‘I Am A Jazzman in the Life of the Mind’ – An Interview with Cornel West


Police arrest Cornel West during a civil disobedience protest(Photo, Daily Mail)

If you have not heard yet of Cornel West, I would like to suggest that you should (see HERE his personal web page). The Princeton University Professor, an African Baptist believer, has given recently an interview to Anna Fifield, an US political correspondent for The Financial Times. Here is the beginning of it:

There’s no such thing as a quiet lunch with Cornel West. From the minute he stalks into the Witherspoon Grill in the leafy university town of Princeton, New Jersey, to the moment he sweeps out, he is the centre of attention.

“Sister Anna! I’m so blessed to meet you!” he bellows across the restaurant, embracing me, then putting his hand on his heart and bowing slightly. With his bushy Afro, black three-piece suit and booming Baptist preacher voice, there is no missing the arrival of this celebrity academic and self-appointed keeper of Martin Luther King Jr’s flame. As we sit down in our booth, it seems as if every guest and every waiter stops by to pay homage to West. To each he says, “Do you know Sister Anna?”

West, who will be 59 next month, is one of the US’s most prominent liberal intellectuals but this does not do justice to the breadth of his influence or the boundlessness of his energy. A professor of religion and of African-American studies at Harvard, then at Princeton, he has written more than 20 books and appeared as Councillor West, a version of himself, in two of the Matrix science-fiction films. He has collaborated with Prince and André 3000 of Outkast on spoken word albums, and with the eclectic hip-hop ensemble named in tribute to his teaching The Cornel West Theory.

He is also a political activist who regularly gets arrested at leftwing protests, occasionally ending up in jail. Earlier this month West and 34 others were convicted on disorderly conduct charges following a demonstration last October against the New York Police Department’s controversial “stop and frisk” policy. The policy is aimed at keeping guns off the streets but critics say it amounts to racial profiling. The protesters were sentenced to time served.

West also finds time to host a radio show with fellow black progressive Tavis Smiley, and last month the pair released a book, The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto. “There are some very painful and unsettling truths that we’re trying to tell in terms of keeping alive the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr,” West explains. “When we see the face of poverty, we no longer see a black face or a brown or red face, but more and more we see a white brother or sister who was middle-class but has experienced downward mobility and social slippage.”

Read HERE the entire interview.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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