The speech by political activist and hip-hop artist Mutulu Olugbala, otherwise known as M-1, drew upwards of 300 people to Goldwin Smith on Friday night, far exceeding the carrying capacity of the auditorium. The event lasted about three hours, which is rather impressive considering that it was Friday night and that M-1 wasn’t there to perform hip-hop. He talked about his early days of political activism in Tallahassee and Chicago, and in the end he didn’t even get to his time as a member of the unabashedly political hip-hop group Dead Prez. He spent some time speaking on issues like America’s neglect for its urban centers and the extent to which real peace and freedom are possible in light of political marginalization. The questions he raised were ones of cultural identity and the politics of exclusion, many of which had highly theoretical substance about framing, discourse, and the English language, and might have seemed more endemic to a class taught by Diane Rubenstein or Sherry Martin. But after about 45 minutes it became clear that the massive group had come not only to hear M-1, but because we too had things to say. The conversation focused on political organization and the frequent self-doubt that arises out of trying to make sure what we study here is actually helping what goes on in the rest of the world, not just reinforcing existing inequalities. This is an issue that I often find myself grappling with, because although I’m fairly confidant in my ability to create some positive change with the material I’m studying, the mere symbolism of the geographic seclusion of Ithaca, or my own disproportionate consumption of resources, can raise doubts about the net impact I’m having on the world right now. Contrasting this to M-1’s recollection of his political involvement in Chicago’s InPDUM movement at the age of 20, it’s understandable that much of the crowd seemed humbled solely by the fact that he had lived in the thick of the nationwide Rodney King riots and could look back on his life without any such doubt about being on the right track. This level of respect, and the entire discussion, was underlined by the general feeling that political activism on college campuses has become stagnant, at least to the degree that is used to be. The “undergraduate activist” interest is no longer a player in the American political sphere, on par in vocality with interests such as gun control or even the religious right, as it once was. It is this silence, in a time that all economic markers, prison demographics and statistics about higher education point to increasing inequalities, that drove so many people to come voice their concerns Friday night.