While many young adults were out celebrating the life of A$AP Yams at the first annual Yams Day fest in New York last week (1/18), a few others were seen at Vibe Magazine‘s #MLKNOW event, also taking place in the city.

Among the many insightful speeches, performances, and panel discussions at the annual convention honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was a standout conversation between J. Cole & director and activist Ryan Coogler. It was during this interview that Coogler inadvertently let slip that J. Cole had gotten married, but there was something even more profound to be said during this meeting of the minds.

The two young leaders, although through different mediums, have helped to change the lens through which Black America is viewed to the mainstream world. Coogler has directed iconic independent films for black audiences including Fruitvale Station and most recently, Creed. Cole and Coogler touched on a number of topics that are discussed every day in the local barbershop, and brought them to the forefront so everyone could be part of the discussion.

Most interestingly, Cole reflected on his own “awakening” to the plight of young black males when he decided to internalize the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, and discovered for himself that the way to solve some of our community’s problems is to look within and see what we can do to fix them before going off and becoming any sort of activist. According to Coogler, while he agrees with Cole, he also believes that we should “recognize the outside forces” that brought us to the situation we now find ourselves in. Cole also agrees with his interviewer, but insists that a broken home is good to no one, once the people finally decide to come back.

Watch the full 20-minute interview below.


This is an age-old debate in the black community: we must find our own way out of our collective struggle (no matter how different/variant from class to class), but at the same time, we must not forget who put us in this predicament. The history of the inner city ghetto/hood in America is a long one, but highlights severe gentrification and the systemic pushing out of minorities into underfunded parts of cities, very similar to what happened to the Indigenous Peoples of this country. It’s still happening today, and we only wish that the two men were able to expound on this topic (and others) more.

Something tells us that if J. Cole hadn’t had to catch that flight, we could have gotten a few more gems out of this, but we have a feeling we’ll hear him express himself again in the future.