Sunday, September 19, 2004


Saturday, September 18. Cornel West captivating the better of Angelino citizenry on the “Great Lawn” of Barnsdall Art Park in Hollywood. Heads nod, eyes tear because we need this, oh how we need this, this affirmation of our collective “niggerization.”

The ascent to the grassy crest overlook to the lawn of the Barnsdall Art Park afforded a strange sense of anticipation. The Frank Llyod Wright designed buildings, this park that I’d never seen before, just blocks from my home, Cornel West speaking in the heart of the city, overlooking everything with helicopters periodically stuttering by, this was enticement. This was inspiration. There is beauty here and dare I say hope.

The crowd was wonderfully diverse, a salt and pepper mix of those conscious and willing enough to climb the stairs and sit on the lawn and be seduced. Cornel West is the Morrissey of political theoretical / public intellectual sphere. He’s a captivator, a seductress, a gracious and eloquent bard (sans lute). And the book he was selling “Democracy Matters,” couldn’t be possessed of a more prescient topic.

Incantations of American Imperialism, market driven complacency, hypocrisy, the blues, hip-hop, calls for engagement, for dialogue, for justice, JUSTICE! rolled off West’s tongue and were punctuated by his grand physical gestures. Man the man could sell his books and many were sold by Skylight Books, the Los Feliz bookstore that put on the event. I didn’t see anyone without a copy. And West’s speech was a condensed version, a public introduction to the ideas put forth in a book released on the cusp of our imminent day of reckoning / futility (election day). Bush disgust was assumed here (thank god) as was Kerry-nausea. But as West said of Nader, his compatriot and the man he supported and endorsed in the 2000 election, “On election day, I’ll be praying for Nader and voting for Kerry.” Well put, West. Well, put.

The speech which descried the tyranny of Imperialist, Fundamentalist, Homophic dogmas (to name a few), then digressed into a public question and answer section with each asker preceding their vague queries with a self aggrandizing self blurb: I’m a soul music DJ blah blah blah, my Uncle is a collegue of yours blah blah blah, I’m a teacher working on diversity programs blah blah blah. The only good question was asked by a man who decided against a blurbed autobiography and simply said, somewhat femininely, “I just have to say that I adore you. Thank you for bringing together all the elements that contribute to how much I adore you.” Hands down, best comment, because, see, in times like these, an event in the center of the city bringing together all kinds of races in a meditative, supportive, and kind atmosphere of disaffection, served as a kind of salve, for me, to my own disaffection and disengagement. I adored West too for being who he is: he who can pull off such an event, so effortlessly. Indeed, the audience was clearly of a more educated ilk, but everyone or many seemed represented, from kids in their 20s to older folk and though the message delivered by West painted a grim picture of our country and the world, everyone seemed possessed of a glow. The glow emanating from the event itself divorcing us all from our isolated disaffection and resignation, this man becoming, if only for a pristine Saturday early-evening, a whimsical, quirky and impassioned focal point who derides optimism (I’m assuming because of its naiveté and myopic nature) but hails earned, learned hope (like the blues).

Walking down from the elevated park and back home past the bistros and boutiques, I couldn’t help but look at the people who weren’t there, the diners and the shoppers, and wondering what the fuck they were thinking or not thinking, missing out on something actually engaging and catalyzing and free (save for the price of the book that if you had the money you bought).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cornel West's drawing power shows our hunger for a Messiah who burns a shining light on the grand lies, obfuscations, and contempt for the citizenry those in power are guilty of. But, sadly, as I gleamed from your description of the audience so eager to indulge in "self-blurbs," an even greater hunger gnaws at our public: the need to be sanctimonious, to deliver one's street creds on the scene, the need to be holier than thou. Blinded by self-righteousness, sycophants of correct ideas often lack the street smarts to deliver an awsome blow to this country's political enemies. They're too busy pruning their credentials.


5:01 PM  
Blogger ambigutrex said...

You said it perfectly. I was disgusted by those compelled to plume their feathers... they're part of the problem while revealing themselves under the auspices of fighting for solutions. The only good question asker was a presumed gayman and his vocal lust for West. There was a little terrier dog loose in the crowd I forgot to mention... he's cool... and the little Asian baby touching people's shoulders as he hobbled through the crowd, like a messiah of some sort of essential human truth all giddy and big cheeked and face-smeared with dirt, daddy not far behind to wrangle him.

6:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello ATJ.

I'm an under-qualified and over-charmed third grade assistant teacher with a salary and full benefits who's also trying to get her corset design business off the ground in New York so she can pay her way to Ireland this summer and learn how to deliver babies and magick in the green countryside...

And I was just thinking, that it makes sense that people would provide a context for their questions. Why, ATJ, not spread your love to those who share your adoration instead of pouring it all into one miserly direction? We all know what happens to mutants OR humans when Jean Luc Picard focuses on them too hard. That's right, we have to hear Halle Barry talk about faith, and nobody wants that, especially if it's just a head shot. (don't tell me you haven't seen's the bible of the coming the illiterate) Is it (meekness, here) possible that merciless "holier than thou" calling is just another form of the same? They were just nervous, of course. Nobody knows what to say, just feel inspired they should say something. We don't know how to communicate, or love or even dress and feed ourselves for chrissakes. But we are trying. Let us laugh about falling on our faces and make ceremony with our bloody noses.

Three Cheers for Stimulation.

Dear, where HAVE you been, anyway?

with love,

4:47 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home