Cornel West—author, scholar, philosopher and civil rights activist—exhorted a UB audience last week to fight for human rights, delivering an impassioned speech in a baritone voice that moved with grace from a whisper to a boom.
His talk—in style, a cross between a lecture, sermon and spoken word—drew a sold-out crowd to the Center for the Arts Mainstage Theatre, North Campus, on Friday evening. Listeners stayed riveted as West, a professor at Princeton University, presented sometimes-controversial ideas about issues, including race relations in America. His visit, part of UB’s Distinguished Speakers Series, marked the university’s 34th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Event.
West, whose areas of expertise include African American studies and religion, encouraged attendees to think about King’s legacy, the battle to end discrimination. All human lives have value, West said, but too often, society advances the interests of “the strong” over those of “the weak.” He blasted the prison-industrial complex, disgraceful school systems and recession-type levels of unemployment that existed in poor areas even before Wall Street’s latest collapse.