I saw Cornel West in a Borders bookstore here in Santa Fe, New Mexico when I was about 15 or 16 years old. He was squatting down holding an open novel somewhere in either the A or B section of Fiction. I still wonder who he had open. Maya Angelou? Isabelle Allende? William S. Burroughs? Jane Austen? I would bet anything it was a new edition of a James Baldwin book. I was familiar with some of Cornel West's writing, which was included in a book of social theory I had recently purchased. I was too shy to approach him and tell him I was a fan of his work. I realize now that he would have appreciated my Native heritage and my interest in jazz music over the fact I had read an excerpt from Race Matters.
I eventually read Democracy Matters in August 2015. Around that same time, I read Race Matters in a single sitting at the Java Joe's on Siler Road. These books really spoke to me, West referenced John Coltrane, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr.; the work was a cohesive summation of everything that spoke to me in the contributions of these great men. One of the most important influences West had on me, actually comes from his Christianity, after reading these books, I began to see a lot of the Satanism and occultist trappings of my friends in the heavy metal, electronic music, and art scenes as ignorant.
There is this strain of thought in so-called LaVeyan Satanism that claims Witchcraft is psychodrama and intended to have merely an aesthetic and psychological impact on the practitioner, as LaVeyan Satanists are essentially atheist. In reality, the beliefs are a crutch for people who are perpetual teenagers and falsely see themselves as strong individualists, which they often are not, seeing as how the majority of popular culture has embraced their symbols and affectations. You can see pentagrams and candles and horned dancers in hip-hop videos as well as on movie posters in Hollywood. West caused me to reflect on why occultism has gone so mainstream and my current stance is that we are desperate. Spells promise love, wealth, and power, and embracing witchcraft is a way to quiet the desperation inside all of us as Americans, something that West touches upon over and over again in Democracy Matters.
With the majority of people relying on horoscopes, tarot readings, numerology, and witchcraft to make decisions and plan their lives; those of us living in reality have no choice but to find truth within and without; studying, creating, and living while not being bogged down by occult semiology or superficial burnings of incense and ritual cleansing. In essence, it is all bullshit, and West is more rational and coherent than any practitioner of the occult could ever hope to be. West really freed my mind up aesthetically, freed my attitude and allowed me to walk away from the Luciferian identified, the Satanists, the goths, the 40 year old pagans with dreadlocks and incense and lava lamps; the perpetual teenagers of our cultural wasteland. Many of us feel hopeless when these trappings are stripped of us and it takes a strong person to sit down and confront that hopelessness as themselves, which is what West's books are about, that confrontation of hopelessness, honestly and realistically.
Thanks, Cornel West.
Composer, Artist, Writer