Cornel West, provocative civil rights activist, keynotes North Central’s MLK Week

Dec 04, 2014

North Central College welcomes author, academic and provocative civil rights activist Dr. Cornel West Jan. 23 as Martin Luther King Jr. Week keynote speaker.

Each year, North Central College honors and remembers King with a keynote presentation, musical tributes, a prayer breakfast and activities. This year’s theme is “A Journey Defined.” King spoke in North Central College’s Pfeiffer Hall in 1960.

West, who appeared previously as the College’s 2010 MLK Week keynote speaker, will deliver his address at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 23, in Pfeiffer Hall, 310 E. Benton Ave. He will speak to the legacy of King, other revolutionary African-American leaders and young people’s responsibility for social change. A Q&A will follow, and Anderson's Bookshops will have copies of his books for purchase.

Tickets are $10/person and $7/groups of 10 or more. Admission is free for North Central students, faculty and staff who have registered online in advance. To purchase tickets or register for free admission, call the North Central College Box Office at 630-637-SHOW (7469) or visit

West is a professor of philosophy and Christian practice at Union Theological Seminary in New York City and professor emeritus at Princeton University, where he earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy. He also has taught at Yale, Harvard and the University of Paris.

West burst onto the national scene in 1993 with his bestseller “Race Matters,” a searing analysis of racism in American democracy. He has edited 13 books and authored 20, including “Black Prophetic Fire,” published October 2014 with critical acclaim. Due on bookshelves Jan. 13 is “The Radical King,” a collection of inspirational speeches, sermons and writings written by King and edited by West.

West made his film debut in “The Matrix” and has appeared in more than 25 documentaries and films, including “Examined Life,” “Sidewalk” and “Stand.” He has collaborated with Prince, Andre 3000 and other major artists to create three spoken word albums. His spoken word interludes have premiered in numerous albums, including Raheem DeVaughn’s Grammy-nominated “Love & War: Masterpeace.” A prominent voice in the political landscape, West was a radio cohost with Tavis Smiley and is a frequent guest on “Real Time with Bill Maher,” “The Colbert Report,” Fox News, CNN, Democracy Now! and C-SPAN.

Other events taking place during MLK Week at North Central College include:
•    Sunday, Jan. 18, 3 p.m.: The Chicago Sinfonietta presents its “Annual Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” concert, featuring today’s youth in a powerful show. Visit for tickets.
•    Monday, Jan. 19, 7 a.m.: North Central’s annual MLK Prayer Breakfast features a message by 2006 North Central alumna Shawndra Brown Lucas. A professional mentor, she directs a multi-campus college ministry and social-emotional learning and mentoring program for high school students.
•    Tuesday, Jan. 20, 8 p.m.: Film screening of “Dear White People,” a provocative satire of race relations in the age of Obama by writer/director Justin Simien.
•    Saturday, Jan. 24, 7 p.m.: The College hosts its 27th annual Gospel Extravaganza with performances by gospel choirs from area schools as well as North Central’s own Voices of Praise gospel choir. Visit for tickets.

Several campus groups are cosponsoring West’s keynote address: the Student Governing Association, Cultural Events and the offices of Residence Life, Ministry and Service and Multicultural Affairs. Nicor Gas is an underwriting sponsor of Martin Luther King Jr. Week and Black History Month at North Central College. These events are among the many ongoing programs at North Central College to enrich and broaden the cultural and academic outlook for the College and community. For a comprehensive schedule of musical performances, theatrical productions, art exhibits and more, visit or call the box office at 630-637-SHOW (7469).