Dr. Cornel West on Coltrane, Freedom, and Anti-Terrorism

On March 17, The Seattle School hosted Dr. Cornel West for the fourth annual Alumni Lecture Series. For the evening conversation, “Art as Resistance,” Dr. West was interviewed by Tom Ryan (Master of Divinity, ‘07) about the music that roots and ignites his work as an activist and his resistance to the forces of hatred and racism.

“The black freedom movement has always been an anti-terrorist movement. 244 years of white supremacist slavery was terrorism every day, torture from sunup to sundown.”

In this video excerpt, Dr. West reflects on John Coltrane’s “Alabama,” a musical response to the 1963 bombing of a Baptist church in Birmingham, which killed four young black girls. Coltrane, says Dr. West, was “one of the great love warriors ever produced in this generation. He’s an artistic genius, a spiritual titan, a moral giant.” His music invites us to stare terrorism, racism, and hatred in the face, transforming our wounds so that they reflect a deep love of truth, beauty, goodness, and the holy.

“I don’t want to terrorize those who have terrorized me. I don’t want to reproduce the same sort of gangster-like activity, the same hatred, the same revenge. So the response to terror will in fact be something beautiful, something sad and melancholic, something that will touch the dark corners of the soul of every human being who’s willing to open their soul to those who have been killed by cowardly American terrorists, cowardly white supremacists, and gutbucket Jim Crow.”

The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology's mission is to train people to be competent in the study of text, soul, and culture in order to serve God and neighbor through transforming relationships.

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