Cornell West visits Porter’s

Cornell West talks to nearly 20 school-aged children at the Porter’s Community Center last Friday as Harry Jones, back left, director of the Kelly Recreation Center, looks on. West encouraged the children to read and play sports.

CLEVELAND TINKER/Special to the Guardian
Published: Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 3:18 p.m.

Popular activist, author and scholar Cornell West visited the Porter's Community Center last Friday to inspire and motivate children to learn, love and treat each other with kindness.

West, a professor of African American studies at Princeton University in New Jersey, spoke to nearly 20 elementary-age children who attend several city of Gainesville recreation centers, including The Clarence R. Kelly, Eastside, Porter's and Westside recreation centers.

Near the end of his 30-minute visit with the children, West said there is no way he would have come to Gainesville and not visited them.

"I didn't want to come to Gainesville and go to the University of Florida without coming here to spend time with you all," he said.

West was asked to speak at the center after Gigi Simmons, the newly elected president of the Porter's Community Organization, called his office at Princeton when she heard he was going to be in town.

West spoke earlier Friday at the Bo Diddley Downtown Community Plaza to residents protesting as part of a nationwide push-back against the Supreme Court's 2009 decision to allow corporations and labor unions to give unlimited amounts of money to politicians.

Later that night, West was joined by Tavis Smiley, a noted activist, author and host of the Tavis Smiley show on PBS, at an event on the UF campus that was a part of their "Poverty Tour: A Call to Conscience."

After hugging everyone in sight while entering the building, West told the children to "always remember how smart you are, the love you have in your heart and the courage you have in your soul."

West told the children to appreciate and love their school teachers before asking them if they loved to read and play sports.

He told them to read as much as possible and he shared with them the importance of learning how to play sports because it will teach them how to work with others and how to be unselfish.

He used basketball players on a team who pass the ball to one another as an example of the importance of teamwork.

He then asked them if they loved their mothers, and immediately, they all raised their hands high in the air.

"Why do you love your mother?" West asked.

"Because she takes care of me," one child said. "Because she had me," said another child.

West told the children it is very important to have someone who loves them.

Simmons said it was an extreme honor to have West take time out of his busy schedule to stop by the center.

"I just thought it would be good for him to come by here and inspire and motivate the kids," Simmons said. "This was awesome."

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