Use your knowledge to restore your community, Rev. Jeremiah Wright told a full crowd at Cahn Auditorium on Friday at For Members Only’s first “State of the Black Union” event.
President-elect Barack Obama’s former pastor, who received national attention during the presidential campaign for saying “God damn America” and other controversial remarks in his sermons, declared that “we need to teach our children” about their heritage in order to properly embrace their communities.
Nearly every seat at the 1,000 capacity auditorium was filled, and a long line of people stretched along Emerson street in the frigid air, waiting for extra available tickets.
Wright called upon university leaders to properly address a decline in black faculty and students at Northwestern. But, he said, “I do not stand before you in this academic setting with some sort of master plan to address the very tough issues with which this university must wrestle from the Board of Trustees level, to the administration level, to the Freshman Activities Board level.”
“I come tonight as an outsider to the Northwestern community,” Wright said, but “I know a little” about the black community.
The diverse crowd featured a large number of students, as well as a legion of members of Trinity United Church of Christ (the South Side church where Wright spoke) and a number of public figures, most notably another person whose ties to Sen. Obama got national attention: former Weather Underground member William Ayers.
Wright struck a soft and humorous tone while criticizing the media for the attention he received during the presidential campaign. He spoke of someone at Fox News who asked him yesterday if he thought the media had treated him unfairly: “Ray Charles can see that,” he said.
But his speech, for the most part, touched on the relationship between higher education and the black community, speaking of how the predominantly black Howard University would not teach its students African-American literature until students protested.
Wright received three standing ovations: when he arrived on stage, when he got up to speak, and when his speech ended.
Wright also praised the “incredibly powerful” election of Sen. Obama. “What a mighty God,” he said.
More to come.