Lila Miller, A&E Editor
“You’re the shit,” insists motivational speaker, Monti Washington. From the moment Washington makes his entrance into the building, the crowd is rapt with attention. He asks the crowd to chant with him, “words are weapons.”
Washington launches into a slam poetry rap as he walks onto the stage in Ogeechee Theatre at GSU’s Armstrong campus.
Washington is a speaker, author and actor. He came to speak at GSU about his life experiences “From the streets to the Stage”. The event was held Monday at 12:30 p.m. on March 4 thanks to the Waters College of Health, Armstrong’s Counseling Center and Student Affairs.
Before Washington entered the room, Health Promotions Coordinator Dr. Gemma Skuraton talked about the school’s mission, helping students in and out of the classroom and college dropout rates due to mental illness.
“We at Georgia Southern want our students suffering with mental illness to know that hope is real and available to you,” Dr. Skuraton emphasized.
Speaker Monti Washington offered valuable anecdotes and theatre participation to drive his various points home.
He first spoke about his childhood laden with difficulties. He professed that he had been the “product of a one night stand” and his mother suffered from drug addiction. As a result, Washington was shuttled to and from twelve different group homes between the ages of nine and 11.
“I got called stupid so many times, I thought that was my name,” he illustrated.
In one foster home, Washington and his brother were held in essentially solitary confinement for three months for the mere infraction of breaking a dinner plate. He continues, arguing that it is the mental scars that leave the most impact on people, not physical ones. When people are told a false narrative about their lives, if they believe it to be true, it is.
As he delves further into the presentation, he asks the audience to simply be open to new ideas and take it with a grain of salt if they wish to.
Emblazoned on his black T-shirt are the words, “we are greater than our stories” and he challenges the idea that it isn’t “our stories” and “our experiences” that form us, but rather that they inform us instead. He asserts that every obstacle in life is information on what not to do or how not to act.
He transitions the crowd and begins on instructing how to move from “fear” to “dreams.”
Washington roams the auditorium and picks seven volunteers to come to the stage. Behind them, a slide displays the mantra, “Have some confidence. You are the shit.” He asks his seven volunteers to give the audience two reasons why they are “the shit.”
“Because I have four degrees from Armstrong State University. I run Armstrong’s Liberty Campus in Hinesville.”
“I’m following my dreams as an actor and I have a backup role in a movie. And I’ve saved a bunch of money to go to scotland to see my family.”
“I have dedicated my life to mental health counseling and helping others and I’m a partner to somebody in the military.”
“I love my parents and my family.”
“I’m graduating next year. My side hustle is to be an actor.”
“I’m proud to be pansexual and genderfluid. I’m gonna be in a Marvel movie and nothing can fucking stop me.”
“I moved to Alabama from [the] Ukraine with only $300 and my family is still in the Ukraine. I have my graduate and undergrad [degrees] with no student loans. I got a dog from the flea market. And I’m a program coordinator for suicide prevention.”
Washington emphasizes many positive affirmations that are familiar in pop culture and self-help books, but his energy and conviction set him apart from what could become cliched. He continues onward, reiterating that it is not what someone has accomplished, but what they have overcome.
The next slide on the projector screen behind him reads, “Afraid to be you. Just do you.”
“It’s about sharing, not comparing… comparison is a thief of joy… not being yourself is identity theft,” he exclaims. He is a living example that it is “not always about who you are, it’s about who you don’t want to be.”
Washington preaches self love first and foremost, then talks about putting in the work to design your life. He touches on the notion that mediocrity is being celebrated in our society, but no one was born to be average.
Next he takes the old parable “you are who you associate with” to another level,
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Who are your real friends? Who has your back?” he asks. He takes the next few minutes to explain the rest in detail, advising to stay away from pseudo-friends, negative people, and others that take advantage.
Not one to shy from uncomfortable topics, he mentions dating and offers some wise words,
“We date at our self-esteem levels. We believe we deserve what we get… Set your value high because the world will not set the price for you.”
Before receiving questions from the crowd, Washington led a stand-up, sit-down exercise. The room’s lights were turned down and audience members were told to stand up or sit down based on their different life experiences. The questions asked ranged from if people had lived in poverty, suffered from domestic abuse, various forms of addiction and several other deeply personal questions.
Ultimately, Washington leaves the room with the honest truth, “it’s hard to be the best version of yourself” but it is worth it.
Monti Washington is from New York but calls Los Angeles, CA. home. Washington spends his time traveling as a motivational speaker, working on his second book and waiting for Beyonce to give him a chance. Check out his book and more information about him at montivation.com