Civil rights activist and social commentator Dr.Cornel West brought a message of social change and brutal honesty to Queens March 26 during a sold-out speech in Dana Auditorium.
Describing himself as an “extremist for tenderness and a radical for gentleness,” Dr. West urged the crowd to bring about change. “You can organize. You can mobilize. You can change the world,” West told the crowd of Queens students and others.
Dr. West, on leave as a professor at Princeton University, spoke as part of Queens’ “Diversity Lecture & Cultural Series.” It was postponed from March 14 because of the death of Dr. West’s maternal grandmother.
He addressed issues ranging from contemporary race relations in America, education and the importance of role models to the death of Whitney Houston and the case of Trayvon Martin, the African-American teenager who was killed by a neighborhood watch captain in Florida.
Dr. West said society today is less racist than in the past, but was not “post-racism.” He then asked the crowd if “their morality cuts deeper than their pigmentation.”
“I love my white brothers and sisters, but I hate white supremacy,” he said, adding that white supremacy had to go before democracy could flourish.
West asked the crowd, “How do we pass on the love? Everyone deserves love, affirmation and elevation.”
Dr. West devoted much of his time to answering questions from the audience. When a small child asked if he could shake his hand, Dr. West jumped off the stage and gave the boy a bear hug.
He left the crowd with this question: “What does it mean to be human? What are you
going to be doing between the mother’s womb and the tomb?”.
West has taught at Union Theological Seminary, Yale, Harvard and the University of Paris. He is best known for his classic “Race Matters,” “Democracy Matters,” and his new memoir, “Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud.”