Adán Martinez has been busking to pay off the debt on his $2,800 viola. The Gibbs high senior said so in an intro video during a luncheon kicking off the 11th annual Black Brown and College Bound summit at the Tampa Convention Center on Thursday. In the clip, Martinez chronicled the bullying he endured because of the way he looked (our friends at the Tampa Bay Times did a nice job chronicling it in this story, too). The video also found Martinez sharing how he learned to look, and then walk, away from his dementors.
These days Martinez is looking for a college where can continue to hone his skill, and as of Thursday Martinez can also say that he opened for John Legend.
The ten time Grammy winner (who also has a Golden Globe and Academy award on the shelf) was in town for a few hours so that he could speak to a room of about 700 students, educators and politicians about the importance of increasing graduation rates among African American and Latino males. Legend — who was born John Rogers Stephens in Springfield, Ohio — spent twenty minutes telling the story of his childhood, the way it fell apart as his and how his support system allowed him to become a rarity in a community where most colored boys didn’t make it out of high school.
“I was the exception,” Legend, 38, said. The songwriter — who returns to the Bay area for a public concert in May — also talked about how the other exceptions in the room have a duty to make sure that more and more from their marginalized communities make it out so that a man of color at college isn’t the exception anymore.
“We have to make sure we’re creating minds who question the status quo,” Legend added. “We are not raising sheep — these are people who can think for themselves.” He noted that these days seem especially dangerous for free thought, but Legend closed by saying that he still believes in the power of love — and justice — to keep lighting the way.
“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public,” Legend said as he evoked the words of Dr. Cornel West.
Have a look at a few photos from Legend’s speech at set — which included performances of “Wake Up,” “Ordinary People” and “All Of Me” — below.