Cornel West, Eddie Glaude, and six degrees...

I'm working on a story about the legacy of racism and the dawning of hope and healing in this country for the Religion and Spirituality section (Sacramento Edition) of the online newspaper, Examiner.com. I attended a screening of the documentary "Stand", produced and directed by Tavis Smiley, and featuring Dr. Cornel West, and several other admirable men. To summarize the plot, Tavis made a road trip documentary because he wanted to find some answers to the question, "What happened to Dr. Martin Luther King's dream?" I'm not sure if there are any answers, but certainly more provocative questions are raised during the 90 minute film. But the story for me was personal, a literal six-degree-of-separation type of thing.

Dr. Cornel West, the esteemed Princeton professor, author and lecturer, was born on June 2, 1953 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I know that because Tavis Smiley announced it during the screening. So Brotha West is a Gemini. Just had to throw that in, you know. Anyway, his family moved farther west to Sacramento, California (six degrees coming, wait for it...)to the Glen Elders section of town. Most people outside of Sac Town don't know about the Elders, but it had the "thug" rep way before any current rappers were zygotes. Tough place to live, even in the early 60s. Eventually, the West family moved to the Land Park area, which is...well, "Brady Bunch-ish". But Dr. West had learned to be "gangsta" from the Elders (it's not hard to do, believe me), and he was bounced around the Sacramento City Unified School District several times. (I'm not relaying gossip; he said so himself after the movie!)

He attended high school at the then newly built John F. Kennedy High School in the south Land Park neighborhood, and here's where the six degrees comes in--one of his buddies on the track team with him was Joseph Taylor, the older brother of one of my best friends, Kim. I heard about Cornel West through Kim, who used to talk about "Joseph's friend Cornel, always talking that revolution stuff!" Neither of us could have imagined that he would one day become the esteemed author and speaker that he is now. He was one of "Joe's friends", a guy who was five years older than us and had gone off the start a revolution while attending college. I guess, in a manner of speaking, he did. He's written 19 books so far, most of which were bestsellers. Not too bad for a "thug" from the Elders, huh? Never give up. Never say die.

The screening was held in the multipurpose room of the Irene B. West Elementary School in Elk Grove, California. The school was named for Dr. West's mother, Irene, who became the first African American female principal in Sacramento. Mrs. West was there, along with her oldest son, Cliff, Dr. West and his son (whose name I didn't catch), one of her daughters, Cynthia, Tavis and other family members. After the movie, (which was excellent by the way), I couldn't get anywhere near Dr. West, but I did get to speak to Cliff. I had to ask him a question--what was the name of the young Princeton professor who was traveling with y'all in the movie?"

"Eddie Glaude," he said. "He comes from Moss Point, Mississippi."

That was the reason why I asked that question. I didn't think anything good besides my daddy would ever come from Moss Point! Don't mean to insult anyone from my daddy's home town, but the place is just pure- D Mississippi backwoods COUNTRY! It was so hot and sticky during the summers the Shortt family visited there that the air got too tired and irritated to move! They had juke joints with old, tired and hung-over men sitting in rickety chairs out front. And no one else did much of anything during the day. There's nothing to do!

Imagine my utter shock when Tavis Smiley said that Eddie Glaude, one of the "Soul Patrol" members who appears in "Stand", is "the pride of Moss Point, Mississippi"! I couldn't wait to go home and call my daddy about it.

"Yeah, I remember the Glaudes," he told me. "They lived over on Jackson Street, if I remember correctly." Well, he doesn't always remember things at all, never mind correctly. But he's much better at remembering the distant past than the present. If he remembers the Glaude family, that means he knew them. Moss Point isn't much bigger than a postage stamp; everyone inevitably knows all the families living there. Another six degrees of separation.

"Stand" the movie has already premiered, but it will be shown on the TVOne cable channel 15 times over the next year. Here's the website:TV One Online
Dr. Eddie Glaude
Dr. Cornel West

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