Chicago – The Holy Bible says to love our neighbor, the way that we want others to return love to us. It reads well on paper, but acting on this command requires action and honesty. So, who, among us, will love our new president? Who is willing to love the new commander-in-chief? Is there love for the new sheriff in town? The new leader of our free world?
Dr. Cornel West, an annual speaker at The Faith Community of Saint Sabina Speaker Series, titled his stirring sermon, “What it means to be a Christian witness in the age of (Donald) Trump, “which asked thousands of members to let spirituality guide your actions carefully. Stand and speak for what is right, but avoid having a “spiritual black out!”
Despite the adversity, the president presents with his cabinet, policies, greed for the one percent and controversial appointments, Christians still are responsible for love. And the church must step-up and address the ills and divisions that the president has created.
“He is out of control personally…he responds to every personal criticism, cause he is out of control. He is gangster. It is easy to think that it is just about him and the one percent,” said West. However, when we look at the hero’s and shero’s who have paved the way for our success today, they survived, in part, because their actions were driven by love for our people’s rights and justice. Women leaders like Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker and Chicago Play write, Lorraine Hansberry, excelled in their fields because they were working on behalf of our people, regardless of who was running this country. If Americans truly want change, one must study from the history books
“We have been hated for 400 years, we have taught the world about love…Like mama in ‘A Raisin in the Sun’, we have got to reconnect, “he said. “We need soul stirrers …We need seasoned warriors on the battle field. We don’t need sunshine soldiers. The soul needs something deeper, “he said.
Dr. West was very candid about his support for Senator Bernie Sanders and said that the Democratic Party had become “milk toast” he in the era of the new president. He said that the church cannot be silent or irrelevant during these times and must take a very active role in reversing the wrongs of this nation. The church cannot sit on the sidelines and watch the battle unfold.
“Some of us are going to go down swinging,” West said. “There are increasingly more gangsters (in our government). Do you think we have what it takes to confront them?”
Other insights that Dr. West shared were on several topics:
* The Grammy awards are superficial, but he is very happy for three-time winner, Chance the Rapper.
“You know that Curtis Mayfield (who was with the Impressions) and Sly Stone never won a Grammy (for their work as musical artists) …and I hope that Chance won’t fall into the pits, won’t be a causality (of the music business) …I hope he does not have a spiritual blackout and that he connects himself with veteran artists.” West reminded listeners that the music business has a way of glossing over the areas that have substance in an artist’s life, often leaving the artists to the wolves.
This month, Sly Stone will celebrate his 74th birthday in his home, instead of living in a camper. In 2015, the musician received a $5 million-dollar settlement from his former attorneys and entertainment industry people, after living on pennies for 20 years. What Dr. West was referring to is Stone’s financial downfall and the superficial awards (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Award in 1993) that Stone received, but people abused him and fed him cocaine for numerous years, all the while they were stealing from him.
And Brother Mayfield died a terrible death from complications from type two diabetes in 1999 at the age of 59 years-old. Mayfield was inducted in the Grammy’s Hall of Fame, but many radio stations refused to play his music because they felt his lyrics were too controversial. While many artists considered him a genius, where was Hollywood and the thousands of fans for these men, when they were physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially down and out?
It is a miracle that Stone has lived long enough to receive his long, overdue money from royalties that he earned, but some financial reports claim that his net worth is only five thousand dollars, after court costs and fees for 20 years. He has been instrumental in appearing and performing with his grown children in California.
West feels that it is imperative that our elders mentor and closely guide new comers like Chicagoan Chance and even young, veteran singers like Beyoncé, so history does not repeat itself. West even joked that the young, German, lip synching duo, Milli Vanilli, won a Grammy award in 1990, for best new artists, only to be stripped of the award nine months later.
The duo sold 14 million records and won the Grammy for “Girl You Know Its True”, when the actual singers were never credited for their talents. The producer put Milli Vanilli on the cover of the album, because they had the physical look that would be easily marketed in the record industry, with tall, lean bodies, long hair weave, flashy clothes and tan skin. After the public learned that they could not sing at all, the duo said the producer paid them $150,000 each and “used” them as the face of the group, when they actually did not understand what type of contract they had signed.
That was why Dr. West put little credibility into the establishment and awards shows, because the public does not necessarily know what has happened behind the scenes.
Sadly, one of the members, Rob Pilatus, died from a drug overdose or suicide in 1998, because he could never overcome the negativity that prevented him from becoming an American superstar again. The other member is still living and trying to revive his career 27 years later.
*Research on the music groups is credited to Rolling Stone, This Day in History and Ebony Magazines.