JASMINE OMOROGBE [aw mer AW bee--the g is silent] is a first-generation African-American, her father, Benjamin, born in Benin City, Nigeria, and her mother, Jariland Spence, from Lafayette, Alabama. Jasmine grew up in Minneapolis's North Side ("a big stigma, lots of stereotypes about crime, but I never had any problems there. You have to be mindful, that's all.") and I can't imagine she ever had any problems with anything or anyone: she is a powerhouse. She talks fast, has a big beautiful smile, a young black woman with kinky twist extensions in her hair, who tells you her story without decoration. Father was an orphan who came to this country to go to law school in Louisiana. She is a communications major who hopes to be a corporate recruiter and a motivational speaker and open a nonprofit, maybe work with minority students to prepare them for college.
" 'Education is the great equalizer,' my dad liked to tell his children. My parents raised me in a culture of education and learning. We read books together. Everyday happenings turned into teachable moments.
Jasmine Omorogbe with Keillor
Photo by Kelly MacWilliams
"I had a great time at Patrick Henry High School. I love school. PH was predominantly people of color. So it wasn't an issue. I dove in and got in the college preparatory program. In my family, not going to college just wasn't an option. I never had a rebellious phase. I was primarily raised by my mother who was pushing me, challenging me, and praising me. When I was in 10th grade, a University student group called Voices Merging came to my high school, six of them, white, African American, Latino, and they did a spoken word performance about the power of words to create social change. I wanted to be a part of that group and that really moved me toward coming to the U. I joined Voices Merging and now I'm president of the group.
"I was thinking of elementary education at the time, but I don't have the patience to be a teacher in the trenches all day. And I'm not a math person so I knew that IT wasn't for me. I settled on communications and got in the honors program, where my advisor is Mary Moga, who's the best person on earth, and she keeps me on track. I'll graduate summa cum laude in the spring. Some people look at me and assume that I'm here because of affirmative action, because the U needed to fill a quota, but my GPA from Patrick Henry was 3.9. So I earned the right to come.
"I live on the East Bank, in Yudof Hall, and I've got a lot of work to do so time management is the important thing. I work for the Career & Community Learning Center and the Office of Admissions, and I coordinate the multicultural kickoff where the minority students come for a couple of days before fall semester. And I'm very involved in Voices Merging. It's been a high point of my U career. We put on an open mic show on campus every other Monday. Four hundred people. It's magic. High energy. Every open mic has a theme, something about social change. You can rap, or sing, or speak, and we have a DJ who plays in between people. Two hours, 8 to 10 p.m. Each person gets five minutes. People put their names in a bucket and we draw 20 or so. We don't censor. Sometimes people just come and read out of the Bible or somebody says 'I don't believe in Christianity,' but it sparks discussion.
"My honors project was about using hip hop in the classroom to teach English and poetry--some of the poetic concepts in hip hop rhythms are the same as Shakespeare's.
"Hip hop culture includes graffiti, rapping or emceeing, the breakdance, and DJ turntableism. Now it's expanded to fashion, journalism, so forth. Hip hop came from Jamaica and the Bronx, and it's all about expressing the frustration of black people and telling the truth. (But you can't sad breakdance.) Some people think it's just gangsta rap and all about guns and money and referring to women as bitches or hos, but that's just done for commercial success, that's not what true hip hop is all about. The true artists are underground. It's sad. These white suburban kids are drawn to gagsta rap as a vicarious thing, but it's ridiculous. All about the 'hood. To me, misogynism is not inherent in hip hop, and it's not all right. We have a good hip hop scene in Minnesota. Brother Ali. Heiruspecs, Atmosphere, The Blend, Toki Wright, Mike Dreams, Carnage. And Voices Merging is hosting a hip hop conference at the U April 9 to 11 called From Vices to Verses: A New Era in Hip Hop and Action--hip hop is a tool for good, and we need to use it."
Next student story: DAVE RAILE: Spanish studies, med-school bound, Ecuador