- Director of Cornell United Religious Work
- Has stated that America must “see itself through the eyes of other nations” who have been victims of U.S. “colonialism and imperialism.”
A native of Baltimore, Maryland, the Reverend Kenneth I. Clarke Sr. earned a BA degree in English from Morgan State University in 1980, a Master of Divinity degree from Colgate Rochester Divinity School in 1986, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from United Theological Seminary in 2008.
Clarke served as the assistant director of Pennsylvania State University’s Center for Ethics and Religious Affairs from 1990-96, and as its director from 1997-2001. He was also a part-time instructor in Penn State’s Department of African/African American Studies from 1992-2001, teaching courses on “The Emerging Status of Blacks in the 20th Century” and “The Life and Thought of Malcolm X.”
In July 2001 Clarke joined the faculty of Cornell University, where he was named director of Cornell United Religious Work (CURW), the first interfaith program on a major American college campus. CURW activities included worship services, religious studies classes, social events, and interfaith dialogues. Also during Clarke’s tenure at Cornell, his wife, Yolanda, was the assistant dean of the university’s College of Arts and Sciences.
On September 11, 2002 – the one-year anniversary of al-Qaeda‘s terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon – Clarke was the host and keynote speaker at a Cornell University event that was billed as a forum for “reflections on the tragedy [of 9/11] and comments on its continuing implications.” But the event quickly devolved into an extended series of denunciations aimed at the alleged evils of American oppression.
Clarke, for example, asserted that the United States should learn to “see itself through the eyes of other nations” that had been victimized by U.S. “colonialism and imperialism”; that “we must reject simplistic approaches and solutions to the [world’s] complex problems”; that “[we must] challenge our ideologies” and “consider” the “sources of anger, hate, and dehumanization … that lead to acts of violence” like 9/11; that Americans ought to develop “a deeper comprehension of the concern, anxiety, and fear [of others in the world] and understand the wrongs they suffer” as a result of U.S. transgressions; that America must address its own “societal problems” such as “racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-religious sentiment, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia”; and that the “hazard of supremacy” had caused too many Americans to develop an “us versus them” mentality vis-a-vis other peoples around the world.
Moreover, Clarke likened the tragic nature of the 9/11 attacks, to that of prior events in other nations where prominent leftist icons had lost their lives. “Thirty years ago on September 11,” he stated, the Marxist Chilean president “Salvador Allende was assassinated [in a military coup]. On September 11, 1977, the South African leader Stephen Biko [an anti-apartheid activist and committed socialist] was killed…. We share in a collective tragedy.”
In February 2016, Clarke was a moderator at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Lecture at Cornell University. Near the start of the proceedings, he explained that the event would explore the “intersectionality of racism.” (Intersectionality is the idea that different types of discrimination – such as racism, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia – tend to overlap and thereby compound one another’s effects on their targets.) Clarke then introduced the guest speakers for the event – Black Lives Matter (BLM) co-founders Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, as well as BLM “International Ambassador” Janaya Khan (a.k.a. “Future”) – and lauded them for having expanded the vision of the late Dr. King. Garza subsequently proceeded to condemn the racist American “system that allows [black] children to be murdered with impunity” by practitioners of “state violence” (i.e., police officers), while Khan lamented that “we are still fighting for the same thing that we fought for 50 years ago, 100 years ago, even 300 years ago.”
Clarke retired from his post as CURW director in 2017.
Further Reading: “Kenneth I. Clarke Sr.” (LinkedIn.com, Cornell University Website); “The Rev. Kenneth I. Clarke Named Director of Cornell United Religious Work” (Cornell Chronicle, 9-5-2001); “Cornell Celebrates 9/11” (Joe Sabia, FrontPageMag.com, 9-12-2003); “Everything You Missed When the Founders of #BlackLivesMatter Came to Cornell” (TheTab.com, 2-5-2016); “Black Lives Matter Founders Share Vision at Cornell” (Faculty.Ithaca.edu, 2-4-2016).