When I heard Cornel West was coming to DC to deliver a sermon at Howard University, I could not help but get really excited. You know, the same excitement children feel when santa or the easter bunny are about to come home? Well this time, I knew it was real.I made my way to the Howard church service at 10 am, one hour before the sermon, and the auditorium was already half full! I found a seat in the center of the center of the center. I was ready.
The program started and there was much singing and joy in the name of Jesus. Now I had never understood Christianity. I had read the bible, but I could not wrap my head around why martyrdom. I did not understand how we were forever grateful. Old women I was sandwiched between cried in the name of the Lord. But there was something powerful all wrapped in this emotion. My heart began to soften. Not because of the words, but because of the charisma and hands in the air. Because of the tears and the smiles. “Jesus, take me in your hand!” I watched Cornell pull out a white handkerchief and dab at his eyes.
He stood up to the mic, dabbing and dabbing while shouting “Jesus we all came from your hands and we will not give up the fight”. I watched him grow like a wave, ready to release. He talked of how the church gave him faith in the dark hours of history, how history is a dialectic and we have to be mindful of our past. He told us that he was not going to be here long. But he will be smiling when he passes because “baby, I’m tired”. He said it was the youth’s turn to carry history and pride. “You need to cut against the grain” because ‘niggerization’ still occurs today.
“Leadership is not a career, its a calling” he said while putting his palms out in front of us as though handing us something. Something I was not sure I wanted to take on. “You need to cut against the grain”. West talked about the corporate lies in the media, the lies we tell ourselves and to each other. He gave statistics of how many black men are chrged for marijuana although the numbers of marijuana users projected in the White and Black communities are the same. He gave statistics of the national incarcerated: 76% we black men. He gave statistics of how black youth were leaving New York city because of the racial profiling on the streets. Where does all this come from? Cornel West addressed the media: it feeds lies. Corporate lies. Corporate media tends to select which story both present and past is important. But history is important. You can not talk about the present without the past. “We the diasporized African race have had a history of crimes against us. And to humanity. Terror has stigmatized our people even today”.Although slavery was abolished, West said, the manifested terror in slavery has not gone away. “We suffer 9/11 every day”. ‘Niggerization’ is the imposing of terror and power on a people. Particularly the African American people. Cornel West said that our story has to be heard. “We need to reestablish and authorize the Black reality”. Cornel then referenced the youth. With all this history and many versions of the truth , what does the youth do? Another part of this dilemma of truth is the fact that corporate media is everywhere and tells a story of the powerful, not those on the margins. “If your roots are weak, you can be shaped anywhere”. It is important to listen to your voice and others. It is important to keep centered while reaching out. To Cornel West, there are only to ways to react and be strong:
1. Tell the truth. Find the truth. Expose truth. Never let go of the true story.
Although truth might expose pain and struggle, exposing the truth is not only important for the party that once infringed on another’s being. It is important for the violated to know the truth and to reflect on it so that member does not retaliate in pain. Everything is a dialectic. “Let suffering speak”.
But sometimes we grow angry when we feel pain, especially pain that we can not understand why it happened. But rage devours the soul. Rule number 2 to Cornel West:
2. Unconditional love. Combat hate with love. "This is will be the our way to combat deniggerization"
It is important to be strong and remember that history continues but we must look forward. We must always want the truth. But when it comes, we need to have the mentality that “I do not hate you, but I hate what you did to me” so that it will never happen again. “Its not about winning but what you do winning and reclaiming”. Combined, these truths makes you stronger and empowered. “Have a vision of what you want the world to look like”. His words were sweet, organic, dynamic, and raw.
I heard him speak and I went numb. There was so much going through my head. The only thing I could do was tear up and sob into my lap. I do not know why. His words just empowered me. I felt stronger. I felt even more ready to read and continue on. I then realized that my answers about race and power and politics will not be answered by the end of the semester. All I can do is take all of it in. Like Brotha West said, its a struggle. So I am ready. Here are my resolutions:
1. Find a new news source that does not lie to me
2. Always tell the truth. Always.
I feel more calm and ready to carry on.