Cornel West, champion of racial justice, to speak in Everett

EVERETT — Cornel West is a high-profile Harvard and Princeton-educated professor. He is the author of “Race Matters,” “Democracy Matters” and many other books. An outspoken champion of racial justice, he airs strong views on TV and radio. He even has a hip-hop album to his name.

Everett Community College is bringing West here for a talk Thursday at Comcast Arena’s Edward D. Hansen Conference Center in Everett. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for the event, the culmination of the college’s recognition of Black Legacy Month. The program is sponsored by EvCC’s Student Activities Office, Black Student Union, and the Outreach, Diversity and Equity Center.

West’s topic is “Race in Education: Empowering Andragogy in Educational Institutions.” While the word pedagogy relates to a teacher or teaching, andragogy puts the focus on the learner — particularly on adult learning. West’s talk will cover teaching strategies for adult learners.

“Many of our students are straight out of high school. We do get students who are older, and others are coming to get their GED. We have a wide range of students,” said Jerod Grant, director of EvCC’s Outreach, Diversity and Equity Center. “He is coming to talk about how to effectively support and empower these students, at all different levels.”

Grant said the event is an opportunity for an “open and engaging dialogue around the topic of race and education.” The aim, he said, is for people to leave West’s talk with goals for working toward a more equitable society.

A professor at Princeton University, West graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in three years before earning master’s and doctoral degrees in philosophy at Princeton. He has taught at Union Theological Seminary, Yale, Harvard and the University of Paris. He is the author of 19 books. Among his latest is a memoir, “Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud.”

Until recently, he was featured on the public radio show “Smiley &West,” with Tavis Smiley, with whom he has also appeared on PBS. West makes frequent appearances on CNN, C-SPAN, “The Colbert Report” and other politically oriented talk shows.

His topic for the Everett talk sounds complex, but there’s a simple way to learn a bit about what makes West tick, and that is reading what he shares on Twitter. In recent weeks, his tweets have included: “The best way to sum up what today is all about is — #LOVE” (on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday). “When I first met him he said ‘Be steadfast in your opposition.’ I shall never forget him” (on the death of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela). And “There is always a fundamental tension between a commitment to truth and a quest for power.”

Grant acknowledged that West’s comments are sometimes controversial.

In an interview on Al Jazeera America, West recently blasted President Barack Obama for what the professor said were “authorized killings” of “innocent children and innocent adults.” West added, “Those are crimes, and they’re war crimes because they’re done in the name of a war that’s undeclared.”

“I don’t think he’ll shy away from difficult topics,” said Katherine Schiffner, the college’s public relations director.

Grant said a college programs board approves funding for events. He did not disclose West’s fee, but said the school worked with West’s agent to get a “good rate” as a community college.

“One of the things I love about any speaker, they get people thinking,” Grant said. “It’s not necessarily giving a specific answer. It gets the conversation going.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Talk on Thursday

Cornel West, a professor, author and champion of racial justice, will speak Thursday in Comcast Arena’s Edward D. Hansen Conference Center, 2000 Hewitt Ave., Suite 200, Everett. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Tickets $10 in advance, $15 at the door; free for EvCC students and employees with ID, but ticket required; $5 for other students with ID. Tickets available until Wednesday at: www.evcccornelwest.eventbrite.com

For information: diversity@everettcc.edu or 425-388-9306

Correction, March 3, 2014: The headline on an earlier version of this article contained incorrect information about where West will speak. He will be at the Hansen Conference Center at Comcast Arena.

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