Friday, February 18, 2011
If you didn't know better, you might have thought you'd stepped into evening service at an annual church convention rather than a program to hear an American theorist speak at Jackson State University. The designated seating areas were packed last night, and some people stood in the Lee E. Williams Athletic and Assembly Center to hear acclaimed professor and author Cornel West speak. Speak he did.
After a long list of shoutouts to Jackson and Mississippi notables likes John C. Perkins and Mayor Harvey Johnson, who were both in attendance, for a few minutes shy of an hour, West touched on just about every humanity-related topic that came to mind, it seemed.
"We've lost our sense of we-ness," he lamented, as he talked about the importance of remembering humility in our interactions with one another, no matter race, gender or belief system. He also urged audience members to eradicate the addictions--to material things, sex and money--that run their lives.
The audience responded positively to it all: his words, charismatic personality, boisterous expressions, references to popular culture and the '70s music lover's regular use of the word "funky" as an adjective. They clapped enthusiastically and shouted affirmations.
"Old school is alright," one woman shouted in response to West's proclamation that he was "a little bit old school."
Earlier in the day, at Jackson State's e-Center, West taped "Smiley & West," his radio show with colleague Tavis Smiley. Despite the professor's late arrival because his flight was delayed, he sat down with actor Morgan Freeman, whom he called "one of the greatest actors of this generation" before talking to Charles Evers and Myrlie Evers Williams, brother and widow of Medgar Evers, who joined the program from her home in New York.
West repeated how pleased he was to be in Jackson. "I've been to Mississippi, but never to Jackson," he said during the taping. "There's such a rich artistic tradition."
Crouching toward the microphone as if he were about to tell a secret to the hundreds of people in attendance at his night appearance, West said, "I hear too many echoes, and not enough voices," as he urged people to begin to speak up for themselves and others.
"Success is idolatrous if it's not tied to learning how to be great," the philosopher said.
"too many echoes and not enough voices" - I like that
Nothing but the truth from Dr. West, what a great human being. I had the pleasure to be in attendance and I'd say the poetry written by Dr. "McGinnis" was just as powerful. I really wish Haley Barbour could have made it !
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