Address by Rennie Harris

Unedited transcript, subject to change and correction, of Commencement 2010 remarks by Rennie Harris, who received the honorary degree Doctor of Fine Arts.

Today, I would like to share with you a few insights that hip-hop has taught me that I hope will help you at this next phase of your journey.

Today is an important time for both of us; for all of us.

I’m a big believer in seizing the moment and understanding that the moment is only real. Nothing else is real. This podium, this conversation that we’re having is real. It’s tangible. We can touch it. Everything before we can’t touch anymore. It’s a memory. It’s fading.

In dealing with the moment I realized that I was shaping my reality and setting up a series of moments for the rest of my life. In doing that, I realized that we’re often taught structure as a guideline. I realize that structure is not a guideline — we are able to able to fall off the path and get back on.

One of the other insights that came to me was that persistency and consistency win out. As long as I’m persistent and consistent, I will be successful.

When I was about 26 or 27, for some strange reason I started to think about my life a little bit. I started to ask myself, what I want to do when I grow up. Everyone was asking me that since I was 8 or 9, so I thought I would ask myself. I knew I wanted to provide for my family. I wanted to be successful at whatever I did.

So I created this little list: three columns. One was B.S. The other was P.M. And the other was C.M.

At the end of the day I would log down all of the things that I did that day. I talked to my brother about the Eagles and why they can’t win the Super Bowl. That was B.S.; I put it in the B.S. column [laughter]. I talked to a friend about a potential project for a play; that was in the P.M. column for “Potential Money” [laughter]. We got the grant for this play, and it moved over to the C.M. column: “Confirmed Money” [laughter].

As you can imagine, my B.S. column was about two pages long and I had maybe one or two things in the P.M. and C.M. columns. Eventually after logging this for two months, I started to see that the B.S. column started to shrink and the other two columns were full. This kept me on track with what I was doing and where I wanted to go. I made that decision to do it. I made a commitment, a conscious decision to say, “This is what I wanted to do.” Finally.

The other insight I would like to say, is more or less based on the three laws of hip-hop: Individuality, creativity and innovation. Now that I’ve made my column, I’m having a sense of identity. I know who I am. I’m pushed or inspired to be creative and to think outside of the box. Not accept the norm. So, if I was dancing — I can’t flip anymore — but let’s say if I had to do four flips, back handsprings. I’d do six or seven, just to be outside of the box. Instead of wearing my pants on the right side, I turned them inside-out. And today for my hip-hoppers, I put my hat to the side, just so that I could be creative and have a sense of individuality.

This helped me on my journey. The last thing I want to give you insight on is the most important and my favorite. Movement is the last manifestation of your reality. Movement is the last manifestation of your reality. What you do is who you are. Not what you say. You know a person loves you because what they do for you and how they consider you. If you are a person who is always late, acknowledge that you are always late and move forward. Always remember that movement is the last manifestation of your reality. Take action. Define your reality.

And as you move on after today, the last thing I’m going to ask you to remember is to remember who you are as spirits on this planet and why you came here. Why you came here to have this experience. You came here to understand love on many, many levels. Your family, your immediate love; your spouses, your friends, the people that you meet, the human race. This is the reason we are here.

And in understanding that, I ask you, as you go out and begin to change the world, to always remember when you’re looking down at someone, when you find yourself looking down, make sure that your hand is reached out to help them up. This is the only time you should look down at anyone is while you’re pulling them up.

Remember individuality, creativity, innovation; remember who you are a spirits on this planet; remember to always pull the next man or women up; and most of all remember to be true to yourself, and that you are the only person that has the answer. No one else has the answer. It is within you. I thank you, and I wish you wealth, health, and knowledge of self.