- Created on 23 January 2013
As the featured speaker for Kennesaw State University's annual Martin Luther King Jr. observance on Jan. 20, Cornel West said he didn't come to present a "sanitized, deodorized" talk on the civil rights leader.
Instead, the scholar and author of critical books about race and democracy said he came to properly situate King in the context of his "examined life," as a follower of Jesus and as a radical fighter for justice and freedom in the face of "crimes against humanity" like racism, war and poverty.
"We gon' keep it funky tonight," promised West, whose appearance before a standing-room audience at the Bobbie Bailey & Family Performance Center was presented by Kennesaw State's African-American Student Alliance and the Office of Multicultural Student Retention at Kennesaw State.
West, the Class of 1943 University Professor at Princeton University, is the author of 19 books, most notably his classics, "Race Matters" and "Democracy Matters." His recent books include a memoir, "Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud," and a social commentary, "The Rich and the Rest of Us," which he co-authored with broadcaster Tavis Smiley.
Before he finished his hour-long talk, West linked the nation's Monday King birthday celebration to Barack Obama's second presidential inauguration on the same day. He noted the announcement that the president would take the oath of office by swearing on King's Bible.
"I hope and pray that [President Obama] knows what he's doing — that this is not just a matter of presidential display and political calculation and that, as symbolized by that Bible, he comes to terms with Martin's challenge."
Not sidestepping controversy, West said King would not support the "new Jim Crow" of the criminal justice industrial complex that disproportionately imprisons black, brown and poor people, or the use of military drones to kill innocent people in Pakistan.
West positioned King and the civil rights movement he led within the long line of those who came before him and struggled against "200 years of slavery, 90 years of Jim Crow and Jane Crow and various forms of American terrorism."
"We're going to keep it real in the face of the superficial," he said. "This Martin Luther King Day celebration is not about pageantry, but it is a matter of Martin's witness, which comes from the prophetic fire of righteousness and indignation, like Jesus in the Temple."
West remembered King and those he surrounded himself with as extraordinary human beings who understood the difference between justice and revenge.
"There is a message in the moral and spiritual high ground they took — a message for the world and for the Middle East," he said. "When our precious Jewish brothers and sisters wrestle with our precious Palestinian brothers and sisters ... When our Palestinian brothers and sisters run out of patience with being terrorized and traumatized, do they respond with counterterrorism? Or, do they try to deal with what Martin and the others were saying?"
Asking that question may make it seem like he's naïve, West admitted. "Anytime you talk about justice in the face of might, it sounds naïve. Anytime you talk about love in a dark world, it sounds naïve. But it's not a matter of naiveté. It's about how many bodies you can put into place so you can begin to destabilize things in such a way that the powers that be have to come to terms with your concerns. That's called a social movement. That's what Martin did."
As King and his colleagues built that social movement, they also began to raise their voices against what West called "the second crime against humanity — the corporate bombing of Vietnam, killing innocent folk." It was a move that changed the trajectory of King's life and struggle, West contends.
"They said, 'Martin, that's not your concern; you ought to be concerned for Negroes,'" West said of King's many detractors. "Martin responded by affirming his belief as a freedom fighter and a human being that 'every human being has the same value, whether they are in Georgia, Ethiopia, Vietnam, London or Argentina.'"
"When he came out with that magnificent speech on April 4, 1967, one year before he was assassinated, everybody turned against him," West said, citing polls that showed 72 percent of Americans disapproved of King and 55 percent of black people disapproved of him, especially after he denounced the Vietnam War. "He became one of the FBI's most dangerous people. He cut against the grain, like Jesus, and was willing to pay the price for it."
In assessing King's fight against poverty, which West called "the third crime against humanity," the scholar said King connected his poor people's campaign to the struggles of poor people around the world — another stance West says constituted a threat because it called into question "how so few people could have so much wealth at the top."
"In 2013, we have the highest poverty level since 1961," West said. "How can we talk about the legacy of Martin Luther King and not talk about the connection between wealth and inequality at home and militarism abroad. ... That is the challenge. Martin set such a high standard and the tradition that produced him is getting weaker and weaker. Everything and everybody is for sale."
West implored the largely student audience to avoid the pitfall of making the rule of money, status and position the focus of their attention.
"I'm not anti-rich; I'm anti-injustice. We have to be faithful to something bigger than success so we can use our success for something even bigger," he concluded.
Students questioned West for half an hour before giving him a standing ovation.
"Dr. Cornel West was amazing!" said Khalfani Lawson, a senior political science major who introduced the speaker. "His speech was dynamic, informative, inspiring, and he left KSU with a new outlook on our responsibility within the community, having charged us to uphold principles Dr. King stood for."
As part of the celebration, the Kennesaw State Gospel Choir also performed, prompting President Daniel S. Papp to laud the choir and its long-time director, Oral Moses, who recently retired after 29 years as professor of music and who returned only to lead the choir's King Day performance.
Papp also thanked students who planned and participated in the celebration for their foresight in selecting West, whose talk he called "inspiring and thought-provoking."
"As Kennesaw State looks forward to celebrating its 50th anniversary next fall," said Papp, "we will continue to live Dr. King's legacy as we strive to be one of the most welcoming, diverse and inclusive universities in the nation."
Photos: Courtesy of David Caselli, Kennesaw State University
- Created on 22 January 2013
Allstate Insurance Company has announced that Freedom Wright of Atlanta has been named a 2013 Allstate Give Back Day Hero. For the fifth consecutive year, Allstate Insurance Company is honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through Allstate Give Back Day, a national program that encourages individuals across the country to volunteer.
This year, actress and volunteer enthusiast Keshia Knight Pulliam has partnered with Allstate to help launch the program and recognize Wright and the three other selfless African-American heroes who dedicate their time and efforts to making a positive impact in their communities.
A former foster child, Wright is a high school senior from Atlanta who knows what it means to wonder how she will get her next meal or clothes. That's one reason why the 17-year-old, who was adopted at the age of 4, decided to help other children living in the foster care system by holding "Free Your Mind" backpack drives benefiting foster children in her area. Wright's goal is to not only raise awareness of older children living in foster care, but also to encourage Atlanta's youth to volunteer.
To help further this effort, Wright also speaks to community groups about the foster care experience. Wright has earned the Presidential Service Award the past four years for her efforts as a regular volunteer at The Atlanta Community Food Bank, The Atlanta Fulton County Library and St. Francis Table, a soup kitchen in Atlanta that feeds the homeless.
"Freedom Wright is an outstanding individual who keeps Dr. King's legacy alive through her unwavering devotion to bettering the greater Atlanta community," said Vicky Dinges, vice president of public social responsibility for Allstate. "Each of our heroes has truly made a commitment to community service, and we hope that their dedication will serve as motivation for others to give back on MLK Day and every day."
As part of their recognition, the heroes will attend The King Center's "Salute to Greatness" Awards in Atlanta on Jan. 19, 2013. In addition, Allstate will be making a $2,500 donation on behalf of Wright to the charity organization of her choice.
- Created on 20 January 2013
Georgia Tech women's basketball freshman Brittany Jackson was named the ACC's Rookie of the Week for her performance in two conference games last week. It is the second time this season Jackson has earned the conference award.
Jackson led the Lady Yellow Jackets with an average of 20.0 points per game last week and scored a game-high 20 points in both the Jackets' games against Virginia and at North Carolina (No.11). In total, she scored a total of 40 points in only 53 minutes of action during the week and made nine 3-pointers. She was 6-of-7 from the free throw line, to go with eight rebounds, three assists and a team-best five steals.
Against the Cavaliers, Jackson came off the bench for 20 points on 7-of-19 shooting and tied her career-high with five 3-pointers in only 27 minutes. At North Carolina, Jackson scored 20 points in 26 minutes on 5-of-14 shooting, including four 3-pointers.
"Brittany Jackson is very deserving of being named "ACC Rookie of the Week," head coach MaChelle Joseph said. "She has been an impact freshman and earned the opportunity she has been given. I am very proud of her work ethic and desire to get better.
Jackson was also named ACC Rookie of the Week Nov. 19 after leading Tech to wins over Kennesaw State and Marquette. That week she averaged 15.0 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, while shooting 45 percent from the floor and 66.7 percent from 3-point range.
- Created on 21 January 2013
Residents of Historic Westside Village are invited to the new Walmart store, which opens immediately following a 7:30 a.m., grand-opening celebration Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 835 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. The new store brings approximately 150 new jobs to the area and opportunities for savings for customers. It will be open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.
Mayor Kasim Reed and community officials will be on-site for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 7:30 a.m., Wednesday, Jan. 23. The Washington High School band will perform the national anthem. The Rev. Kenny Alexander from the Antioch Urban Ministries will lead the invocation.
Customers are encouraged to come to the store on Wednesday to take advantage of a wide variety of events and promotions, including product samplings and giveaways from companies such as Coca-Cola, Frito-Lay and Nestle.
Kellogg's will be giving away cereal bowls and Sara Lee will be handing out loaves of bread. Throughout the weekend, the Oscar Mayer weiner mobile will be on hand and Cross Mark will be grilling steaks for sampling. All events are family-friendly, free and open to the public.
"My team and I are thrilled to have this opportunity to serve as good stewards of the community," said store manager Quincy L.A. Springs, IV. "We are excited to provide groceries, produce, and general merchandise to our community so they can save money and live better."
The new store features a wide assortment of merchandise, including:
• Family apparel
• Health and beauty aids
• Automotive products
• Home furnishings
• Sporting goods
• Pet supplies
The grocery area will include a wide selection of fresh produce, including a variety of ethnic products. Other features include a bakery, meat and dairy products, dry goods and staples, beverages, beer and wine, a deli, frozen foods, canned and packaged goods, baking items and household supplies.
The pharmacy will offer a full range of products and services to support the health and wellness of customers and their families. The pharmacy team can answer questions and offer health and wellness solutions. They can also assist customers who wish to transfer their prescriptions to Walmart.
As customers enter the store, a mural of photos depicting local civil rights leaders and the history of the community can be seen.
Nonprofit organizations will also benefit from the retailer's ongoing charitable contributions and support for community projects. As part of Walmart's commitment to the communities in which it operates, grants will be given throughout the year.
- Created on 18 January 2013
The Davis Bozeman Law Firm, in collaboration with the Auburn Avenue Research Library, will host "The Consequences of Thug Life: To Be A Thug Or To Be Brave," facilitated by Criminal Defense/Trial Attorney Mawuli Mel Davis on Saturday, Jan. 26 at 6 p.m. at the Auburn Avenue Research Library.
The library is located at 101 Auburn Avenue, N.E. in Atlanta.
The "Consequences of Thug Life: To Be A Thug Or To Be Brave" presentation was developed after Davis witnessed the increase in youth that come from "good families" going to prison because they have bought into the glamorization of being a "thug."
This multimedia presentation uses hip-hop music, images, and clips to engage youth in a thought-provoking discussion. This solution based workshop provides attendees a strong sense of self-identity, self-worth, and responsibility to the community.
This dynamic and energetic workshop uses positive affirmations and creative teaching tools to inspire young people to be "brave enough" to be themselves. This discussion is a penetrating examination of what manhood has been "reduced to" in many communities of color.