In his persistent effort to keep the Obama administration "accountable," Tavis Smiley announced this morning that he would convene a panel of black leaders to take on the question: Is there a need for a black agenda? Calling this symposium "We Count! The Black Agenda is the American Agenda," Smiley is determined to push back on civil rights leaders such as Al Sharpton, who emerged from a recent meeting with the president and declared that there was little need for a "black agenda." Smiley wants Sharpton and others to explain what they mean. The event, scheduled to be broadcast nationally, will take place in Chicago on Saturday, March 20.
Tavis Smiley confronted the question "Is there a need for a Black Agenda?" and announced the symposium on the Tom Joyner morning show. Al Sharpton called in and took issue with Smiley's perspective, and it got heated. Afterward, Smiley took time to discuss his agenda and issues of accountability and the Obama administration with several bloggers, including yours truly.
I asked Smiley about what he saw as the benefit of having yet another conversation about the particular issues facing black people in America. He reminded me that three New York Times best-selling books had originated from the State of the Black Union forums and cited numerous groups around the country that got organized and are doing important work in their communities as a direct result of information they found in 'The Covenant with Black America.'
But Smiley's intent for this gathering is a different. As he sees it, this "We Count! The Black Agenda is the American Agenda" symposium may ultimately result in direct pressure on President Barack Obama to be more direct in addressing African American struggles in this economic environment. Smiley puts it this way:
These black leaders take to the media and start saying that the president doesn't have to have a black agenda. And these are our leaders. If they start saying that, isn't the first step to have a conversation?
(I want) to ask them what they mean by this? Why did you say this? How do black people interpret this? We have to start with a conversation, I think.
Beyond the conversation, this is not about Tavis. It's about bringing us together in Chicago, on national television, to have this dialogue. I could be wrong about this. But if the people, once they see this conversation, if they have a problem with these black leaders defending their position that the president doesn't need a black agenda, then I am absolutely confident that these black leaders are going to hear it from black America.
And once they hear it from black America, they are going to have to change their tune and start singing a new song and another meeting is going to have to be had between the leaders and the president to talk about this issue of no black agenda. Source: Tavis Smiley Interview
I think Smiley is right about this. Never have I watched any elected official so thoroughly distance himself from his or her core constituents: liberals, progressives, people of color. When Republicans are in office, they bend over backward to reward those who put them there.
Hopefully, the time of pursuing the time-wasting fantasy of bipartisanship is over. And if it takes a push from black people, who have been roundly supportive of the president, to wake Barack Obama from his "let's all make nice" dream, well then, I think it is overdue.
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