Cornel West tells UNCG, A&T students what ‘matters’

On Friday of April 22, Cornel West, the professor of religion and African American studies at Princeton University, spoke at UNCG’s campus in the EUC building on how democracy matters.

“Democracy Matters” is his latest book where he talks about society in 2005 and how democrats and people can continue to be more democratic even with the newly-elected president. Cornel was introduced by Bennet Ramsey, who was Cornel’s first teacher assistant and is a professor at UNCG.

Bennet Ramsey said, “Cornel is our greatest philosopher in this time and a wonderful human.”

Cornel was asked to speak on Friday, concluding the American Democracy week on UNCG’s campus.

Cornel begin saying his main objective in his speech was to “unsettle” the people in the crowd and which he did. He said he wanted you to feel uncomfortable with the things you were doing in your life and make a change. He posed questions like, “What does it really mean to be human?” and ” What is an example of being a success.”

He said a success is someone who has lots of material things living in a big house with high maintenance security closed in from society not willing to share the wealth.

He then asked, “or is it providing for your family and those who helped you succeed and those who are following in your footsteps?”

Cornel addressed the young students and professors along with the general public.

He asked that the college students begin to surrender something everyday from your daily routine to free yourself and achieve true freedom. He stated that the most dangerous person in America is a black man or woman who is free and faithful to death. Then Cornel begin talking about how 1 of 3 black men born in America will go to prison. Also how 14% of African Americans use drugs in the US and 74% convicted in America are African Americans.

He touched on the surge of hip-hop music and how it’s taking over America and artist sells over millions of records and end up broker than the 10 commandments. Cornel said he believes there is emptyness in the artist’s soul if all he has to show for his life is “bling bling.” Some people get loans from sites like to afford these expensive, luxury items just so they can show off. It’s not worth getting into debt to “flex” some new jewelry, a fancy car, or even a new home.

When your carrying yourself in the streets like a walking commercial for Nike, Hilfiger, Gucci, and other corporations and you think thats keeping it real, that’s not real according to Cornel. He feels what is real is being educated and becoming free; having freedom is to stand on two feet and do what you feel is right and not living your life off BET and MTV’s depictions.

Other subjects he tackled were how America’s neighborhoods has changed. He said you take the neighbor out and what does it leave you with, the “hood.” It’s less neighboring going on and more killings in these hoods. Cornel talked about growing in a neighorhood where he got so much love he couldn’t stand it, it was where love came from his family and then once he stepped out of home then there was the pastor, teachers, and all the neighbors.

Also, he stated the weaker the famils in 2005, the more channels increase on TV rasing your kids and there is up to 500 channels now.

He asked a question asking “Who will die for us?”

“In the Civil Rights movement, Malcolm, Martin, Newton, and Evers all died for us but who will now besides your mother,” he asked the crowd.

In closing, Cornel said a true democracy begins with a vision – a vision that connects us together and not simulate others. Also when you first have unity you can articulate that vision.

  • Chris Lineberger