The purpose of West's discussion was to highlight the seven principles of Kwanzaa, i.e. unity, creativity, cooperative economics, faith, purpose, self-determination, and collective responsibility. Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration honoring African American heritage and culture.
Kwanzaa was created by UCLA Professor Maulana Karenga. According to West, Kwanzaa is all about "education in the deeper sense, how do you undergo the shift from living at the level of the superficial and begin to engage with the substantial, its called a turning of the soul, to use the language of Plato". During the talk, West went on to discuss the importance of finding your true "voice" and not simply being what he calls "an echo" that simply imitates others but never creates one's own vision. He said that students ought to approach life with purpose, self-determination, and faith. But he says that faith has nothing to do optimism, for West faith is all about sustaining a "blues inflicted hope" against all odds. Members of the audience included students and others from the community. Audience feedback is below.
One person, Shaila Counts, a senior at Rider University, said she attended the event because she wanted to support one of her"sorority sisters" that just so happened to be the president of the Black Student Union and was an integral part in getting Dr. West to speak at the University. Shaila went on to say that she also went to the event because she felt "Cornel West is an inspirational speaker" and because she "wanted to hear what he [Cornel West] had to say. With speakers like Dr. West, you get to hear a different perspective, a perspective from the older generation, something I think is needed".
Another audience member, Rance Robeson, a senior at Rider and the editor and chief of the school's well-known literary journal On Fire, said "When Dr.West comes, you have to go, he's a scholar, he's a social critic, he's a professor, he's a leader in our communities. I've never seen him in the flesh up-front. I've seen him so many different times and in so many different ways on television supporting the same efforts and particular views that I have, so when I heard he would be here I said I have to come out, especially on a university of higher learning like this, especially one I'm already attending. You got to go".
Robeson went on to say, "I think events like this are crucial at this particular point in time. I'm doing fairly well in school but, I feel invigorated in the sense that now I want to be a better friend, I want to be a better student, I want to be a better person, I want to be a better leader. Just from seeing his particular image and knowing all the things that I envision for myself, he's my proof, for me its like, I understand that I'm a male, I understand that I'm black, I understand that I'm a minority. This brother right here [Cornel West] is all of those same things, he fits the same criteria that I fit, yet he is the proof. If you never have proof that something exists, then you never really believe in it, and that's why I think events like these are crucial".
Another audience member, well known poet and community activist, Raul Polo Cortes, said that its "good to go and hear his [Cornel West's] perspective. Its good to soak in and listen to what he had to say. Its very rare when a person who has such a name and talks all over the country and all over the world to hear his perspective, because a lot of people with that kind of money and that kind of name are not going to say what he said". Cortes went on to say that West encourages others to speak up "and tell it how it is, whether the cameras are on, or whether they are off".
Anwar's Reflections will be sure to keep you up to date on any upcoming events.