Saturday January 17th was the 23rd Annual Empowerment Congress Summit, "50 Years Later: Chaos or Community? Educate, Engage, Empower". I was honored to welcome Dr. Cornel West as our plenary speaker, and below is a clip of his inspirational speech.
"Poets and the musicians are the unacknowledged legislators of the world", as Cornel West puts it, because they give us a vision of a better world. We need a vision in order to have something to agitate, organize and protest FOR. If we can't dream of a better world, then we won't have the motivation to push to bring it about. I am grateful for the artists and the dreamers of the world for giving us a goal for the better angels of our nature to aspire to.
The Empowerment Congress was born in the aftermath of the civil unrest in Los Angeles in 1992. I helped found it because I wanted to create a model of civic engagement based on the principles of participatory democracy, reciprocal accountability and intentional civility. 23 years later, Empowerment Congress is going strong and changing lives. I hope you will be able to attend next year.
Speakers included performances by Get Lit, spoken word poetry by teens aimed at boosting literacy and self-expression, a welcome from University of Southern California President C.L. Max Nikias, introductions by Summit Chair Cassandra Chase and Summit Co-Chair Efren Martinez, remarks by newly-elected Supervisor Hilda Solis, newly-elected Sheriff Jim McDonnell, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, and myself. Our words hopefully moved and enlightened you.
Take nothing for granted. We must use our right to protest to push for greater economic and social justice and together we can create change. Empowerment Congress has pushed for a station at Leimert Park, the Martin Luther King Community Hospital will be opening soon, and civilian oversight of the Sheriff's Department is something we wanted and will have, thanks to you. Please keep participating. We shall overcome.