I caught an early flight home from Chicago yesterday to catch Dr. Cornel West speaking at The Evergreen State College. Unforutately, I did miss a meeting with Gary Goldman
, a Chicago must-meet in the youth voice movement. On the flip-side of the coin, I did have a great conversation with Dahlia on the plane. Oh, and I was also on the same flight as Tavis, who is good friends and kinda opened for Cornel.
When he was talking, Tavis made a couple of powerful points. One quote I particularly appreciated:
“You cannot lead the people if you don’t love the people. You can’t save the people, if you won’t serve the people.”
When Cornell spoke, the energy in the room changed. That’s always a great thing for me to feel, especially here in Olympia, where the community of activists is usually so… anarchistic. That ugliness melted away under the feverous roar of the crowd – although I suspect a large percentage of that came from Tacoma, but that’s a different story.
Anyhow, there is a lot to be said about Cornel’s message, but I don’t want to minimalize the affect of his analysis on my work up to this point. Ironically, West’s work directly influenced my choice to move to Olympia, as I read his book Race Matters right before I made the decision. In the book, Cornel writes,
“The market way of life promotes addictions to stimulation and obsessions – centered primarily around bodily pleasures and status rankings – constitute market moralities of various sorts.”
I came here to find a different way of life – and admittedly, I did.
Throughout his talk last night, there were many spectacular points about capitalism, pop culture, neoliberalism, and race. West made some comments about young people, which I want to explore in a seperate post. But mostly, Cornel’s words caused me to reflect further on my own experience, and in particular this quote comes to mind:
“When you live boldly, you cut against the grain. You confront death, pain, your own mortality and you are truly alive because you know death, pain, and oppression for what they are. No phony sentimentalism, where you deny the pain and glamorize the event. You gain nothing if you won’t pay the price of pain for being alive and being mortal.”
I have gained much, and I have an infinite amount of living to be grateful for. Thanks, Cornel, for reminding me of that.