Sunday, July 8, 2018

A Reflection on Jalani Cobb’s Master Class at Chautauqua by Dahron Wells

After attending the first lecture Jalani Cobb’s gave at Chautauqua, I knew that I needed more. An amazing opportunity arose as Chautauqua offers what’s called a “Master’s Class” where a group of individuals are lucky enough to have a more intimate discussion with different speakers. Attending Cobb’s Master Class was a must, and I’m very happy with that decision.

In this smaller setting, Cobb turned the floor to a Q&A style discussion, being asked a question that led to a very intriguing response that I’m still thinking about days after. An individual asked Cobb, “What do you think of the fight to remove statues of confederate leaders such as Robert E. Lee?” to which Cobb answered with a story about a time he spent in Russia. You may be confused as to what Russia has to do with what’s going on with the United States of America regarding this topic, but the story that Cobb told was eye opening. Cobb told us about how in a museum in Russia, there were statues, monuments and portraits tossed on their side or purposely destroyed on the floor. Why? It was the purpose of those in charge of said museum to not completely erase the dark moments in their past, but to show that they occurred but were frowned upon by the people and the country. I thought that this response was interesting when bringing it back to Confederate statues that we hear so much about in media today. Why, as Cobb stated in his talk, “sanitize history?” We should acknowledge the mistakes from our past, we should show that we’ve learned from those actions and refuse to ever go down that road again. After this, I say, knock Robert E. Lee’s statue over, destroy it and leave the remains for all to see with a plaque that says something along the lines of “this is who we were, but not who we are nor who we will ever be again.” 

The multiple times I got to hear Cobb speak were incredible. He is a man of respect of all sides, dignity and character. These traits show through not only in the lectures that he gave, but in his work as well. I thank Dr. Payne, St. Bonaventure University and the Chautauqua Institution for the opportunity to meet and learn from such an amazing person.

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