man on fire

Dr. Cornel West

kicks off VCU series on race

by Janel St. John

Dr. Cornel West is a man on fire. He was arrested August 11, 2015 at the federal courthouse in St. Louis while leading protestors in a Black Lives Matter demonstration. And this is just one of his arrests surrounding the campaign sparked by the shooting death of Mike Brown, an unarmed black teenager killed by a white police officer on August 9, 2014; West was detained in October, during a protest at the Ferguson Police Department in Ferguson, Missouri.

And now he’s coming to Virginia Commonwealth University. So why would VCU be entertaining this trouble-making rabble-rouser who has run-ins with the law? “Because he is not afraid to speak out frankly,” said Dr. Richard
Godbeer, who spearheaded West’s visit. Godbeer is Director of the Humanities Research Center at VCU, that is hosting a series of public events this fall, entitled “Race, Citizenship, and Memory in the South.” Dr. West will kick off the series on Sept. 3, 2015 at 6 p.m. at the Stuart C. Siegel Center with the keynote address, “Invoking Our Collective Memory.” The events are designed to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery and the still ongoing journey toward racial justice.

A prominent public intellectual, West is the Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice at Union Theological Seminary and Professor Emeritus at Princeton. He has written over 20 books, including, “Race Matters” and “Democracy Matters,” a memoir, “Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud,” his most recent releases, “Black Prophetic Fire” and “Radical King.” A frequent guest on the Bill Maher Show, Colbert Report, CNN, C-Span and Democracy Now, West has taught at Yale, Harvard, and the University of Paris. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard in three years and obtained his M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy at Princeton. Yet the self-proclaimed ‘Democratic intellectual’ is just as passionate about activism as he is about scholarship. West has a goal to ‘keep alive the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. – a legacy of telling the truth and bearing witness to love and justice.'


Dr. Cornel West
to speak September 3, 2015
at 6 PM at the Siegel Center, Richmond, VA

  "...our nation is still haunted by the legacy of institutionalized racism and slavery that was put in place centuries ago.”
- Dr. Richard Godbeer


“I respect his forthrightness in challenging people to address difficult issues, Godbeer said. “When I listen to him speak, I am impressed by his blend of intellectual insight and passion.” Challenging people is exactly what Godbeer hopes to achieve through the series. “How can we address our present and our future without including race” he said. “It’s not the only issue we face as a society - but it’s a crucial one. If we are going to move on, we have to be willing to talk about it.”

The series of free events will engage a broad audience in and around Richmond as well as within the VCU community, about a range of issues affected by our history.“In America, there is a specific history of race relations that is shaping current events,” Godbeer said. “Current controversies over issues of race - including the voter ID controversy, widespread outrage over police brutality against minorities, and continued discomfort in some quarters over the election of a black man to the U.S. presidency – remind us that our nation is still haunted by the legacy of institutionalized racism and slavery that was put in place centuries ago.”


Dr. Godbeer says the series will demonstrate just how relevant humanities scholarship is to public conversation. Learning about and respecting the outlooks of other people is crucial to our survival in a modern global world.
The humanities, he said, will play a central role in taking us there. “I want people to go away thinking about these issues in a new way. I hope they will be talking and maybe even arguing.”

Race, Citizenship, and Memory in the South

Click here for Full Schedule



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Janel St. John is the founder and publisher of The Conscious Voice Magazine. See full bio here.




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