Dr. Cornel West at Town Hall Seattle. Photo by Morgen Schuler
Watching Dr. Cornel West, a learned academic, theologian, activist, author, and member of the Demoratic Socialists of America, speak is what I imagine watching Martin Luther King orate was like and I was fortunate enough to experience it first hand last night at Town Hall Seattle. His combination of intelligence, wisdom, curiosity, and inner fire nearly explodes from within as the words spill from his mouth in lyrical beauty with the ease of only the most talented of hip hop artists.
Dr. West is on tour promoting his newest book Black Prophetic Fire, released only three days ago, with themes ranging from the power of music, poverty, and injustice, to dignity, integrity, internal struggle, and the fire that we have in us all to change what needs changing. He spoke for around forty-five minutes impressively only stopping for mere moments to drink a bit of water or allow a round of applause from the audience; after which he allowed a few attendees to ask questions dealing with everything from "radical love", an more hands-on and intense way of caring and having concern for others, in the classroom to dealing with apathy and distrust when attempting positive changes in our community. Dr. West went into a soliloquy after every question giving advice in broad sweeping ideas that forced the questioner to analyze their situation and decide how to push though the difficulties.
His stop in Seattle was a special one for him, largely because the changes he has so long rallied behind like equal rights for every citizen and fighting the wage gap is making such progress in our fair city with the legalization of gay marriage and the $15 minimum wage bill. Before he even stepped onto the stage, his influence was felt throughout the buzzing auditorium as strangers became confidants and friends openly debated on what matters the most to them. The excitement and empowerment was palpable throughout the night.
The powerful message Dr. West was attempting to solidify in our minds was to move forward in our lives with love, integrity, decency, and honestly, several things he feels are lacking in those currently making the decisions in our country. He also gave Kshama Sawant a nod on her work toward raising the minimum wage saying it was the catalyst for New York's push to do the same.
A young woman asked "Are you embarrassed by Niki Minaj and Lil' Wayne?" Photo by Morgen Schuler
There are men and women in this world that speak with such power and prose that nearly everything they say is a quote we want to hold dear and remember returning to it again and again as it evokes a swell of hope and pride in our hearts. It reminds us what we are capable of as human beings, not as one race or another, one religion or another, one income level or another. Dr. Cornel West is one of those men, recognizing we are all human with human faults and the power to be better: "There's something beautiful about being on fire for justice." Indeed.
Be sure to take a look at the slideshow from Dr. Cornel's speech, the Q&A, and meet & greet after.
There were difficult questions asked with eloquent answers during the Q&A. Photo by Morgen Schuler