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UHart Students Embrace Cultural Icon Cornel West and His Messages During a Speech on Campus


Posted 02/12/2016
Posted by Meagan Fazio


Cornel West answered questions from several students following his lecture.

Cornel West answered questions from several students following his lecture.

Cornel West posed with Juwan Crawley '16 and Justine Rosales '16.

Cornel West posed with Juwan Crawley '16 and Justine Rosales '16.

Cornel West hadn’t even started speaking when he was encircled by ecstatic students who packed Wilde Auditorium to hear from the iconic educator, activist, and philosopher. As he walked down the aisle toward the stage, his fans crowded around him to take selfies and shake his hand.

“I just feel light, like I’m floating,” exclaimed Juwan Crawley, a senior majoring in music theatre in the University's Hartt School. “His intelligence is rubbing off on me. My GPA is going to go from a 3.9 to a 4.3!”

Juwan’s assessment may not be far off. By the time West’s 1.5 hour lecture was over, students had learned about current issues of race and social justice in America and potential strategies for addressing them, as well as about music’s influence on social justice movements during the Civil Rights Era. After his formal remarks, West devoted about an hour to answering students’ thoughtful questions about the state of race relations and what they can do to improve them.

But it didn’t end there. When the formal program ended, students ran to the stage to ask more questions, get West’s autograph, and pose for pictures. Flashing his trademark smile, West seemed to enjoy the scene as much as, if not more than, the students. When asked if he had one message for those students, West said, “Be courageous, think critically for yourselves, and be courageous in loving and empathizing with others.”

Watch a video of students describing the experience.

West was on campus on Wednesday, Feb. 10, as part of a collaboration between the University’s The Hartt School's Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz, the Africana Studies Program in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Hillyer College.

Watch a video of highlights from the lecture.



West is a prominent and provocative democratic intellectual. He is a professor of philosophy and Christian practice at Union Theological Seminary and professor emeritus at Princeton University. He has also taught at Yale, Harvard, and the University of Paris. West graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in three years and obtained his MA and PhD in philosophy at Princeton. He has written over 20 books and has edited 13. The essays in his best-selling book Race Matters focus on the plight of struggling African Americans. His most recent releases, Black Prophetic Fire and Radical King, also were received with critical acclaim.
Cornel West answered questions from several students following his lecture.

Cornel West answered questions from several students following his lecture.

Cornel West posed with Juwan Crawley '16 and Justine Rosales '16.

Cornel West posed with Juwan Crawley '16 and Justine Rosales '16.