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‘Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man’ creator Emmanuel Acho shares stories

Closeup of Emmanuel Acho.
Emmanuel Acho

Emmy award-winning broadcaster and author Emmanuel Acho talked about his path from devastation to creation as part of his keynote address for WSU’s 2022 Martin Luther King Jr. Program.

Acho is the creator, host and producer of “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man”, a video series turned New York Times bestseller.

Asked what inspired the original video, Acho clarified that it wasn’t inspiration, but rather agony that led to the project’s launch. The death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota devastated Acho. He was in turmoil, unsure of what to do, and gathered with friends to talk about possible solutions.

Having the question flipped back onto him, Acho said he felt white people needed to expose themselves to black culture and black spaces, highlighting specifically black church. His white friends said that they thought black church was their thing, and that they didn’t see their church as being white church, even though it was a place where out of hundreds of people Acho was able to count on one hand the number of black people.

Conversations like the one Acho and his friends had that day needed to happen to help bridge the gaps in understanding. And so Acho hired a wedding videographer, rented some studio space in the midst of the pandemic and recorded his first uncomfortable conversations video. 

“Devastation led to creation,” Acho recalled.

The response was massive; 25 million views online and phone calls from Matthew McConaughey and Oprah Winfrey. It led to more so-called uncomfortable conversations, with guests like McConaughey and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and a book of the same name.

Acho was the keynote speaker of Washington State University’s 2022 MLK Program. The event was moderated by WSU’s Associate Vice President for Community, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence Jamie Nolan.

During the hour-long conversation, Acho talked about growing up the son of Nigerian immigrants who attended a mostly white all-boys school in Texas. The different spaces he found himself in helped him understand the disconnect between white and black people on issues of systemic racism and justice. And with that understanding came the opportunity to help bridge the divide.

Acho was quick to point out, however, that while he has a bigger platform than those in the audience, they have the chance to make a larger impact.

“You all can make a bigger change than I can, I can just try to incite you all to make the change,” Acho said. “I can go wider, everyone else can go deeper.”

In addition to “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man,” Acho is a Fox Sports Analyst and Co-Host of FS1’s “Speak for Yourself.” After graduating from the University of Texas, Acho went on to play in the NFL, earning his master’s degree in Sports Psychology along the way. More episodes of his show can be found on the Uncomfortable Conversations website.

For more information on the 2022 MLK Program, including a list of upcoming events, visit WSU’s website.

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