Saturday, April 10, 2010

Parable of Cornel West as Angry Black Man

"Heaven is at the feet of your mother."
--prophet Muhammad

Cornel West discussed his latest book Living and Loving Outloud, a memoir, before an overflow audience at Barnes and Noble, Jack London Square this evening. Looking a little tattered and tired from 13 Bay Area book signings today, West recounted his childhood in Sacramento and the Bay Area. Oakland was where he last saw his father who passed away 15 years ago.

In the audience was his mother, brother Cliff and first cousin Fuad Satterfield. West praised his mother and father, claiming all that he is comes from their love and nurturing. He chided those who think they are self made. No one is self made, he said. We all come from the roots of those who came before us and paved the way. He said Malcolm X was shown love by Elijah Muhammad and that love gave Malcolm the power to become the great man we know.

At one point, West went over to his mother seated on the front row and kissed her. She took a napkin and wiped his sweat dripping forehead. He told how the community nurtured him into the genius he is today, although noting he refused to salute the flag in the third grade because a relative was hanged in the South and wrapped in the American flag. He was put out of school but when tested his IQ was 160, so he left the Chocolate school for a Vanilla education.

In college he met St. Clair Drake, Martin Kilson and other intellectuals who saw his potential and mentored him.

Today he claims to be an angry black man, as angry as he was in the third grade when he refused to salute the flag, for he is determined to fight for social justice. But we wonder how angry can a man be who is a tenured professor at Princeton University, on the lecture circuit at $20,000 per speech, and with a plethora of published books on the bestseller list.

Maybe we can understand his anger by recalling the words of the great scholar/activist W.E.B. Du Bois when he stood before a million people in China's Tennimin Square being introduced by Chairman Mao. After Mao praise Du Bois for all his accomplishments, Du Bois, with tears in his eyes, said, "Thank you, Chairman Mao, but in my country I am just a nigger."
--Marvin X

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