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Cornel West visits Charlotte this evening

Cornel West is perhaps best known as the author of the best-selling book Race Matters. He's now written nearly 20 books. The tour for his latest book, a memoir called Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud, comes to Charlotte this evening at the Knight Theatre. He says audiences seem startled when he describes the early path he was on in such harsh terms. "With regard to my own life, I think they are very surprised that I was such a young gangster and thug and had this tremendous rage that I was looking for positive channels to express." West credits the love of family, role models and the power of education for changing his life. "It turned me around and allowed me to have a righteous indignation at injustice without drinking from the cup of bitterness, without being revengeful, without being bigoted," he says. West went on to graduate from Harvard and earn a doctorate in philosophy from Princeton University, where he's now a professor at the school's Center for African American Studies. Tonight's event includes a question and answer session. West says audiences usually want to discuss race and justice issues, and President Obama. West campaigned for Obama, but he's concerned about his presidency. "I think Barack is really at a crossroads," West says. "He can choose to be Lincoln or he can choose to be a Clinton. So far, I think he's leading toward Clinton. I think that's partly because of the people who are around him who are very much Machiavellian calculators and spinsters rather than courageous visionary persons who are trying to educate the public and reshape the consensus." West says he's disappointed in the president's willingness to compromise on key aspects of health care overhaul legislation. Tonight's event begins at 7 p.m. at the Knight Theatre. Tickets range from $29 to $49.