News & Events

UMPI’s Distinguished Lecturer Series presents award-winning documentary filmmaker Byron Hurt

The University of Maine at Presque Isle is pleased to present Byron Hurt, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, published writer, and anti-sexist activist, as the next speaker in the 2014-2015 Distinguished Lecturer Series. His talk will focus on his most popular documentary, Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and has been broadcast on the PBS series Independent Lens. His talk, which also serves as the keynote address for UMPI’s 14th Annual University Day, will take place on Tuesday, April 14, at 7 p.m. in the Campus Center. This event is free and the public is invited to be a part of this special evening.

Hurt is the former host of the Emmy-nominated television series, REEL WORKS with BYRON HURT and The Independent named him one of the “Top 10 Filmmakers to Watch” in 2011. He has been featured by The New York Times, O Magazine, NPR, CNN, Access Hollywood, MTV, ABC World News Tonight, BET, Mother Jones, and

The theme of this year’s University Day is Transformers: Students Changing the World, which is based on the 2014-2015 Distinguished Lecturer Series theme Transformers: People Who Are Changing the World. Since 1993, Hurt has been using his craft, voice, and writings to broaden and deepen how people think about gender, race, sex, violence, music, and visual media. As an activist, Hurt has served as a long-time gender violence prevention educator. The former Northeastern University football quarterback was also a founding member of the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program, the leading college-based rape and domestic violence prevention initiative for college and professional athletics. Hurt has also served as an Associate Director of the first gender violence prevention program in the United States Marine Corps.

Hurt first began his film career with I AM A MAN: Black Masculinity in America, a 60-minute award-winning documentary that captures the thoughts and feelings of African-American men and women from over 15 cities across the country. He followed up with his documentary Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes (BBR) in 2006. BBR focuses on issues of masculinity, sexism, violence, and homophobia in today’s hip hop culture. It also explores such pressing issues as women and violence in rap music. The film first premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and was later broadcast nationally on the Emmy award-winning PBS seriesIndependent Lens, drawing more than 1.3 million viewers.

Since then, BBR has screened at over 100 film festivals worldwide. The Chicago Tribune named it, “one of the best documentary films in 2007.” In 2010, MSNBC’s named it one of the “Top 10 Most Important African-American Themed Films of the Decade.”

Hurt has also been featured in various media publications, ranging from the Wall Street Journal to the Los Angeles Times. Because of his work, Hurt has lectured at hundreds of campuses, presented at numerous professional conferences, and has trained thousands of young men and women on cutting-edge issues. Hurt’s latest documentary, Soul Food Junkies, was released in 2012 and focuses on the history and legacy of soul food. It aired nationally on PBS’ Independent Lens.

The University’s Distinguished Lecture Series was established in 1999. Each year, the UDLS Committee sponsors four to six speakers who come from Maine and beyond, representing a range of disciplines and viewpoints. While the emphasis tends to be on featuring visiting academics, it is not exclusively so. The speakers typically spend two days at the University meeting with classes and presenting a community lecture.

Hurt’s talk serves as the kick-off for University Day, with a full day of events following on Wednesday, April 15. From about 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., about 100 students are expected to offer talks and presentations on their research and community service. A complete schedule of University Day activities can be found at

All are invited to attend Hurt’s April 14 talk. For more information about this Distinguished Lecture or the 14th Annual University Day, please contact the University’s Community and Media Relations Office at 768-9452 or email For more information about Byron Hurt, please visit