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African-American Scholar, Activist and Theologian Cornel West Speaks On the Challenge Ofprogressive Politics and the Struggle for Racial Justice After September 11

StoryDecember 19, 2001
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In his introduction to

??Death Blossoms, Mumia Abu Jamal’s collection of writings, Cornell West writes:

"As one who was lived on the night-side of the American dream ­ unjustly imprisoned for a crime he did not commit ­Mumia Anu-Jamal speaks to us of the institutional injustice and spiritual impoverishment that permeates our culture.He reminds us of things most fellow citizens would rather deny, ignore, or evade. And, like the most powerfulcritics of our society, he forces us to grapple with the most fundamental question facing this country: what does itprofit a nation to conquer the whole world and lose its soul?"

It’s a question West has grappled with since September 11, and a question facing activists everywhere in a time ofwar. Yesterday we broadcast the first part of a speech Cornell West gave at an award ceremony honoring Mario Savioand given to a leading youth organizer. Mario Savio was one of the leaders of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and atireless human rights activist. The recipient of this year’s award was Jim Keady, the former St. John’s soccer coachwho was fired for his anti-sweatshop activism and went to Indonesia to live with Nike workers on starvation wagesbefore starting his own human rights group.

The speech Mario Savio gave in Berkeley in December 1964, before students launched an occupation of student buildingsto demand free speech, would ring as true today. Savio said "There is a time when the operation of the machinebecomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, andyou’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’vegot to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unlessyou’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!"

Cornell West spoke about the challenges facing progressives since September 11 and the challenge of working forracial, economic and social justice in a time of war. Today we broadcast the conclusion of that speech.


  • Cornel West, professor of African-American studies and philosophy of religion at Harvard University andauthor of the best-selling book, ??Race Matters.

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