Hasan Davis

Dealing Hope

Season 2 Episode 11

Hasan Davis is a renowned educator, performer, author, and lawyer. The connection between all of his seemingly disparate projects, careers, and interests, though, is something he calls “hope dealing.” Davis visited Grinnell to celebrate Martin Luther King Day, sharing his personal story and work and performing as York, the enslaved unsung hero of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. 

Hasan Davis dressed as York
Hasan Davis dressed as York, the unsung hero of the Lewis and Clark Expedition

Central to Davis’ work is his own story of overcoming family trauma, learning disabilities, and countless setbacks. Expulsion after expulsion, Davis kept persevering and writing his life’s story with an eye toward the person he could become.

Davis’ mentors, including his mother Alice Lovelace and the school administrator at his alternative school, were his first introduction to hope dealing. “They paint this vision so broad across the sky that no matter where I was looking in this darkness, there was some light and that gave me a chance to really ride myself and figure out what my North star ” and Davis has made it his mission since to pass along that hope to kids throughout the country.

“We have to live the truth of who we are right now, but we have to always be aiming for that other person and doing the work to become that person. And the idea of hope dealers is our job is to help those young people imagine the craft.” That’s what Davis’ mentors did for him, and now he spreads that message of hope with individuals and communities throughout the country.

Hasan Davis and a young Malcolm
Malcolm and Hasan Davis

After graduating from Berea College and the University of Kentucky College of Law, he worked in youth advocacy and arts outreach. Since then, Davis has worked to reform the juvenile justice system in Kentucky and continues to work with youth in the criminal justice system to help them realize their potential. He uses his own story to inspire others, but he also tells the stories of historical figures such as York, A.A. Burleigh, and Joe Louis. Davis utilizes creative storytelling to encourage others to reflect on their own stories and consider how they can be hope dealers for other people.

Malcolm Davis performs in Gardner Lounge
Malcolm Davis performing at a recent concert in Gardner Lounge.

Then, Gabriel Shubert ’20 talks with Hasan’s son, Malcolm Davis ’21. Davis is a theatre and dance and political science double major as well as a poet, playwright, rapper, and producer. 

Davis is from Berea, Kentucky, where the cultural and physical beauty of the American South often clashed with the realities of growing up in a biracial home. “I think there's an interesting fusion about the duality of identity that I have growing up there specifically and I hope that bleeds into my music. I think that one song that I have, that “Don’t Remind Me ’Bout Slavery,” piece was sort of about living and loving a place that displays such incredibly openly symbols of hate against — that it might not love you back.” 

On Jan. 29, 2020, he opened for rapper Oompa in Gardner Lounge, which he called “a dream come true” despite all the stress that went into solidifying his setlist and rehearsing for the show. You can stream all of his released music on his Soundcloud or Spotify.

Here are some of the songs featured in the episode:

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