Cornel West delivers a message of love in Black History Month lecture

Tim Caplan –News Editor    

Anticipation filled the air as every seat in Roberts Hall Auditorium filled on Thursday night in anticipation of renowned intellectual, author, and civil rights activist Dr. Cornel West.

Dr. West is a Harvard Professor who has been active in public life since 1979 writing books, giving lectures, making TV appearances, and participating in social and political activism.

West was invited to speak for the culmination of the Black History Month celebration by the RIC campus club Harambee.

The Anchor caught up with Dr. West before his speech to discuss politics, his philosophy and some of his influences.

Dr. West was a very vocal supporter of the 2016 Bernie Sanders Presidential Campaign, and has once again thrown his support behind the democratic socialist from Vermont for 2020, “But his time he’s going to win.”

“I think people are hungry for the real thing, many fellow citizens they thought they were going to get it with Trump, but now it’s backfired in a number of different ways, but you have to have someone who can generate real passion and enthusiasm for something bigger than them, and Bernie has an integrity that’s hard to find among politicians, most politicians say one thing and change their mind in two years, Bernie has stayed consistent,” says West, “People can see the authenticity.”

West publicly campaigned for former President Barack Obama in 2008 as well, however over the years has expressed his strong discontent for several Obama Administration policies and practices, such as drone strikes in the Middle East and a what he sees as a suspicious relationship with Wall Street. When asked if he was worried a Sanders presidency would produce a similar disappointing result, West was unbothered.

“Bernie is a different kind of person, he’s got a stronger backbone, he’s got a stronger determination to fight against very entrenched interests of Wall Street… [Obama] already had a lot of Wall Street folks in his campaign,” says West, “It was clear his whole economic team were in the back pocket of Wall Street.”

West’s philosophy centers around the ancient Greek concept of “learning how to die,” or letting your ideas change all the time based on new evidence, this, based on the socratic and what he calls the “prophetic legacy of Jerusalem” form his philosophy on life. West talks about the difficulty “learning how to die” in the politically polarized social media age of America has become.

“People are fearful of being vulnerable, everybodies defensive, and when you have that kind of fear on the one hand, and the sense that you can’t really trust the other person, so you have fear and distrust together, then paideia doesn’t have a lot of space to operate.”

He began his speech the way he always does, thanking various members of the community including Harambee President Mariama Coker-Kallon, and saying that his greatest honor after 65 years was still being the son of his parents, and that “I am here because someone loved me.”

West’s lecture focused on love while observing Black History Month. He referred to the works of James Baldwin and Aretha Franklin and most notably “A Love Supreme” by John Coltrane, which West feels was the embodiment of facing cruelty and injustice with love. His speech focused on his influences in music and literature, referring to a wide range of works and quotes from Plato to Frederick Douglass.

This was the last in a series of events held this past week held by Harambee for Black History Month.