday in a wide probe of fraud and corruption in the NCAA, authorities said. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File]
  2. Datz to open in St. Petersburg, join the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art

    Food & Dining

    Now Datz news.

    Get it? Tuesday, Datz, the longtime line-out-the-door, oft-Instagrammed and -Yelped Tampa stalwart known for shock-and-awe sandwiches and oh-so-much bacon, announced it is coming to St. Petersburg.

    Lunch guest eat at Datz Deli at 2616 South MacDill Ave. in Tampa. Times files.
  3. Republican leader McConnell pulls the plug on latest Obamacare repeal effort

    WASHINGTON --- Sen. Mitch McConnell on Tuesday officially pulled the plug on the latest plan to repeal the health care law, telling senators they will not vote on the measure and effectively admitting defeat in the last-gasp drive to fulfill a core promise of President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. listens during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017, after the Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as education secretary. DeVos was approved by the narrowest of margins, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie in a historic vote. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) DCSA119
  4. Lightning's Brayden Point could be perfect fit alongside Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov

    Lightning Strikes

    SUNRISE — Brayden Point ended last season as the Lightning's No. 1 center, thrust into the role as a rookie due to injuries.

    Lightning center Brayden Point (21) advances the puck through the neutral zone during Friday's preseason game against the Nashville Predators. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  5. For starters: Rays at Yankees, with Blake Snell starting, Wilson Ramos cashing in


    The Rays open their final road series of the season tonight at Yankee Stadium, which is also where they played their first of the season.

    LHP Blake Snell will be on the mound for the Rays, looking to continue his successful late-season run, in which he is 4-0, 2,57 over his last eight starts.

    Tonight marks Wilson Ramos' 55th start of the season.