Race and Diversity; Social Justice and Activism; Inspiration, Faith, Spirituality; Humor; Current Affairs and Events; Visual and Performing Arts; College/University; Children & Young Adult; Library
Tyler Merritt is an actor, comedian, viral sensation, activist, founder of The Tyler Merritt Project, and author of the memoir, I Take My Coffee Black: Reflections on Tupac, Musical Theater, Faith, and Being Black in America. As a 6’2” dreadlocked black man living in the South, Merritt is well aware of stereotypes and their potentially dangerous consequences. In response, Merritt has devoted his creativity to bringing his ethos of “Love. Learn. Create.” to life through his words and videos as part of The Tyler Merritt Project. His viral videos, “Before You Call the Cops” and “Walking While Black” have been viewed by millions and caught the attention of The New York Times, Jimmy Kimmel, and Sports Illustrated. Merritt takes his audiences along with him on a journey of contradictions: at turns both funny and sad, mysterious, and relatable, commonplace, and dangerous, he shines a light on “full-spectrum humanity” (The New York Times) that makes an impactful and relevant message. Merritt’s emphasis on humility and connection provides an urgent roadmap during turbulent times, challenging audiences to see our differences as a unifying force for humankind and to “get to know me before you call the cops,” as he says in his video. In 2022, Merritt debuted his first children’s book, A Door Made for Me, exploring racism from a child’s perspective and offering a message of unconditional love and acceptance to soothe the pain of blind prejudice. The book, narrated by Merritt, went on to win a 2023 Audie Award in the Young Listeners category.
In his talks and lectures, Merritt infuses his core beliefs of unity, empathy, compassion, and inclusion with humor, making his message relatable and accessible to wide-ranging audiences from corporations, non-profits, community groups, colleges and universities, and youth audiences worldwide.
I Take My Coffee Black
Based on his memoir of the same name, Merritt shares stories from his life and paints a portrait of black manhood in America with a unique blend of humor and gravitas. From growing up in Las Vegas in a multi-cultural community and realizing that he wasn’t always welcome, attending a small Bible college in Santa Cruz because he thought they had a great theater program (they didn’t), to his career as an actor, author, and activist, Merritt gives audiences a glimpse into his world, at turns laugh-out-loud funny, at turns unexpectedly candid. Throughout his talk, he seamlessly weaves in lessons about privilege, the legacy of lynching and sharecropping, and the history of encoded racism that still undergirds our society today while also taking a kind-hearted approach to examining ourselves through the lens of humor.
DEI and The Power of Proximity
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) isn’t a term reserved exclusively for Human Resources departments. DEI exists because it represents real people with amazing stories, rich backgrounds, and varying life experiences. In this talk, Merritt covers tangible ways companies can harness the power of DEI by encouraging employees to see their co-workers for who they are while building empathy for each other. He explains how the power of proximity to those who look different than us is key to building true empathy in the workplace and is the cornerstone of successful DEI efforts.
IT’S NOT OVER: Grace, Love, and Being Bigger Than Our Mistakes
During this tumultuous time when the threat of cancel culture looms over us, how do we reconcile our ability to take chances, make mistakes, and rebound from failure? Is human potential being held back by the fear that our mistakes are larger than our call to purpose? In this inspirational and humorous talk, Merritt examines these timely topics and provides a roadmap for recognition, grace, hope, and redemption, with plenty of laughter along the way. He discusses how we can keep ourselves from falling into the trap of judgment, learn to lean into empathy and understanding, and help ourselves and others view mistakes as valuable lessons that help us move forward in humility and power.
A SAFE PLACE: An Experiment in Discussing Our Differences
In this interactive talk, Merritt replicates the Safe Place experiment from his book, I Take My Coffee Black. Working closely with organizations, he brings together individuals from varying political, racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds to participate in face-to-face discussions about hot-button topics to encourage healthy and safe – and sometimes even humorous – dialogue. By stepping out from behind the safety and anonymity of computer screens and social media, Merritt shares ways for individuals to engage more productively, no matter the issue at hand.
Tyler Merritt’s speaking engagements are handled by the Hachette Speakers Bureau, a division of Hachette Book Group and an accredited member of the International Association of Speakers Bureaus. Contact us to learn more.