HARVARD religion and Afro-American studies professor Cornell West easily out-orated the field at the recent National Association of Black Journalists convention in Philadelphia.
His lecture on the state of black America had the audience at times rolling with laughter, at times biting their lips to keep from crying. People were ready to apply to Harvard for a chance to be in one of his classes.
The only time Mr. West seemed to lose confidence was when he tried to explain his endorsement of the "Million Man March" that Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and former NAACP executive director Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. are planning for Washington on Oct. 16.
After having chastised black journalists for sometimes telling only "two-thirds of the truth" to keep a job, Mr. West admitted that in the case of the proposed march he is having to compromise his true feelings about the NOI.
He said he does not agree with the Nation of Islam's apparent homophobia, its subjugation of women or lack of tolerance for Jews, but the march is about one thing -- "black suffering" -- and that he could support Mr. Farrakhan in a demonstration about that.
Mr. West said the Million Man March could be a catharsis for people of color across the world, giving them hope to battle all manner of discrimination and oppression. "Never confuse hope with optimism," he said. "Black people have never been optimistic about America."