I think, in the end, we have to say that there should be no discussion of Martin Luther King Jr. without Ella Baker, which is to say they are complementary. These two figures, voices, tendencies in the Black freedom movement, and particularly in the human freedom movement in general, they say something to young people these days in the age of Obama. See, Obama ends up being the worst example of messianic leadership, captured by a vicious system that is oligarchic domestically and imperialistic globally and uses the resonances of this precious freedom struggle as a way of legitimating himself in the eyes of both the Black people and the mainstream Americans, and acting as if as community organizer he has some connection to Ella Baker, which is absurd and ludicrous in light of him running the oligarchic system and being so proud of heading the killing machine of US imperial powers. So that when young people - who now find themselves in an even more desperate situation given the present crisis - think about the legacy of Martin King and legacy of Ella Baker in the age of Obama, it compounds the misunderstandings and misconstructions, and sabotages the intellectual clarity and political will necessary to create the kind of change we need. To use jazz metaphors, what we need would be the expression and articulation of different tempos and different vibrations and different actions and different witnesses, so it's antiphonal; it's call-and-response, and in the call-and-response, there are Ella Baker-like voices tied to various kinds of deep democratic witnesses that have to do with everyday people organizing themselves. And then you've got the Martin-like voices that are charismatic, which are very much tied to a certain kind of messianic leadership, which must be called into question, which must be democratized, which must be de-patriarchalized. And yet they are part of this jazz combo.

Cornel West Quotes