Cornel West Addresses Hundreds of Pinkos and Hippies at Anti-SB 1070 Rally in Phoenix

UPDATE: Here's a short clip from Cornel West's address on Saturday, October 2:

We're not the only ones to have noticed that progressives, Democrats, and their ilk don't currently have a central charismatic leader whose every utterance is sociopolitical Gospel, the way Glenn Beck seems to affect many right-wing Tea Partier types. That (along with the fact that many liberals trend a little younger than retirement age and have Things to Do, as a comment on this Washington Post blog points out) is most likely why fewer people showed up on the Mall in Washington, D.C., on Saturday for the "One Nation Working Together" rally, a love-in of labor organizations, environmentalists, queer-friendly groups, church members, Socialists, the NAACP, and other uneasily diverse bedfellows, than attended Beck's "Restoring Honor" event on August 28 (even after correcting for delusional hyperinflated crowd estimates).

We'll see how many people show up to restore either sanity or fear when Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert visit the Lincoln Memorial lawn later this month, but meantime, Cornel West (Councillor West in The Matrix's sequels, okay?) is a major touchstone for most of what the left holds dear: peace, equality, opportunity, diversity -- all that hippie crap -- and he was in Phoenix on Saturday to energize opponents of Arizona Senate Bill 1070 and socially progressive activists in general, at a lecture and panel discussion (a.k.a. an indoor rally) called "How We Got Here: Historical Roots of SB 1070," co-sponsored by Puente Arizona and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), at North High School's auditorium.

The 945-seat auditorium overflowed with an orderly crowd while, according to Puente's Twitter feed, about 100 more watched via streaming video online (selected audio recordings by panelist Tupac Enrique are available here). Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox opened the afternoon's program, and two North High students welcomed the audience to the campus and described their own journeys in activism, including a recent "spiritual fast."

"This has been the summer of resistance;" said Pablo Alvarado of NDLON, "the summer of love and solidarity." A recurring theme throughout the event was the joining together of black and Latino activist movements, stressing the opinion shared by West as he said, "It's so easy to pit black folk against brown folk -- it's an old divide and conquer strategy," perhaps echoed by some Arizona politicians' current strategy of dividing Arizonans in the name of immigration reform, making united efforts toward actual reforms more difficult.

"Arizona is ground zero in the struggle for justice," West added later, urging the crowd to keeping working and peacefully fighting for equality before other states run with the opportunity to mimic SB1070. He also invoked the inspirational Mamie Till, who displayed the mutilated corpse of her murdered 14-year-old son, Emmett, in an open casket and is said to have stated, "I don't have a minute to hate. I'll pursue justice for the rest of my life."

West introduced several members of the audience during his address, including Puente's famously in-your-face Salvador Reza, Greater Phoenix Urban League President George Dean, and a group of Barrio Defense Committee leaders. The program closed with West and the five other panelists fielding questions.

Though we haven't tracked down an archived online video of the presentation yet [update: We added the short clip above on the morning of October 5], several videographers were there besides the one feeding Alto Arizona's live stream, and one claimed on Twitter (which is still burning up with links and quotes from the event) that his footage will soon be here. (He appears -- admirably -- to be seeking permission to use it.) So please update us in the comments if you run into anything.

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Julie has written for the Night & Day events calendar section since 2005. As a student at Arizona State, she received the Glendon and Kathryn Swarthout Creative Writing Award and the Theatre Medallion of Merit.
Contact: Julie Peterson