Black Prophetic Fire
Black Prophetic Fire: Cornel West on the Revolutionary Legacy of Leading African-American Voices
The renowned scholar, author and activist Dr. Cornel West, joins us to discuss his latest book, “Black Prophetic Fire.” West engages in conversation with the German scholar and thinker Christa Buschendorf about six revolutionary African-American leaders: Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ella Baker, Malcolm X and Ida B. Wells. Even as the United States is led by its first black president, West says he is fearful that we may be “witnessing the death of black prophetic fire in our time.”
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We spend the rest of the hour with renowned scholar, author and activist Dr. Cornel West. He’s a professor at Union Theological Seminary and author of numerous books. His latest, out this week, is Black Prophetic Fire. In it, he engages in conversation with the German scholar and thinker Christa Buschendorf about six revolutionary African-American leaders: Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr., Ella Baker, Malcolm X and Ida B. Wells.
AMY GOODMAN: Even as the United States is led by its first black president, Dr. West says he’s fearful we may be, quote, “witnessing the death of black prophetic fire in our time.”
Dr. Cornel West, welcome back to Democracy Now!
CORNEL WEST: Always a blessing to be here. And I want to salute both of you, what mighty forces of good you are, to use the language of John Coltrane. And I want to acknowledge, too, Sister Christa, who is the most distinguished American scholar, or at least scholar on American studies in not just Germany, but Europe, as not just an interlocutor, but the book would not exist without her. So it’s a wonderful call-and-response, dialogical engagement with this most precious of modern traditions, of black prophetic tradition.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean by “black prophetic fire”?
CORNEL WEST: Black prophetic fire is really about a deep love for black people, a love of justice, but it’s connected to the four questions that Du Bois wrestles with. How does integrity face oppression? What does honesty do in the face of deception? What does decency do in the face of insult? And how does virtue meet brute force. So, in the face of terror, in the face of trauma, in the face of stigma, 400 years of black people wrestling with all three, what do we produce? This caravan of love, this love train—love of justice, love of poor people, love of working people.
But it’s weak and feeble these days. It’s week and feeble, trying to bounce back. But Ferguson, among the young people, we’re seeing it. Now, this was written, of course, before Ferguson. But when you look at the Phillip Agnews of Dream Defenders, when you look at the Organization of Black Struggle down there, you look at Tef Poe and Tory and the others in Ferguson, you see this magnificent renaissance. And that brings joy to my heart.