“The book starts off [asking]‘…are we experiencing the death of prophetic fire,” said scholar, best-selling author and cultural critic Dr. Cornel West. “And there’s Ferguson saying ‘absolutely not.’ Look at those young people on fire!”
Six years in the making, West’s latest book “Black Prophetic Fire” offered perspective on six revolutionary African American leaders: Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr., Ella Baker, Malcolm X, and Ida B. Wells through dialogue with scholar Christa Buschendorf.
“Divine irony,” is the best way to describe the book’s release falls in sync with the Ferguson unrest – and now South St. Louis as well – in the wake of two black lives lost at the hands of police.
“The book is about showing that it’s a beautiful thing to be on fire for justice and you see the young folk right now on fire for justice,” West said. “As a Christian I say ‘the Lord is working in a mighty way’.”
The book hit shelves on Tuesday. In what is considered by many as the most crucial period in sales, West is stealing a moment from his nationwide tour for “Black Prophetic Fire” to stand in solidarity with the “Week of Resistance” in light of the Ferguson unrest.
Referred to as “Ferguson October,” the schedule of more than 20 events kicked off this afternoon with a march at the County Prosecutor’s office in Clayton and continues through Monday morning with a collective act of civil disobedience.
West will provide the keynote address for Mass Meeting: An Interfaith Service.
“My fundamental aim is to let the precious black young men and women know that we old-school people love and care for them,” West said. “It’s a matter of bearing witness to our love for these priceless young black men and women. I just hope and pray that the young people know that they come from a great people – and a great struggle. I want to let them know that they must keep love and justice at the center of their movement.”
His visit is his way of supporting protesters efforts for justice in the shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown on August 9th.
“His body laying on the street it hit me so hard – it was blow to my stomach,” West said. “But I was inspired by the young people – Tef Poe and the others – who stepped forward and had such courage to try to let Ferguson know, to let Missouri know and to let the nation and the world know that they were not going to put up with it.”
He had already committed to speak before VonDerritt Myers Jr. was killed by a St. Louis City police officer earlier this week.
“On the local level, we want the policeman who killed Michael Brown to be arrested and We want a fair trial to proceed,” West said. “On a larger level we want the country to know that we are tired of this lack of accountability. These policemen are killing our precious children – not just in Ferguson, but across the nation – and it’s out of control.”
In the protests, West sees the potential for the same promise offered through the lives and works of the iconic individuals discussed and detailed in his latest book.
“If we can show that the organizing – of young people especially – led toward some kind of victory for justice, then we can get young people all across this nation to shift from their distractions and focus on the struggle for justice. Then we would be in a new day,” West said. “That’s what I would like to see. The beautiful thing is that Ferguson becomes a catalyst for the nation. And in that sense we could draw certain parallels to Birmingham in the 1960s.”
“The black freedom movement is a caravan of love and that love means you hate injustice and you are willing to live and die in the struggle,” West added. “That’s at the center of black prophetic fire and that’s the only reason why you and I are talking on the phone – because the folks in the past were full of fire and they had enough love for us to sacrifice. And every generation has to do it.
This tragedy shows that the vicious legacy of white supremacy is still alive. But it also shows that the commitment to the dignity of black people is still alive. And we have to be willing to tell the truth, expose the lies and bear witness.”
Dr. Cornel West will provide the keynote address for Mass Meeting: An Interfaith Service at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 12 at Chaifetz Arena ( 1 Compton). For more information and the full lineup of The Week of Resistance a.k.a. Ferguson October, visit http://fergusonoctober.com/schedule/.