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Philosopher, prominent Princeton professor comes to Columbia Civil rights activist, philosopher, author and social critic Cornel West struck an inspirational chord with an audience of well-over 1,200 students, faculty and public guests during the fourteenth annual Robert Smalls lecture Thursday night at the Koger Center. The lecture was sponsored by the African American Studies department and Carolina Productions, with assistance from the Department of History, Institute for African American research and the Women's and Gender Studies program. Among those who packed into the Gonzales Hall of the Koger Center were University President Harris Pastides, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, and sociologist and former professor in the African American Studies program Andrew Billingsley, creator of the annual Smalls lecture series. West, a Harvard graduate and professor of Religious Studies at Princeton University, devoted his lecture to honoring the legacy of Robert Smalls, a native South Carolinian, civil war hero, U.S. Congressman and advocate for public education. West introduced Smalls' legacy with Socrates quote in defense of philosophy: "The unexamined life is not worth living." "Smalls knew, the examined life is painful, and he wrestled with the question that affects all people – 'What does it mean to be human?'" West referred to Smalls' proliferation of the spirit of "paedeia," a Greek term for educating humans in their true form. He warned against the propagation of conformity and the loss of what he calls "deep education." "[Education] is a shift from superficial to substantial, frivolous to serious, 'bling-bling' to 'let freedom ring'.... it's learning to die in order to live more critically and decently," West said. "We don't have enough young people willing to connect to that tradition. The last thing we need is another wave of students who are well-adapted to indifference." West also addressed the civil injustices that continue to exist with little notice in America, such as child poverty levels, racism in the criminal justice system, welfare and wealth distribution. He also criticized President Barack Obama for not having "enough backbone" to take more of an active stance. "When you allow suffering to speak, you say that you're looking at a world in a way that's different from the main stream," West said. Second-year political science student Natalie Griggs, an aspiring civil rights lawyer who attended the lecture, took to heart West's message to USC students — to continue practicing paedeia and become courageous citizens. "We are the people going into these offices, but if we don't try to make changes, nothing will happen," Griggs said. "We can't just talk about it; we have to make an effort."
Experts discuss connections between West African country, South Carolina The "Rebuilding Sierra Leone: Changing Institutions and Culture" conference takes place at the University of South Carolina Law School auditorium today from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. The conference will discuss the connection between Sierra Leone and South Carolina. "The connection to South Carolina is important and will be explored on the first panel," said Joel Samuels, associate professor at the law school and organizer of the conference. During the late 1600s, planters from South Carolina started bringing in captors and slaves from Sierra Leone because they were highly valued rice farmers, Bunce Island Coalition Coordinator Joseph Opala said. "The connection is important because of the economic development that rice brought for South Carolina," said Opala, who has lived in Sierra Leone on and off for the past 20 years. Opala will be one of the 17 speakers today, and he will talk about Sierra Leone and his coalition project that involves the country. "The conference features the most recent U.S. ambassador to Sierra Leone [June Carter Perry] and the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes [David Scheffer]," Samuels said. The conference will also focus on specific areas of concern for rebuilding Sierra Leone, the legacy of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (the international tribunal created to prosecute war criminals of Sierra Leone's civil war) and the problems of child soldiers before and after the conflict. The conference will be divided into four panels: Sierra Leone in Context, Paths to Rebuilding Rule of Law in Sierra Leone, The Special Court for Sierra Leone and The Problem of Child Soldiers. Samuels said that the legacy of rebuilding a state is interesting and important as to Sierra Leone but also offers broader lessons that might be applicable to places currently and recently in the news such as Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. "The child soldier panel will address one of the most important and complex issues facing many post-conflict states: How do you handle children who were forced into combat and who actively took part in that combat? Can those children be rehabilitated? If so, how?" Samuels said. He said there are even connections between Sierra Leone and the law school."Some panels in the conference will address the legal responses to the war in Sierra Leone and the adequacy of those responses," Samuels said. "The focus on some aspects of rebuilding rule of law implicates the law directly while at the same time recognizing that legal reform alone is insufficient to rebuild a state and society shattered by war." Aside from lunch, the entire conference is free and open to the public, especially students. Samuels said that students are welcome to attend any or all of them and can come and go as their schedules permit. "I am very hopeful that we will have a large student attendance as this is a special event on many fronts," he said.
Carolina Productions will host controversial Princeton professor, civil rights activist and member of the Democratic Socialists of America Cornel West at 8 p.m. in the Koger Center tonight. According to CP, West’s “writing, speaking and teaching weave together the traditions of the black Baptist Church, progressive politics and jazz.” Tickets to the event are free, but there are only a handful left. Students can claim the remaining tickets after 7 p.m. tonight by showing their CarolinaCards at the Russell House information desk. Only one ticket per card is allowed, and tickets will be given on a first-come, first-served basis.
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