Uncovering the truth and employing love as an antidote to today’s woes were among the points made by Dr. Cornel West in a wide-ranging talk on the present and future of racial equity at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco Tuesday night.
The San Francisco Human Rights Commission (SFHRC) and the San Francisco African American Chamber of Commerce (SFAACC) hosted the meet-and-greet for the prolific author, professor and commentator of the times where the Hon. Willie Brown was in attendance.
West said that in order to change the “viscous legacy of white supremacy,” one must be willing to take risks in a society of “survival of the slickest.” “Where are the voices willing to tell the truth about the gangster in the White House? We must be honest about gangsters and thugs in high places.”
For West, “Truth is allowing suffering to speak.” Due to the corporatization and commoditization of society, the truth is buried, according to West.
While congratulating local leaders in the fight for justice, West discussed the historic acts of courage in the human rights movement by people in San Francisco and across the nation.
“Mary Ellen Pleasant (an African American abolitionist and entrepreneur for more than 50 years whose wealth amounted to $647 million), the mother of human rights in San Francisco gave $1 million dollars to radical abolitionist John Brown for the Underground Railroad in the 1840s,” he recounted.
West also mentioned pioneering civil rights activist Ella Baker who, in New York City and the South served the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Students Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
“Love” is another antidote for these times. “Love is inside of you. That’s why our musicians are so paradigmatic, like John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme.’ We need voices, institutions, churches, mosques, synagogues, civic institutions, trade unions, professors and everyday people raising their voices in the name of love and justice that tell the truth about people in power and brings pressure to bear to change it.”
Throughout the talk West paid homage to the Honorable Willie Brown seated in the audience, whom he referred to as an insider and to himself as an outsider equally moving change forward.
West praised the “Squad,” a brave group of congresswomen of color who have been repeatedly attacked by Pres. Donald Trump. “It’s one thing to tell the truth on the outside, but when you tell the truth as an insider, it takes on a life of its own.”
West shared this panoramic view of politics, race, social justice and current events in a talk with SFHRC Executive Director Sheryl Davis. SFHRC was formed five decades ago to address racism, bigotry, intolerance and discrimination in San Francisco.
The agency also explores the possibilities of outcomes in closing the wealth gap for Blacks in San Francisco and the devastation of the outmigration of Black families from San Francisco.
Opening the discussion, Davis referred to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s book, “Strength to Love” and asked what does having the honesty to confront shattered dreams look like.
West is the author of multiple books including “Race Matters,” “The Radical King” and “Black Prophetic Fire.”
Guests included businesswoman Sandra Varner, Paul Henderson of the Mayor’s Office of Public Safety, San Francisco District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton, and Archbishop Franzo King of the Church of St. John Coltrane, among others.