Even though it was a free event, I initially balked at attending Cornel West
's lecture Friday night at UMKC. By the time the presentation had ended I knew that I'd willingly buy a ticket if necessary for another opportunity to see the brilliant intellectual speak.
I had anticipated a vitriolic attack on the United States. I needn't have worried.
It's not like I agreed with all of West's views. Not even close. But West's deep Christian faith seems to temper his more extreme political perspectives.
Here's a set of quotations from West's profoundly engaging lecture. Caveat: I can't guarantee that every one of these quotes is entirely accurate. West sometimes speaks rapidly.
"I'd take a bullet for you- in the arm. I'll save my heart for my mama." - after someone in the audience of about 1,500 yelled, "We love you, Cornel."
"When I talk about brothers and sisters, I mean everybody." - on our common humanity
"The blues ain't nothing but the catastrophic autobiography of a people." - on the music's significance
"Jim Crow- that's American terrorism." - self-explanatory
"The love in Martin had to be put in him by somebody." - in tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s parents
"Don't get caught up in deodorized discourse... He wasn't no Santa Claus. He kept it funky." - on the idealization of MLK
"Thank God for the beginning of the age of Obama because it means that the era of Reagan is over." - self-explanatory
"The extension of a blues people." - a reference to Obama
"The shift from bling-bling to let freedom ring." - on the outcome of a good education
"Our people don't even know what it's like to be involved in a quest for greatness." - on his perception of the shallowness of today's youth
"Success is defined as being adjusted to injustice." - on the result of financial success
"I tell black folk all the time, 'Barack is not Jesus, you know.'" - on unrealistic expectations
"Why haven't these people created a black Al-Qaeda?" - on the restraint and "moral wisdom" of the American civil rights movement.
"He was neither optimist nor pessimist. He was a prisoner of hope." - on MLK
"We should not confuse charity with justice." - on his belief that government policy should supplant charitable work and charitable contributions
"I've never seen so many black folks with American flags." - on post-Obama patriotism.
West is also a huge music geek. Here's a partial list of artists he referenced: Rev. James Cleveland, George Clinton, John Coltrane, Lupe Fiasco, Aretha Franklin, The Gap Band, Billie Holiday, Robert Johnson, Talib Kweli, Curtis Mayfield, The Notorious B.I.G., The O'Jays, Sly Stone and Muddy Waters.