Kevin Powell (born April 24, 1966) is an American political activist, poet, writer, and entrepreneur. Powell is also a nationally recognized activist who speaks against violence against girls and women, appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show in March 2009.He made three unsuccessful runs for the United States Congress in New York‘s 10th congressional district.
Powell appeared in the first season of MTV‘s reality television series, The Real World: New York in 1992. He was the oldest member of The Real World cast. From 1992 to 1996, he was a senior writer for Vibe magazine. In Spring of 2008, Kevin Powell was initiated into the Zeta Eta Chapter (Lower Manhattan Alphas) of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity
Kevin Powell’s hometown is Jersey City, New Jersey. In 1992, he was a cast member on The Real World: New York, the first season of the MTV reality television series in which a group of strangers live together for several months. During the course of his stay in the house, Powell had a number of discussions with his housemates about stereotypes and race, some of which resulted in heated arguments
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Kevin Powell has written for publications such as Esquire, Newsweek, The Washington Post, Essence, Rolling Stone, New York Amsterdam News, and Vibe, where he was a founding staff member and served as a senior writer. He interviewed and profiled General Colin Powell and Tupac Shakur. Most recently, he has been a Writing Fellow for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, as well as a Phelps Stokes Fund Senior Fellow.
Since 1993, Powell has published 10 books, including the most recent title Open Letters to America (Soft Skull Press, 2009) – “a celebration of the sudden, mass political engagement of America’s youth, and Americans in general; [and] his thoughts in the aftermath of Obama’s magical and historic presidential campaign…” Powell’s childhood memoir, My Own Private Ghetto, and The Kevin Powell Reader will be published in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
Powell has hosted and produced programming for HBO and BET; written a screenplay; hosted and written an award-winning MTV documentary about post-riot Los Angeles; and, in 2001, was the Guest Curator of the Brooklyn Museum’s “Hip-Hop Nation: Roots, Rhymes, and Rage” — which originated at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.
He has lectured in 48 states at colleges, universities, community centers, prisons, religious institutions, conferences, and festivals, as well as in corporate settings (including Harvard University and The United Nations). Powell is a frequent guest commentator on VH1, MTV, BET, and other media platforms about popular culture, political and social justice issues.
Beginning with his days as a teenager at Rutgers University, he participated in the student-led anti-apartheid movement – the drive to end racism in South Africa. Powell has worked on issues of police brutality and racial bias cases and he has worked for years around voting rights.
As a result of his own past struggles, Powell has committed his life to personal healing and professional therapeutic counseling. He is an outspoken critic of violence against women and girls, of violence in general, and he has been at the forefront of the movement to redefine American manhood away from sexism and violence.
Powell produced the 10-city “State of Black Men National Townhall Meetings” tour (2004), numerous Black male think tank sessions, and “Black and Male in America, a 3-Day National Conference” (2007) (www.blackandmaleinamerica.org). He holds an annual holiday party and clothing drive every December in New York City to benefit the homeless teenagers of the SafeHorizon non-profit organization. He co-founded the grassroots community townhall series Hiphop Speaks! (with social entrepreneur, activist, and writer April Silver), which he describes as “a series of forums and MC battles geared toward using hip hop as a tool for social change.” Powell participated in Gulf Coast disaster relief efforts, facilitating the delivery of goods and services to the affected regions, and being a co-founder (with social commentator Jeff Johnson) of “Katrina on the Ground,” an initiative that sent over 700 college students to work in the devastated region.
African American social networking tool BlackPlanet featured Powell as ‘Riser of the Month’ in February 2011 for his support of the African American community.
In 2006, Powell launched his first bid to unseat Edolphus Towns in New York’s 10th congressional district, located in Brooklyn, discontinuing his campaign in July of that year. In 2008, Powell ran for Congress again, in a campaign that was backed not only by celebrities such as Chris Rock but also by what ABC News described as “big names from Brooklyn’s 10th district”. During the campaign, Towns made frequent reference to Powell’s self-professed early history of violence against women, issues Powell has discussed in his early writings and has indicated he has overcome through therapy. These references were addressed by Powell in an open letter to Ed Towns, where he also appealed to Mr. Towns to focus on issues.In a June 2008 interview with Theodore Hamm in The Brooklyn Rail, Powell addressed media coverage focusing on his past: “My issue of violence against women happened between 1987-1991, which is now seventeen years ago. I’ve written about it very prominently […] I think if you’re going to be a public servant, regardless if you’re an elected official … you have a responsibility to be transparent and accountable for everything you do.”
On July 9, 2008, comedian David Chapelle failed to appear at a Powell fundraiser, despite promises to the paying guests. This was followed by Powell hosting an event at Brooklyn favorite haunt Junior’s, where he invited the media to witness him respond to what The Brooklyn Paper described as a “mean spirited column” in the Daily News focusing on his history of violence.As reported by “Page Six,” at a dinner on July 28, 2008, Powell “slipped up” when he told an audience of some “40 representatives of Williamsburg’s ultra- Orthodox Satmar (Orthodox Jewish) community” that if elected, he would “bring home the bacon.” Bacon is not permitted as part of a kosher diet.
On September 3, media reported that the Kevin Powell campaign had received a notice from the Federal Election Commission informing them that Powell was not officially registered as a candidate for Congress. As he was not a candidate, his continued fundraising efforts constituted a violation of FEC regulations, and the Powell campaign was asked to disavow such activities within 30 days. As of September 4, the Kevin Powell for Congress campaign had not filed its mandatory Pre-Primary report of all campaign contributions to the FEC, though the report was due August 28.
The same day these stories broke, local periodical The Brooklyn Paper announced its endorsement of Powell over 13-time incumbent and sitting congressman, Edolphus “Ed” Towns.But in light of these revelations, a Paper reporter broke news of the FEC letter and missed deadline and contacted the Powell camp for comment. This paper noted, “Powell did not return repeated requests from The Brooklyn Paper for comment about the FEC letter and his missed filing.”
Powell lost this race 67%-32%, receiving 11,046 votes compared to 22,586 for Edolphus Towns.Powell announced that he would run again in 2010