Q&A: My Experience with Dr. Cornel West
On Thursday, September 30, the Heal the Streets Fellows attended “An Evening with Dr. Cornel West: Speaking our Vision of Hope and Possibility Out Loud!,” part of the California Institute of Integral Studies’ ConverZations that Matter lecture series. HTS Fellow Samantha “Thida” Vaing was asked a few questions to reflect upon the Mr. West’s words:
Q: During the lecture, Cornel West said, “Indifference to evil is greater than evil itself.” What do you think this means? How do you think it applies to your work with Heal the Streets? A: Paying no or little attention to evil is greater than evil. I feel that if we, in Heal the Streets, know that our streets need help, but we don’t do anything about it, we are basically letting violence slip through our fingers. It’s telling those who are causing violence to do it even more, since no one is paying attention anyway. I feel that Heal the Streets is a program where we can help the streets, and address evil violence, and solve it as a community.
Q: Although Mr. West is a role model to many people, he also named a few of his own role models. Who are the role models in your life? How have they influenced your involvement in making change in your community? A: I would say my grandpa. He escaped from Cambodia to give his family and future family a better life. When he came to the U.S., the whole surrounding was new to him. But he wasn't new to treating strangers as family. As a butcher in Cambodia, he knew everyone and was nice to everyone. So nothing changed when he came to the States. Hearing stories about him helping the community in both San Francisco and Oakland, made me want to help others as well. He usually talked to people who didn’t have anyone to talk to, like the homeless. My grandpa worked in a doughnut shop and also picked up cans and sold them. He was the type of man that liked to hear others’ stories and help them through their struggles. He influenced me to be the same way. I love to listen to other people's stories and find a way to help them. He used to find ways to relate to people and that’s what I do now.
Q: Mr. West spoke a lot about soul, love, and keeping it real as foundations for social justice work. What real experiences, values, stories, etc. make you passionate about creating peace in your community? A: The love that I receive from friends, family and surrounding makes me passionate about creating peace. I do not live and have not lived in the safest streets. I feel that living in a dangerous area has made me more aware of the peace I want in my community. I’m tired of seeing frowns in the streets of Oakland. Now, I’m ready to make a change to put smiles in the streets of Oakland, where everyone can be at peace and still respect each other.
Samantha “Thida” Vaing is a 17-year-old first year at Cal State East Bay. She was born in San Francisco and raised in Oakland by both of her parents. Growing up in an area where resources are not given to minority youth, she wants to be the one to help. She believes that the youth are going to make a change in the future and she wants to be the one who shows them how.
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