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Blacks need to apply a strong sense of love and community to combat feelings of rage and invisibility, said Cornel West '74 in the final installment of this year's W.E.B. Du Bois lecture series yesterday.
"Black love is a way of ensuring that you don't yield to the temptation of hate," said West, who is director of Afro-American studies at Princeton University.
West's lecture, entitled "The Sexualized Black Body and Black Love," was third in his series "Being and Blackness: The Struggle Against Nobodiness."
Speaking to an audience of approximately 300 in Emerson Hall, West defined a connection between the political and socioeconomic obstacles facing Blacks.
West juxtaposed discussion of basic physical and emotional aspects of the Black tradition with a political analysis of Black empowerment.
"I want to talk about Black rage and the present crisis," he said, citing a "lethal linkage" between economic decline, cultural decay and political lethargy.
West said the Black community must overcome the temptation to hate, despair and doubt through love, community and "solidarity mediated by critical sensibilities."
The Princeton scholar considers rage and the Black body to be inextricably linked because, "White supremacist ideology is fundamentally about the degradation of the Black body."
Weaving together quotes from writers ranging from James Baldwin to Richard Wright and references to the work of Black leaders including Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., West described ways in which Black society has so far dealt with rage.
West then drew a connection between a loving community base and political empowerment, saying, "A fundamental Black agency is a precondition for a political form of Black agency."
West closed his lecture by saying that the issues he had discussed are of central significance not only for the Black community but for the nation as a whole.
"Our inability to come to terms with this issue may well decide between the relative failure or the relative success of our precious but precarious democratic experiment," he said.
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