These days, Eric Thomas is known as the Hip-Hop Preacher and is a highly sought-after motivational speaker whose tale of going from being a homeless, fatherless high school dropout who survived the streets of Detroit by fighting on a daily basis to earning his Ph.D. in educational administration earns between $50,000 and $100,000 for corporate events.
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But he still returns to schools to reach out to children at risk of following his footsteps to dropping out and ending up homeless. Yet at one recent event, he decided he wouldn’t take the reaction he only saw from a group of black students.
“I’m here because I love you, but I’ll be darned if I come here for free and you disrespect me,” Thomas growled, staring down his audience and emphasizing his words with finger jabs. “I ain’t 20 years old. I ain’t 19 years old. I’m a grown man. I’m here because I love you … I’m not here to take nothing from you. I’m here to give you something.
“And you’re gonna have the nerve to laugh and joke when teachers trying to teach you? You got the nerve to act the fool when somebody cares about you? You’re talking when I’m talking? Do you know if I go to a Jewish school, them kids are quiet. If I go to a white school, them kids quiet. If I go to a Latino school, they quiet. The only kids that disrespect me is black kids.
“That’s it, my own are the only ones that disrespect me. I work in any other school and they’re like, ‘There go ET, we taking notes.’ I come home — you talking. You capping jokes. You think something funny. Look how we’re living. There ain’t nothing funny. Ain’t nothing funny y’all.”
The clip starts at 3:30 in the video:
Thomas continued, hoping to get through to those students who were hoping for a better outcome in life.
“You didn’t give your best,” Thomas told the students. “They think you dumb — you ain’t dumb! You can’t take our people from Africa and put us in a diaspora and spread us all over the world. And we survived slavery — and we can’t pass a test? … And you’re gonna tell me we can’t learn how to write? Have you lost your mind? We are survivors. That’s all we do is survive.”
Then Thomas challenged the students “to go in there and get that doggone piece of paper and that pencil and do your best. … I challenge you to go to class and act like you got some sense. Ain’t nobody gotta put you on medicine. You know how to sit down and shut up. You do it when you’re watching videos.”