Happy In Bag

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cornel West at UMKC

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.


  • At 11:17 PM, Blogger kcmeesha said…

    I always thought this guy looked and sounded somewhat nutty

  • At 8:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It all ended way too soon - I was disappointed when it was over. I wanted more. He talked about "post racial" rhetoric - I didn't really know for sure what it meant and I am so glad he made the point that we should not be color-blind - that is a false acceptance - we need to embrace and value every individual and their uniqueness which includes culture and race that is true love.

  • At 9:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It was pretty amazing IMO. I would also gladly pay to see him.

    One of my favorite parts was that girl who was asking him about motivation in students & ways to do it, she said "I mean, we cant all go in and motivate like you. What about someone like me?" Well played skinny-cracker =)

    i really wanted to take my camera, but was a bit nervous of getting the boot.

    Some lady next to me had security on her for having a video camera.

  • At 11:08 AM, Blogger bgo said…

    I doubt that Barack's choice to head the National Economic Council was in the crowd.

  • At 11:35 AM, Blogger Warrior Ant Press Worldwide Anthill Headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri, USA. said…

    Cornel's point was that there is no such thing as post-racism. Post-racism is a false construct created by media elite. Racism is there. Has been there. Will be there. The question remains, how and when are we as a country going to address it in a meaningful way?

    to m.v.: Pretty sure you weren't in attendance or your reaction would likely have been decidedly differently. You might have heard, "The condition of truth is to allow the voice of the suffering to speak."

    Best speech I've witnessed in person in many years and that involves 3 by Biggie O this past year.

  • At 4:43 PM, Blogger Happy In Bag said…

    In spite of our differences, Meesha, West and I have a lot in common.

    Not only are we both excitable nerds with crazy hair, we also can't stop talking about music and Jesus.

    Thanks for the other comments as well. Your points are all well taken.

  • At 10:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thanks for the report, HiB! I guess I missed it in the Star ... Or did they even cover it?

  • At 10:54 AM, Blogger Happy In Bag said…

    C'mon, Rick. Don't do me like that.


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