On Wednesday, the prolific intellect, author and lecturer, Cornel West, made a grand appearance at Florida A&M University.
Students began lining up outside of Lee Hall Auditorium around 4 p.m.
Within half an hour, the length of the line doubled and before 5 p.m. the line continued down the steps of Lee Hall Auditorium and began to wrap around the right side of the building.
The warning came as no surprise, “Doors open at 5 p.m. and seating is limited,” was written in bold face type on all documentation publicizing the widely anticipated Cornel West.
Admission was free to all FAMU students who presented a valid Rattler Card at the front entrance of Lee Hall Auditorium and $10.00 for non-FAMU students.
A representative of the Student Government Association had to call on her fellow SGA members to kindly give up their seat as there were people who paid for the event, but had nowhere to sit.
The occasion: A Discussion on Politics and Culture.
“For once we can come together and discuss openly politics and culture; the parrells of both are very interesting,” said Amanda Wilkerson, chairperson for the Cornel West event.
West, a man whose co-authored novel, The Future of the Race, was dubbed “brilliant…a social, cultural, and political blueprint…that attempts to illumine the future path for blacks and American society,” by the New York Daily News, was the man of the hour.
FAMU Student Government Association hosted the event.
“Students who attend the Black Student Summit approached SGA about having more intellectual thinkers and speakers,” Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson, director of student lobbying in SGA said that this was actually requested by the student body but SGA was instrumental in making sure it happened.
Another organization in attendance was the Thomas DeSalle Tucker Leadership Institute that worked in conjunction with SGA to make sure this event was possible.
The Leadership Institute originated after the first Black Student Summit during the Fall semester.
Shevrin Jones, one of the founders of The Institute said that SGA did the funding for the event, but they [The Institute] supported it in terms of their campaign which target to increase minority enrollment in colleges and universities.
Jones, 22, a senior chemistry student who serves as Secretary of Academic Affairs in SGA said, “I hope this event empowers and uplifts the students.”
“I hope students have an opportunity to be enlightened by someone who is an intellect, lecturer and author,” said the senior polictical science student from Kissimmee, Fla.
Prior to the event, Orlando Norwood, 22, an elementary education student from Orlando said he expected the event to be very intense and informative. Norwood said, “Brother West is going to inform us on where we need to go and how to get there.”
“He is going to be energetic and motivating and encourage people to make a difference and be more aware of important issues,” Norwood said.
As the event started somewhat behind schedule, Mr. and Miss FAMU, Hasan Flake and Kimberly Brown, respectively gave an initial welcome and purpose for the event.
SGA President Ramon Alexander, a senior political science student from Tallahassee, gave a welcome on behalf of SGA and referred to West as a “living legend.”
The last of the welcomes and the introduction itself was given by SGA Vice President Philip P. Agnew, a business administration student from Chicago.
Upon West’s grand entrance, he said “FAMU there’s no place like it this, this is the number one HBCU in the world.”
Throughout the evening, West assured students that he came in the spirit to listen and learn and that he would stay as long as necessary to engage in intellectual discussion.
West gave a riveting and thought-provoking speech by first ensuring that he would “unsettle and unnerve everyone” because “we need to wake up and stop sleep-walking.”
West commended students for being in school but also questioned whether students were getting an education.
In addressing President Bush, West referred to Tuesday’s nationally aired State of the Union Address as a comical affair.
West said,”black people don’t have enough courage because people give up and sell out too easily.”
West said, “white supremacy is still alive and well,” and advised students to “don’t be successful, be great.”
In refereed to the vanilla suburbs and chocolate cities, West acknowledged the illegal activities occuring in both neighborhoods.
West said, “some people lack political courage and are cowardly when it comes to speaking the truth.”
As West speech concluded in roughly an hour, West ended with a comparison of the Negro National Anthem Lift Every Voice and Sing, to a blue note in jazz, by musician John Coltrane.
West encouraged students “to find their voice and allow it to be heard.”
Before the question and answer segment began, West concluded the night by mentioning the future of the black community and the impact of blacks on the world.
“The destiny of the county is rooted in black history and the truth will be told; the history of black folk may be the key to the world,” West said.
Okovie Ulukpo, 25, a counselor education graduate student, from Ft. Lauderdale said she attend the event because she is a true advocate for black issues and West is along the lines of her idealogy.
“He was very empowering and definitely created cognitive dissonance which allows people to feel uncomfortable, so hopefully people will be provoked and do something different while the world is in this dismal state, Ulukpo said.