At an event hosted by the Foothill-De Anza foundation, Dr. Cornel West spoke to community members and students about race, reparations, poverty, protest, religion and rhythm and blues on Jan 17, Friday.
The event allowed students to come upstage to ask questions to the famous author and scholar at Foothill College’s Smithwick Theatre as part of a speaker series called “An Evening with Cornel West.”
Andre Meggerson, enrollment services specialist said, “I loved the format, free speech and actually having the students come up.”
West was dynamic in his speaking.
He pointed, swiveled and leaned as he spoke to the audience about his experience in Charlottesville, Virginia counter-protesting, his disappointment with Obama not addressing class inequality, and the watering down of affirmative action which he called “deodorizing the funk.”
“I’ve heard that he participated in the Matrix series, he’s a philosopher, and that’s pretty much it,” Kataryna Honcharuk, 22, photography and business administration said before the event, adding she hoped to be encouraged by West.
Four out of the five students invited to speak with West on stage were members of the Umoja Community at Foothill, a program that teaches students about the cultures of Africa and the African American diaspora. The fifth was president of the Puente Program at Foothill College, which seeks to increase education among underserved students.
“I look forward to having more conversations like this in these types of settings, so we can expose those that may not know to some different ideologies and create space for these conversations,” Meggerson said.
Emmanuel Nevarez, 23, sociology, said Bernie Sanders was the reason why he came to this event.
“I’m a staunch Bernie supporter. I cannot vote at all because I’m DACA, so any vote I get for Bernie by other people is more than enough for me,” Nevarez said.
West said he “sandwiched” Foothill College between trips to Iowa to support Sanders and Oregon where he was speaking at a similar event the next day.
Referring to other prestigious colleges in the Bay Area, West said he doesn’t use the word ‘prestigious’ as a way of talking about money and status.
“I’m talking about the care for students who are willing to come and flower and flourish,” said West. “So, for me, I’m at a prestigious place, I’m blessed to be here.”