Famed Cornel West captivated the crowd as he spoke prophetically powerful words ever candidly. It was almost like a church service the way we as the audience shook our heads, swayed, clapped, snapped and verbalized agreement and admiration at the potency that spewed from his lips. As students and community members listened intently as West dissected the new youth movement and how revolutionary change must begin with us as young people, though, there were a times a pin drop could be heard.
Trying to snap photos, scribble down notes and quotes and interview people was all in a day’s work. But for a moment I had almost forgotten the distinguished civil rights activist who stood calling out and imploring ME, as a young adult, to get involved in political movements of the day.
“I hope I say something that unsettles you, that unnerves you, that un-houses you,” West began his talk.
No credit to the tight deadline I was on but he was right. I was unsettled, I was unnerved, I was un-housed.
Throughout the speech, West encouraged young people and urged those in the audience to “think for themselves,” combat complacency of mind, and “make the journey from superficial to substantial.”
West’ speech aimed to tackle the question, “What is the new youth movement?” especially at a time where it seems there’s nothing for young people to fight for.
As a tactic to challenge young people to keep the new youth movement alive, he addressed a wide range of topics. He touched on social and racial inequalities, economic disparities and wealth, and President Obama and the U.S. criminal justice system, which he called “racist.”
“The slogan of the new youth movement is, ‘I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,’ ” he said.