Indiana University

A conversation with Gaye Todd Adegbalola, 2013 Taylor Symposium speaker

  • Feb. 20, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS -- Educator and activist Gaye Todd Adegbalola is the keynote luncheon speaker for the annual Joseph T. Taylor Symposium at noon Wednesday, Feb. 27, at the IUPUI Campus Center. In a phone interview, Adegbalola discussed a variety of subjects, including her symposium presentation, which will be a combination of lecture and musical performance.

On being an activist and a musician:

“I have been an activist all my life -- as a black person, as a poor person, as a woman, as a single mom, as a lesbian, and now as an old person. ... And as a blues musician, I have learned to write about those things. ... (At IUPUI) I am going to talk about diversity and working together, and I am going to intersperse some of the songs that I have written that relate to pieces of that puzzle. “

On “two Americas”:

“We basically have two Americas. We have two Americas in terms of low-money-makers and extremely rich people, extremely rich people running the whole world. How do you bring those two people together for the common good of a neighborhood? From what I read about Joseph Taylor, Dr. Taylor, his whole thing was working for the common good of the neighborhood, having the university serve the community.”

On gay rights and civil rights:

"I think those people who are against gay marriage are basically coming from a faith-based perspective, but if we look at civil rights, if I pay the same taxes, I should have the same rights as you. And with marriage, there are 1,100 given rights ... visitation in a hospital and making decisions about surgery for example. If I am not married to this person, that person can’t make medical decisions for me. That’s a civil right. We are not talking about whether your church accepts it or not, but we are talking about what’s right in terms of the government."

On her IUPUI presentation:

“One of my first songs is going to be about civil rights and how things have changed, but they have changed too slowly, and then I’ll come full circle. ... There will be a song that relates to feminist things, and I’ll do another song that relates to the commonality of all people. As I talk for a bit I will draw from some of my original material. Music holds people’s attention better than dry words, so hopefully I can keep everybody tuned in.

“In his inauguration speech, (President Obama) talked about Seneca, Selma and Stonewall. I am going to talk about those three entities: Seneca, where the first women’s rights convention was held; Selma, the big (‘60s civil rights) march in Alabama; and Stonewall, the raid on the gay bar, and that is what directly prompted all the gay rights parades and festivals. “

The 2013 Joseph T. Taylor Symposium takes place from 8 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27, at the IUPUI Campus Center, 420 University Blvd. The theme is “It Takes a City: Toward a Diverse and Humane Community.”  For additional details or to register, visit the School of Liberal Arts website.