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Cornel West, 2024 presidential candidate, attends Brown celebration in his honor

Panelists discuss West’s academic work, legacy during two-day event

<p>The weekend event at the John Hay Library featured philosopher Cornel West himself, along with 18 panelists who discussed West’s academic work, views and legacy.</p>

The weekend event at the John Hay Library featured philosopher Cornel West himself, along with 18 panelists who discussed West’s academic work, views and legacy.

Over the weekend, philosopher and 2024 independent presidential candidate Cornel West attended a celebration of his academic work hosted by the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America. 

Held at the John Hay Library, the weekend event featured 18 panelists who discussed Cornel West’s academic work, views and legacy. Cornel West, who declared his candidacy for president on June 5, is a scholar of religion and African American studies.

“The rich musicality and the dynamic character of the life of Cornel West merit festivity,” said Associate Professor of Religious Studies Andre Willis, who delivered the celebration’s opening address on Friday. “He remains my teacher even to this day.”

“In his writings … is a heartfelt and soul-driven attempt to leave the world with a little more joy,” Willis continued. “Professor West turns pain to power and stigma to style.”


In Friday's opening discussion — moderated by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges — Cornel West spoke about the importance of examining suffering and marginalization in America.

The United States “has a death-ducking, death-denying culture” in regards to the historical treatment of Indigenous people, people of color and working-class people, Cornel West said.

“America doesn’t want to engage (with) undeserved suffering individually, institutionally, structurally or personally,” he said.

Addressing present injustices requires acknowledging historical suffering, he added. “It’s hard to generate mature courage if you’re in denial of the evil in your past and present.”

Cornel West’s brother, Clifton West, also spoke at the conference on Saturday.

“He lives by a code of love,” Clifton West said, describing his brother. “He lives his life for others.”

Tricia Rose MA’87 PhD’93 P’14, director of the CSREA and professor of Africana studies, moderated the celebration’s closing discussion. Rose asked Cornel West how to “carry on (his) honor and legacy.” 

“What should Black studies be going forward, given the time we’re in now?” she asked.

For Cornel West, there isn’t one answer, though he urged the audience to engage with the performing arts. He also urged young people and established scholars to value intellectual pursuits over professional success. 

“We have to be true to ourselves,” Cornel West said. “Something is at stake bigger than just your career.”


Damali Britton GS, a doctoral candidate in political theory, attended the celebration because she was interested in learning about Cornel West’s development as a scholar, mentor and colleague.

“I left feeling invigorated,” Britton wrote in an email to The Herald. “Something about the love people expressed for Dr. West and his work alongside the rich discussion of ideas made me excited to work on my own research.”

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Anisha Kumar

Anisha Kumar is a section editor covering University Hall. She is a sophomore from Menlo Park, California concentrating in English and Political Science who loves speed-crosswording and rewatching sitcoms.

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