‘Straight Outta Compton’ star speaks to students


O’Shea Jackson Jr., star of “Straight Outta Compton,” virtually visited a UIC classroom to help answer students’ questions for an English assignment. Photo: Bernie Williams

Last Thursday, an English 160 classroom asked O’Shea Jackson Jr., Ice Cube’s son and the star of Straight Outta Compton, questions for their argumentative essay assignment. Ice Cube was one of the founding members of the transgressive rap group N.W.A. O’Shea Jackson Jr. starred as his father in the box office smash biopic of N.W.A. in 2015. This marks a special year for the history of the group as they’re being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The special core English course is focused on the power of music and its impact on people’s lives. For this particular essay, which is 30% of the student’s grade, they “must write about NWA and how the group and its members altered the course of free speech with the controversial song F*** Tha Police,” according to their instructor Dr. Margena Christian. The group’s song sparked major conflict in the United States. Many officials believed the song encouraged rebellion toward the police force. However, the vexed song merely gave voice to the silenced people of color and their frustrations towards the nefarious actions of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).

Christian is a veteran in the media industry and has written for various major publications such as Ebony, Jet, and Ebony.com. The established journalist and professor used her industry connections to get Jackson to appear before her students as a primary source for their argumentative essay.It was more important for Christian to get O’Shea Jackson Jr. for the interview rather than his father because the son is closer to her students age and might be able to better relate because of the film’s success and powerful impact in raising awareness about NWA with a new generation.

Jackson was insightful and came ready to talk, despite having reschedule the interview for Thursday instead of Tuesday when it was initially planned. The movie star touched on topics of the history of police brutality in America, the original message of hip-hop, and the raw and real of his father’s legendary rap group. Jackson told the students that his father always said “F*** Tha Police was 400 years too late,” in relation to the everlasting racism in our country and the hardships of overcoming it. Yet, the college student turned actor reassured that the rap group “gave people a voice” and “showed people the power of being surrounded by people with the same ideas.” Although not much has changed, the people are leveraging their voice and opinions and that’s especially important for making a change. Jackson credits the barrier breaking rap group he grew up to for all sorts of people speaking their minds against abuse of authority. This can be seen in a variety of ways in our daily lives, especially through social media. He signed off the call stating how he’d be open to discussing the movie and NWA any time and even encouraged a prize for the best essay of the class.

It was exciting to see young freshman students immerse themselves into their assignment. They prepared questions, recorded the dialogue on their iPhones, and acted as if they were trained journalists as they prepped Jackson’s quotes for their essay. This type of hands-on learning is progressive and important to maintain student morale. Students will leave the class well-rounded with useful skills in transcribing interviews and handling media relations. In all of my years at UIC, I had never witnessed a more relative, cool event take place in the classroom.

Special thanks to Dr. Margena Christian and her ENGL 160 students for letting me sit in on this innovative informational event.


Bernie Williams

Bernie Williams is a junior majoring in English with a concentration in media, cultural and rhetoric studies. She hopes to practice and master an assortment of mediums, including screenwriting, writing for the New York Times, lifestyle blogging, fiction and radio broadcasting. Bernie has a passion for creating and sharing stories. The heightened diversity of the city atmosphere surrounding UIC is perfect for her. Bernie’s side hobbies are indulging in TV shows (specifically Scandal, Girls and Law and Order: SVU), interior design and Instagram. 

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