Brother Mike Hawkins: REVOLUTION
Credits: Video shot by Nat Soti and Chuck Przybyl | Edited by Nat Soti
On a grey Sunday afternoon in December over 100 people were gathered at the Little Black Pearl Art Center on the South Side of Chicago. As with many occassions I had my video camera out. I slowly panned the crowd. It was a unique mix of people to say the least.
There were prominent community leaders. There were people from the MacArthur Foundation. Someone from the Kennedy Center had flown in from Washington DC, and yet others had just come in from California. There were teachers and mentors from all over Chicago. There were large groups of teens and youth. There were local rappers, poets, and artists.
White, black, north, south, and west side, young and old, all of these people were here gathered for a memorial service for “Brother” Mike Hawkins. The people in the room said everything about who Brother Mike was, what he stood for, and what he meant in the community.
Poet, artist, and educator Brother Mike Hawkins passed away at the age of 38 on December 3, 2014. He was one of the first people I met when we started doing video work around You Media, Connected Learning, and Chicago City of Learning. At the time he was the lead mentor at the Harold Washington Library You Media space. I would find him hanging out with some teens, working in the recording studio with a young emcee on their new track, hosting an open-mic, or leading a group on some some crazy new project like designing a tour bus for Lady Gaga or creating something called STEAM Studio House of Fashion.
He was welcoming, friendly, and did whatever he could to help me out with what I needed. Whatever idea I proposed, whatever access I wanted, whatever help I needed, I don’t think he ever once said “no”. And I felt that he wasn’t doing this just to be nice (though he was), he was doing it because it was important. It was part of some larger picture.
With Brother Mike, “Revolution” sounded different. It wasn’t loud, but humble. It sounded friendly, inviting, and accessible.
You see Brother Mike did not talk like most people. Any story you will ever hear about him will inevitably mention how he would hold up his fist and say “Revolution”. It was his calling card, his personal punctuation. If this were most other people, I would probably be rolling my eyes. Most people who said stuff like this were either full of shit or were trying just a little too hard.
With Brother Mike, “Revolution” sounded different. It wasn’t loud, but humble. It sounded friendly, inviting, and accessible. Revolution was about change, but not the kind that was about burning everything down. It was the kind that was about helping something grow.
When he was working on his “Revolution” installation for the Connect*ED exhibit at Chicago Art Department, we talked a little about how I thought that for him revolution seemed like an everyday thing. Revolution was not the romantic notion we grow up reading about in the history books of grand, fiery acts, but that it was about all of the little things that are done everyday.
This was the spirit behind another phrase that I often heard him say. “Learning is a Lifestyle”. If there is to be a revolution in learning, it will be when learning is just a part of everyday life. It is something that you live and it is just a part of who you are.