State of the Black Union
Looking ahead means looking back
Los Angeles, CA -- Ten years after he first convened it, talk show host Tavis Smiley is bringing the State of the Black Union symposium back to Los Angeles, and the key question that will be explored during the Feb. 28 event is what has changed?
Smiley said many of the Black thought leaders who were at that first meeting—including economist and College President Julianne Malveaux, Princeton professor Cornel West and National Urban League president Marc Morial—will come to this reprise to offer their thoughts.
“One could argue that a lot has changed; that America has changed but outside of the election of Barack Obama (and the appointment of Michael Steele as head of the Republican party) America has not grown as much,” said Smiley. “There is a difference between change and growth; Change is inevitable, and growth is optional.
“Much in America has changed over 10 years, but growth is another issue—growth politically, economically, culturally, spiritually. America still has a lot of growing to do,” noted Smiley, who added that there is a big gap between the promises of America and the possibility in America that is so glaring even with an African American man in the White House.
The same can be said about South Los Angeles, noted Smiley, who compared his arrival in the city in 1985 to work with Mayor Tom Bradley with the reality of today.
“You can just drive through the community and see change; a lot of change. Things are getting better in some respects. At the same time, you can see a lot of things that have not changed, and in some ways are regressing. It’s a challenge, and especially challenging in these difficult economic times.”
Smiley said that for this reason, now more that ever African Americans have to once more become personally engaged in the fight for growth.
“I believe this moment is so pregnant with possibilities . . . I shudder to think what it would be like in four years and not be able to point back to specific examples of how things inside our community have started to turn around.”
Smiley believes that list of accomplishments will have to come from an African American community that, like Frederick Douglass did with Abraham Lincoln, pushes Barack Obama to be the great president he has the potential to be.
And that, added the Public Broadcasting television host is really what the State of the Black Union conversation is all about--the Black Agenda.
The day-long symposium is free and open to the public, and will feature two panels—8 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The convention center is located at 1201 S. Figueroa St. in Los Angeles.
“Any man who wants to be president is either an egomaniac or crazy.” —Dwight D. Eisenhower
“Does it disturb you that so many people hate you?” —Conservative political commentator Bill O’Reilly to Barack Obama on a Feb. 6, 2011, during a White House interview.
In February and again in April, President Barack Obama met with significant elements of the African American community to discuss what Blacks saw as their most critical need, and how they could work together with the White House to improve the condition of African Americans in the country. He met with the NAACP’s Ben Jealous, the Urban League’s Marc Morial, and Rev. Al Sharpton.
Tavis Smiley and Cornel West, Ph.D., deserve high props for their summer poverty tour. They started on an Indian reservation, hit the inner city, and looked at poverty in all of its manifestations. While many dismissed their high-profile tour as a political ploy, I am absolutely convinced of their sincerity.
In addition, these two men are among the few who have dared utter the “p” word in public.
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—Tavis Smiley will put a human face on the alarming new data about poverty in America with special programming on both his national public television and radio programs.
With nearly 50 million Americans, or one in six, now living in poverty, “The Poverty Tour: A Call to Conscience” will kick off with a roundtable discussion on The Tavis Smiley Show from PRI on Friday, October 7 (public radio), and will be the focus of five special episodes on the PBS program Tavis Smiley Monday, October 10 through Friday, October 14.
Within most cultures, there are repeated patterns of behavior and character types that help to perpetuate those cultures. So it is with Black culture, which is at once a living crucible of the Black experience, in all of its finery, genius and foolishness. There is both exquisite beauty and profound ugliness in being Black in America and elsewhere, and that has been the case since our American origins.