An evening with Dr Cornel West

An intellectual evening with Dr Cornel West | The Saturday Paper.

For all kinds of reasons, I would have to say this was the best night of my life. The author of the linked article, Maxine Beneba Clarke, hasn’t mentioned anything here about her own magical, heart-opening performance. However, the article does a nice job of capturing the spirit of the experience.

While he was in town, Dr West was also a guest on the highest rating episode of ABC’s Q&A show ever – so he made a big impact during his visit to Australia.

My friends and I spent a few minutes afterwards discussing the immediate highlights such as the delightful experience of hearing the statement “there’s a white supremacist in me” said by a black man in a public forum. It’s one of those things that has an instant effect on everyone who actually lets the idea sink in. We also spent some time thinking of what questions we would ask Dr West if we had the chance. I was as enthusiastic and excitable as a teenager so I shot out of the blocks with, “Do you want to come and live at my house?” Everyone agreed that should be the first question we ask.

When it came down to actually meeting him though I asked Dr West about resistance to facts/information/other perspectives by the white population and what role negative rhetoric by the black community might play in this. He spoke with me about how people learn through catastrophe if they don’t learn any other way.

After sitting on this experience for a week, I can see how off-track my question was… oh well we live and learn. In hindsight, I should have just asked myself about my own resistance in response to all the negative rhetoric I hear and read. More importantly though, I can see how timid I’ve been. I’m not saying that with any judgment, we do what is essential to survival and anyway, it is what it is.

What I do know – is that I have been holding out to see whether the most valued aspects of my way of being could be positively reflected in a world dominated and shaped by those and their minions who have a lust for power and money and various other things of dubious virtue. Those who aren’t afraid to use violence to achieve their goals. Those who are patting themselves on the back for all that number-crunching, someone-else’s back-breaking success they’ve managed to snatch like candy from a baby. Those who think they have won.

Click! knowing and awe have become artists-in-residence;
a flowing arrangement of clear vision and virtuous men returning to simple truths.
line from a poem earlier this year – Smashing Beliefs

In short, Dr Cornel West appears to be the type of man I always expected and hoped to see in the world but hadn’t found. So many times I’ve been told, and by so many, that I have unrealistic expectations… yet here he is. This man not only exists – I got to meet him.


I am eternally grateful to the friend who took me to this event, Nasser, a fellow magician who is also burdened with the curse of unreasonable expectations and and the wherewithal to make them happen.


Peace, brothers and sisters. Over here the love is still flowing šŸ˜‰


8 thoughts on “An evening with Dr Cornel West

  1. I am so excited for you, Robyn, that you were able to meet Cornel West in person. What a thrill! Now you will forever set your expectations high, no more compromising.
    I met Ivan Van Sertima (author of They Came Before Columbus) when he lectured in the Caribbean in the 80s and was probably as thrilled as you are now with your meeting with Dr. West.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jamborobyn says:

      Wow, I had not heard of Ivan Van Sertima – now I want to read the book. I’m also curious. Would you say that particular meeting had any influence on your future direction? Did something change for you as a result?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh my goodness, I could write a whole book about your question. Where to start? Even though I am a white European, I had always seen Africa as the motherland. So for someone like Dr. Sertima to come along and show evidence that Africans had a presence in South America BEFORE Columbus “discovered” it was delicious heresy to all the anglo-european superiority garbage theories. I was impressed with the sheer number of disciplines he surveyed and drew from (botany, geography, anthropology, linguistics, etc.). I’ve always admired multiple intelligences and swimming against the stream of what’s generally accepted as true. So Sertima became one of my heroes. There’s more, but this is probably enough for a public blog response šŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      • jamborobyn says:

        šŸ™‚ It’s an exciting time and quite a wondrous feeling. Someone has pressed the big green “GO” button or the wineglass is smashed to smithereens and I’m bubbling around on the glassblower’s breath.

        Nice to hear from you Annette, I hope things have been going extra well for you in your new venture.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Green “GO” button – I love it! Keep riding the green wave (that’s what we called a synchronized pattern of traffic lights we used to have in Germany; if you caught one green light, you caught the rest of them, too)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. sojourner says:

    I was wondering how this went for you. I am so glad it was this kind of experience. We need these kinds of experiences in our lives, and unfortunately, they are too few and too far between.

    I, too, always look back and question my questioning in these types of situations. I remember back, and then my toes curl up and I say to myself, “Why did you ask that?” or “Why did you ask it in that manner?” or “Why didn’t you see this before you asked that?” etc etc

    What I have come to here recently, is that it matters not: I asked what was honestly on my heart and mind and that moment, and if nothing else, it makes my questioning honest and shows I was connected at the time. And sometimes what I believe was the wrong question actually turns out to be what someone else wanted to ask as well. Not all the time, but every so often.

    I love this, by the way,

    “Click! knowing and awe have become artists-in-residence;
    a flowing arrangement of clear vision and virtuous men returning to simple truths.”

    Simple truths and clear vision: to me they go hand in hand.

    Your way of being, as I’ve said before, not only reflects positively, it is what we the people are sorely in need of. In other words, I want to be like you when I grow up, whenever that will be;-)

    I am so glad you had this moment of clarity and refreshing!


    That’s a wonderful photo!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is so soul-satisfying to meet someone who “gets” it. I love that discovery in a friend or in a public speaker or a mentor. The tenor of life should be simple…truth and love and acceptance and a good laugh along the way.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Robyn, I so love the photo!! Somewhere in the universe there was a click at that moment.
    Did you and Dr. West get a chance to talk after the lecture at all?
    Just nosy.
    He has the power to pick people to just come for free and study and bask and be a part of the Union Theological Seminary (I THINK I got the name right) and live for free in an esquisite Medieval stone residence. The campus is elegant, like a walled-off oasis, but surrounded by the huge bustle of New York City’s Bronx, with working-class neighborhoods of people from all over the planet.
    The idea is not to enroll for a degree. It’s about what your journey can add to the learnimng community – that is, your presence. I think you can take any class you want. You propose a way to share how you have used your year and it can be just about anything. Maybe you will propose the role of post-catostrophic sanctuary and study (with Dr.west!) as both spiritual and political resistence. Maybe you’ll poke around New York City for a year, meeting a wide range of Tanzanians, writing poetry, and participating in Union’s various communist plots to unionize the Bronx.
    Union is about the most radical divinity school in the world. You don’t have to believe in God!

    Liked by 1 person

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