Famed civil rights activist comes to Cosumnes


Britni Alford

Dr. Cornel West spoke at CRC on Jan. 27 at an event organized by professor Travis Parker. West spoke about injustice and allowing more opportunities for everyone.

As staff and community members gathered together in the main gym at Cosumnes River College on Jan. 27, the crowd’s anticipation could be felt while waiting to see civil rights activist Cornel West.

West spoke about how Martin Luther King Jr. inspired him and touched on issues that are still relevant today, even after the success of the civil rights movement.

“The education level for African-Americans are lower than ever,” West said. “They are below 70 percent in math and reading; when it comes to education this goes back to the struggles of African-Americans, to the education gap of the Black American.”

West said that Martin Luther King Jr. wanted to see the progression of not only a few blacks but of a generation of African-Americans, much like his father.

“My dad was a big enforcer when it came to education,” West said. “[His] role as president of Alpha Phi Alpha made me take an interest in what the fraternity was trying to create within the brotherhood.”

The Alpha Academy Program provides youth with mentoring, character education and life skills training. The Alumni of the fraternity believe that a “rigorous and relevant education can stop the cycle of complacency, self destruction and mediocrity,” according to the Alpha Academy brochure.

The event was organized by Travis Parker, a kinesiology professor at CRC, who wanted to put an event together to promote his fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha and the Martha Parker scholarship, named after his mother.

“I made the Martha Parker scholarship so female scholars can apply and have the same opportunity as the males have,” Parker said. “The [Alpha Phi Alpha] scholarship is for high school, male seniors with the grade point average of a 3.0 or better.”

However, the fraternity is currently faced with the problem that not many students apply for the scholarships that are available.

“The other thing is we are a part of the new Jim Crow era. People are going to prison for drugs,” Parker said. “If you are a prisoner you are a slave. This makes our youth discouraged.”

With the youth feeling as if everyone is against them it may be harder for them to graduate high school and college, and they may become a statistic within their community, Parker said. He emphasized the need for strong leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and West.

“Cornel West is my hero,” said Abdului Turay, a 19-year-old sociology major. “A lot of people look up to actors and musicians but I’m different, West inspires me to do more with my life and never doubt myself.”

Hasan Abdulmalik, vice principal of Laguna Creek High School, and community activist since the 1960’s, was also at the event. He was honored with the Spiritual Warrior Award.

Living with Lou Gehrig’s disease, Abdulmalik still does what he can to help out the African-American youth. Emphasizing that rigorous and relevant education can top the “cycle of self-destruction and mediocrity and helps promote self-respect, economic empowerment and good citizenship,” according to the event program.

For some this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to actually meet the man who has been molding the community with his powerful words. Instead of influencing others, West tries to guide others in the right direction.

“To be in his presence I’m still in awe, “ said Damonik Millan, a 21-year-old African studies major. “The issue West touched on about Blacks being afraid to speak the truth is real. A lot of people hold back how they feel to avoid confrontation, but this won’t help us grow.”

Both West and Abdulmalik work on the platform of helping the community by any means necessary, and have come to replace the strong African-American leaders that they once had in their youth.

Towards the end of his speech West declared a progression of not only African-American youth, but of all youth, is necessary to making the country a stronger force.