Cornel West is an American philosopher, political activist, social critic, author, and public intellectual who describes himself as "a prominent and provocative democratic intellectual". The grandson of the pastor of the Tulsa Metropolitan Baptist Church, he was heavily influenced by touching accounts of privation, struggle, and faith from parishioners as a child. He was a political activist even in his early youth, often organizing protests demanding black studies courses at school and participating in civil rights marches. As an academic, he taught at Harvard University, Princeton University, Yale University, Union Theological Seminary, and the University of Paris. He also authored several essays and books including Race Matters and Democracy Matters. He has appeared as a scholar on numerous documentaries and talk shows, has worked on The Matrix film series, and has co-hosted the radio program, Smiley and West, with Tavis Smiley and the podcast, The Tight Rope, with Tricia Rose.