Cornel West was “in no rush” as he spoke to a packed crowd in Memorial Hall Friday night about love, justice and Martin Luther King Jr.
The professor, author, spoken word poet and sometimes-movie star spent roughly two hours in front of students and community members, giving both a soulful history lesson and his take on justice in today’s society. He ended the event with more than an hour of questions from the audience.
“I want to say something that unsettles you, that unnerves you even for a moment, that un-houses you,” West said.
Brian Riefler, one of the Campus Y event organizers, said it was West’s ability to stir up dialogue that initially led the executive board to bring him to UNC. The total cost of the speech was about $23,000, said Monique Laborde, who was an organizer of the event with Campus Y.
Among many topics, West discussed King and his legacy as a way to bridge Black History Month and MLK Celebration Week.
“When you think about Martin Luther King Jr., you think about a love warrior,” he said. “Radical love – that’s what sits at the center of Brother Martin’s project.”
West said love is crucial in a culture that breeds fear – especially among black men.
“There’s a sense that to be black in America is to be on the run,” he said. “Then the question becomes, what are you running for and what you running from?”
For West, guidance on how to honor King’s legacy comes down to four main principles – honesty, integrity, decency and virtue. West said King was the walking answer to the four questions posed by civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois surrounding these four principles, which West emphasized throughout his lecture.