Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Reviving the Flame

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Reviving the Flame

Article excerpt

REVIVING THE FLAME Black Prophetic Fire, by Cornel West and Christa Buschendorf. Beacon Press.

CORNEL WEST and Christa Buschendorf have collaborated to bring forth a powerful look at the visionary legacies of 19th- and 20th-century African-American leaders. Black Prophetic Fire consists of six conversations between West and Buschendorf, each one focusing on a different black prophetic figure: Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr., Ella Baker, Malcolm X, and Ida B. Wells. In the book, West displays his wealth of knowledge and understanding of those prominent historical black icons and their movements.

For West, U.S. society has arrived at a pivotal point. Lie sees the "black embrace of the seductive myth of individualism in American culture" as reason enough to ask tough reflective questions such as, "Are we witnessing the death of black prophetic fire in our time?" and "Eiave we forgotten how beautiful it is to be on fire for justice?"

West is known as an intellectual and activist who loathes the unfair treatment of people anywhere, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or religious creed. His message of love, particularly for the younger generations, becomes the undertone of this book. Throughout the years, the black prophetic tradition has seen a decline in exemplars of integrity. West presents the conversations he had with Buschendorf as a history lesson and a call to younger generations to not let this tradition fizzle out.

The black prophetic tradition has improved the conditions of the black community in the U.S. It has also served as a moral compass for an American society that has failed to live up to the promises stated in its founding documents.

The irony, for West, is that in the era of the first black president, this prophetic tradition is at its weakest. The presidency of Barack Obama "conceals the escalating levels of social misery in poor and black America. …

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