By: Teréz Villeda-Medina
On January 23, 2019 the RISD and Providence community gathered together to attend a Keynote speech given by Dr. Cornel West where he paid tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. Cornel West is an accomplished activist, Professor, Author and Philosopher. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard in three years and obtained his M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy at Princeton.
He addressed the community by having us think about what it means to be a healer rather than a hurter. A healer is one that uses love, but what does love mean? Dr. Cornel West questioned these simple emotions we have every day to make the point that fighting back for what we believe in with negative tactics will not get us anywhere. Negative reactions prevent us from having an open mind let alone an open heart. “We must fight back with intelligent visionaries that come from all walks of life.” The negativity we feel creates a pain within us. Take the pain, understand it, find out why it is making you feel that way, come up with a solution to preventing the pain and you will have channeled your negativity into positivity. He said, “we must learn to die before we learn how to live.”
There are stages of learning and once we have learned to live we enter a stage of metamorphosis. The metamorphosis he discusses relates to our level of intellect. Your level of education allows for an increase in your level of intellect. With a deep education we are able to make connections which is the process of critical thinking. Dr. West says we must learn from anyone and everyone even if they do or don’t agree. With this process of being able to see multiple points of views it allows us to speak boldly and more passionately while touching on multiple viewpoints. Personally, I have always and will always agree with this statement. I believe when one has a deep grasp on education they are able to shatter the glass ceiling of conformity and rise above the ones who are unwilling to hear and understand others point of views. Through the process of critical thinking, we are able to connect all of the multiple viewpoints of different people and come together to discuss the real issue that is presenting its self. Dr. West stated that “ Martin Luther king Jr. didn’t care about being in the spotlight, he wanted to shake society and show the people to stand up for the right things. He had a task and a calling.”
“If we want to break conformity together we have to be able to connect to something that is much larger than us.” This “something” he talks about is rooted in what came before. He discusses that Martin Luther King Jr’s fight for African American rights began because it had caused a catastrophe. This catastrophe he refers to is the decline and decay of the African American population during a time where violence and laws were used to oppress them due to the belief of the American population during the time. He says “Racism, materialism, and poverty is what America should be seen by.” Martin Luther king used the process of kenosis also known as self-giving, to a cause that was dear to him and the people around him. This process according to West is what killed Martin Luther King Jr. The basics of the practice of kenosis is starting with your glass full to the rim and completely empty one you die. “You must give it your all”, this way of living is something that Dr. West believes in with the upmost passion.
As an audience we must ask ourselves “how have you been looking at the world?” We should be able to speak honestly so we can help America find compassion because we as a human race have the capacity to be compassionate. We are faced daily with challenges that makes us question our morals and spirituality. When a challenge is presented to us and we go after it, backing down is not an option. When we get tired and feel like we have given our all that is when we know that we are getting somewhere, and our thoughts will change. In closing Dr. West asks us “what will they talk about when you die? What did you live for and what did you risk?”
As a designer surround by an intellectual group of people, our designs are here to impact the world to help create change. Designers push the boundaries of society daily to come up with unimaginable ideas and turn them into a reality. We impact the human race through love, compassion, and immense amount of passion. In a way, we fulfill the requirements that Dr. Cornell West had us think about during his keynote and I look forward to pushing the boundaries of society and the design world along my peers in the near future.