At a ceremony honoring young black males who recently graduated from Chicago’s public high schools, keynote speaker and rapper Lupe Fiasco blasted the education system.
“Congratulations, you have graduated from one of the most terrible, substandard school systems in the entire world,” Fiasco said, according to The Chicago Sun-Times.
“You have just spent the last 12 years receiving one of the worst educations on Earth. You are at least four, five steps behind people in other countries that are younger than you,” Fiasco said.
A politically outspoken artist, Fiasco grew up in Chicago, where school closings and astronomical dropout rates traditionally affect black students disproportionately.
In May, Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the five-year graduation rate — for the entire student body — reached a 14-year high of 63%.
But according to a 2012 report by the Schott Foundation for Public Education, the graduation rate for black males in Chicago hovers around 39%.
During Saturday’s Mass Black Male Graduation and Transition to Manhood ceremony, an event co-sponsored by Chicago State University and The Black Star Project, Fiasco kicked the fluffy speech routine and delivered a swift reality check to the recent grads.
“The caps and the gowns and your tassels and your honorary blah-blah-blahs don’t mean nothing. That’s just dress,” said Fiasco. “They just represent to someone else that you’ve achieved something. But then when you look back at it, what have you achieved?”
Michael Crenshaw, manager of membership and volunteer development at The Black Star Project, tells Business Insider students responded “excellently” to the fiery speech.
“[Lupe Fiasco] had a couple of choice words, but they related to it well,” Crenshaw said.
The singer also pledged $100 to each of the 150 students.
Crenshaw tells us Fiasco’s donations were a spontaneous decision. The Black Star Project held a raffle to award $100 to 10 students, but Fiasco offered to extend the gift to everyone “on the spot,” said Crenshaw.