Cornel West, a prominent member of the Democratic Socialists of America and noted civil-rights activist, writer and philosopher, paid a visit to Charlotte Monday evening to give a speech at a local university. Appearing as part of the Diversity Lecture and Cultural Series presented by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, West spoke to a sold out crowd of nearly eight hundred packed into the Dana Auditorium at Queens University of Charlotte.
During the hour-long speech, West touched on hot button topics ranging from President Barack Obama's drone strikes in Pakistan to the passing of Whitney Houston. At times his words were funny and disarmingly casual, such as when he noted Alicia Keys "tried too hard" when she sang at Houston's funeral. At other times, the speech cut unflinchingly into America's obsession with skin tone and the racial divide that has plagued the country since its inception.
West made frequent reference to the case of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager who was recently shot and killed by a Neighborhood Watch captain. The case that has ignited dozens of protests across the country and reopened questions about race in America.
A proponent of "radical love" who refers to himself as an "extremist for tenderness," West reminded attendees that in times of tension, we must differ to self-examination and not to anger to resolve differences.
He has appeared frequently on CNN, Fox News and The Colbert Report. He made his acting debut in The Matrix and is the author of the critically essential books "Race Matters" and "Democracy Matters." He currently co-hosts "Smiley and West," a radio show from Public Radio International.