Nationally known scholar Cornel West will kick off this years Festival of Ideas at West Virginia University with a Feb. 13 talk about hip-hops impact on society.

West, one of Americas most provocative intellectuals, will speak onThe Evolution of Street Knowledge: Hip Hops Influence on Law and Cultureat 4 p.m. in the Mountainlair ballrooms. A book signing and reception will follow.

His talkwhich is also part of a WVU College of Law symposium on the same themeis free and open to the public.

We are excited to have someone of Cornel Wests stature present this years first festival lecture, WVU interim President C. Peter Magrath said.His influence on contemporary American thought is far-reachingfrom his teaching and scholarly endeavors to his social activism and work in the entertainment industry.

Wests talk coincides with the festivals theme of evolution in honor of the 200th birthday of naturalist Charles Darwin. The speakers will discuss the latest ideas about their respective fields with a nod to Darwinian principles.

Some of the talks are also part of the Universitys DarwinFest , a series of activities surrounding Darwins birthday.

West has garnered national acclaim for his writing, speaking and teachingwhich weave together the traditions of the black Baptist church, progressive politics and jazz.

His many books include the best-sellersRace Matters,a searing analysis of racism in America, andDemocracy Matters,a look at the arrested development of democracy both in the U.S. and the Middle East. His latest book,Hope on a Tightrope,presents a collection of views on the current state of American politics and culture.

He has also released three albums. His latest,Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations,is a collection of socially conscious music featuring collaborations with several hip-hop artists. The album topped the charts as Billboards No. 1 spoken word album.

West was an influential force in developing the story line for the popularMatrixmovie trilogy. He also served as the trilogys official spokesman and played a recurring role in the final two films.

He earned two bachelors degrees in three years from Harvard University and his doctorate from Princeton University.

He is currently a professor at Princeton.

The Festival of Ideas lecture series was revived shortly after former WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr. took office in 1995. It was inspired by events he organized as WVU student body president in the 1960s.

Each year since, the Festival of Ideas has brought key figures from the fields of sports, politics, business, entertainment, research, scholarship and culture to Morgantown. The presentations are free and open to the public.

The series is supported in part by the David C. Hardesty Jr. Festival of Ideas Endowment.

Other 2009 Festival of Ideas speakers are scientist Leroy Hood, author Walter Isaacson, economist William Easterly, journalist Gwen Ifill and paleoanthropologist Meave Leakey.

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