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State of the Black Union


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.