The month of September will see Cornel West in Charlotte twice to deliver talks on social and economic justice – the first on behalf of the Harvey B. Gantt Center and the second exactly a week later at First Presbyterian Church in uptown.
So which should you attend? Well, depending on your political or faith perspective, maybe both.
Here’s how they may differ:
Gantt Center Event
West will speak at Knight Theater on Sept. 17 for the third annual Gantt Symposium, which is intended to provide “timely conversations aimed at building a better Charlotte,” according to the Gantt Center website. He’s following in the footsteps of Henry Louis Gates Jr., who delivered the first Gantt Symposium address, and hip-hop artist Common, who spoke in 2014.
Gantt Center President David Taylor said West was asked to speak on “activism,” especially in light of the social unrest surrounding recent police shootings of unarmed black men. The center currently is displaying three exhibitions under the broad theme “art as activism.”
“At a time when these events are taking place around the country…we thought it was important to engage Dr. West in a conversation around activism and social justice and people being involved, reminding us that we can affect change and that we should be champions of change,” Taylor said.
Following West’s prepared remarks, former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt will moderate a Q&A session.
Time: 7 p.m.
First Presbyterian Church Event
The Rev. Pendleton Peery, senior pastor of First Presbyterian, said the West lecture there, titled “Justice: What Love Looks Like in Public,” will focus on social justice from a biblical perspective and will be part of the church’s bi-annual Willard Lecture Series. He described West as a “man of faith” who is also a professor of philosophy and Christian practice at Union Theological Seminary in New York.
Perry said his congregation, which is predominately white, has not often dealt directly with race.
“We would expect that some of the things that Dr. West would say, particularly about race and about economic injustice, will make our congregation, and probably a lot of others who come, uncomfortable,” he said. “But our faith doesn’t call us to be comfortable all the time. Sometimes we need to be challenged by God and by the scripture and by the people who God calls to have conversation with us.”
To prepare for the Sept. 24 event, Peery said, members of his congregation have been asked to read West’s book “Race Matters.” He said the congregation also would be invited to attend a series of classes in the weeks following the event.
Tickets: Church website
West, 62, has emerged as one of the nation’s most outspoken black critics of President Barack Obama, a position that has earned him scorn from some African Americans. He recently endorsed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a socialist from Vermont, over Hillary Rodham Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Sanders and West are scheduled to host a Winthrop University rally Sept. 12 in Rock Hill.
Officials at the Gantt Center and First Presbyterian Church said invitations to West were extended many months ago and that neither organization knew the other had invited him.