Included in the bustling week of Grambling’s inaugural ceremonies for President Horace Judson was a visit from renowned professor and lecturer Dr. Cornel West. West, an expert on race and academics with degrees from Harvard, Yale Divinity School and Princeton University, is currently Professor of Religion at Princeton University. Though born and raised in California, Dr. West’s roots can be traced to Louisiana, his mother being from Crowley and his father from Alexandria. Dubbed “the preeminent African-American intellectual of our generation” by Henry L. Gates Jr. of Harvard University, West has taught at Yale University, University of Paris and Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
Dr. West has appeared on C-SPAN, in Ebony Magazine, and guest lectured at countless colleges and universities worldwide. As a fictional character, West also appeared as Councillor West in Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions, where he also recorded philosophical commentary on the entire Matrix Trilogy. Before beginning his lecture, West paid tribute to family, the legacy of Grambling, and Southern hospitality. In his lecture, West emphasized the importance of the African-American struggle in protecting liberty, building legacy, thinking critically.
At the opening of his lecture, West challenged the audience by asking, “What kind of legacy do (you) want to bequeath?” Dr. West told the audience that most African-Americans live for themselves rather than using success for the uplift of the community. He insists that all African-Americans should be united from the crack house to the boardroom, meaning, freedom should be about service.
“We should build on the best of the past while acknowledging the roll of the present,” says West.
As a dignified people, African-Americans have a responsibility to educate themselves and the youth and must always strive for greatness, which “used to be found in our churches,” says West. Today’s leaders must lead with love and patience and not for admiration and popularity, West told the audience. Educating young minds should be of priority. Dr. West encourages Grambling to produce free spirits. At a time when individualism appears to be limited, Dr. West says, ?Folks should stand out and be unique.? Each person should find his or her own voice.
West took a grand stand against the media’s perpetual portrayal of Black men. Reinforcing the knowledge that young Blacks have been victimized by American commercialism. He asserts that media propaganda ruins the youth by offering in plain view only those images that entertain. West, like ascetics, reasons that material possessions become tools of personal suffering.
Even though African-Americans have made great strides in this country, they still tend to sell themselves short. West laughs at himself when he says, “Brothers of infinite value… call themselves fifty cents.”
There were no mixed signals in West’s message, his positions on African-Americans in the community were clear. African-Americans, especially leaders, must be bold, passionate, and willing to get their hands dirty. West proved that he was more than just a preacher during the book-signing segment of the program by engaging each devotee in conversation and taking pictures, even into the wee hours of the morning. To further show his devotion, West spent several hundred dollars purchasing copies of his own book to give to students.
For all Gramblinites that did not attend Friday night’s lecturer, they missed a real treat. Dr. West proved to be more than just “big name.” He was insightful, enlightening, inspirational. During the question and answer session, West reminded the audience that they have a duty to raise painful truths while finding their own individual voices. In the wake of new-found freedom and liberty, African-Americans have become indifferent to the suffering of others. West calls on the masses to be brave, stand-up for those who cannot stand-up for themselves, and lead with truth and righteousness.