Category Archives: history

black prophetic fire

George Yancy and Cornel West-He is a professor of philosophy and Christian practice at Union Theological Seminary and professor emeritus at Princeton University. George Yancy is a professor of philosophy at Emory University.

C.W.: Black prophetic fire is the hypersensitivity to the suffering of others that generates a righteous indignation that results in the willingness to live and die for freedom.

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G.Y.: Why the metaphor of “fire”?

C.W.: That’s just my tradition, brother. Fire really means a certain kind of burning in the soul that one can no longer tolerate when one is pushed against a wall. So, you straighten your back up, you take your stand, you speak your truth, you bear your witness and, most important, you are willing to live and die. Fire is very much about fruits as opposed to foliage. The ice age was all about foliage: “Look at me, look at me.” It was the peacock syndrome. Fire is about fruits, which is biblical, but also Marxist. It’s about praxis and what kind of life you live, what kind of costs you’re willing to bear, what kind of price you’re willing to pay, what kind of death you’re willing to embrace.

That was a great insight that Marcus Garvey had. Remember, Garvey often began his rallies with a black man or woman carrying a sign that read, “The Negro is not afraid.” Once you break the back of fear, you’re on fire. You need that fire. Even if that Negro carrying that sign is still shaking, the way that the lyrical genius Kanye West was shaking when he talked about George W. Bush not caring about black people, you’re still trying to overcome that fear, work through that fear.