Cornel West, Garth Fagan Dance to highlight diversity event

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Professor, writer and philosopher Cornel West is the keynote speaker for RIT’s Expressions of King’s Legacy Celebration on Jan. 23. The event also features perfor-mances by Garth Fagan Dance, the RIT/NTID Dance Company and poet Joshua Bennett.

No one is more candid about the complexities of race in America than Cornel West, professor, author, musician and philosopher. He will bring that candor to RIT as the keynote speaker for the 30th annual Expressions of King’s Legacy Celebration, noon–2 p.m. Jan 23 at the Gordon Field House and Activities Center.

This year’s event will also include performances by Garth Fagan Dance, the RIT/NTID Dance Company and poet Joshua Bennett, who will read excerpts from his book, Jesus Riding Shotgun.

“This is an institution that supports critical thinking, therefore we always make an effort to choose a speaker that will continue to force our society to deal with the important issues of the day,” says Kevin McDonald, vice president for diversity and inclusion. “As one of the premier public intellectuals, Dr. West forces people to think critically and talks about current issues and their impact on society.”

West, professor of philosphy and Christian practices at Union Theological Seminary, often speaks of the King legacy and social justice. Prior to his tenure at Union Theological Seminary, he taught at Princeton University, Yale University, Harvard University and the University of Paris. He has written 19 books and is best known for his classic Race Matters, Democracy Matters, and his new memoir, Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud. Besides his renown as an author and political spokesperson, West made his film debut in The Matrix and has appeared in more than 25 documentaries and films including Examined Life, Call & Response, Sidewalk and Stand.

Having the Garth Fagan Dance Company back on campus will be reminiscent of the mid-1990s when the internationally renowned company gave its hometown performances in the Robert F. Panara Theatre at NTID. Fagan Dance, now in its 40th year, is one of the premier modern dance companies in the United States. The troupe and its artistic director have received accolades for their performances and Fagan has won numerous awards, including a Tony Award for Best Choreography for the Disney musical, The Lion King.

A spoken-word poet, Bennett has presented his work at the Sundance Film Festival, the NAACP Image Awards and most recently at the White House for President Obama’s Evening of Poetry and Music where he performed Ode To Tamara, a selection he will perform at RIT. Bennett wrote the poem about how he came to understand his sister Tamara’s experience as a woman who is deaf and how they learned to communicate with each other. The piece is both spoken and signed. Bennett will be joined at the event by his sister, as well as at a pre-event program at 7 p.m. Jan. 22 in the Idea Factory of The Wallace Center.

The event is free and open to the RIT campus and local community. Register at

The program is sponsored by RIT’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion; the College of Liberal Arts’ philosophy, English, communication, and sociology and anthropology departments; NTID Department of Cultural & Creative Studies; and the AALANA Collegiate Association.