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“I Heard That” — What is the State of the Black Union?

February 29, 2008 by  
Filed under News, Politics, Weekly Columns

(Akiit.com) Power to the people! Let’s get it on! No more debates – last one in Austin, Texas between Democratic candidates Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton; at times polite, contemptuous; especially Clinton’s swipe at Obama (reference Plagiarism) stating Obama represents “Change you can xerox!” – crowd booed! Obama was cool, confident, measured his words before speaking!

Last night’s debate in Ohio promised to be unpleasant, negative on Sistuh’ Hillary’s part; hopefully Obama didn’t fall for the trick game – the Sistuh’ is desperate!

Watch out girlfriend! The Obama freight train is roaring down the tracks across America, now to Texas and crisscrossing back to Ohio, and Super Tuesday on March 4. Another debate last night. Frankly speaking, I’ll be glad when the Democratic Convention begins in August and Obama wins the nomination of his party then let the debates begin between the Senator and Republican Presidential candidate Senator John McCain!

One can not overlook the Obama momentum that’s sweeping the country, cries of “Obama … Obama!” Young people especially have a stake in this country and their future, as well as those of us who have been voting, raising families, desire the American Dream of education, work, owning a home, white picket fence, and all that does with ownership.

9/11 turned this country around and the election of George Bush; we need positive change – hope – Obama will provide the healing needed to bring us together on so many fronts – a man cheered all over the world – the yellow, brown, black, white of all nationalities! Time for Hillary to get back to the Senate … I hear the Fat Lady singing!

Barack Obama’s run for the presidency leaves many in Black America perplexed; especially Black elected leaders in particular find themselves faced with a critical choice they have to make later this year; split between Hillary and Obama! This brings me to ask what is “The State of the Black Union?” And the Black Agenda? And Tavis Smiley?

Last Saturday Tavis Smiley, former host of the Tavis Smiley Show on National Public Radio (NPR) until he resigned December 24, currently heard on the Tom Joyner Show, once again during Black History Month, hosted the 9th Annual State of The Black Union forum held in New Orleans at the Morial Convention Center, aired on C-SPAN, which has supported the event since inception. Invited were some of the top thinkers of Black America to participate in a day-long discussion entitled “Reclaiming Our Democracy, Deciding Our Future“. Participants, about 27, were divided in two sessions – morning and afternoon, moderated by Smiley.

After 140 years after his birth, the day celebrated the birthday of W. E. Du Bois, first African American to finish Harvard University, and in 1950 formed the Niagara Movement, later became the NAACP.

I have to note Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakan, who attended two of the last Forums (left Tavis panelist gasping from his right-on blunt statements), was missing! Panelists, comfortable in soft cushion chairs on stage before a sellout crowd in Morial Convention Center, where many died during Katrina, included New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rainbow Push; dynamic author/Professor Michael Dyson, an Obama supporter; Dr. Cornell West;…

Two members of the Black Caucus – Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston, TX) and Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) – both support Clinton. Tubbs-Jones said she endorsed Clinton before the campaign began; noted The Congressional Black Caucus is the consciousness of the nation! Related “Some of us have to be over there while some of us are supporting the other candidate – some of us don’t want to get locked out!” Meaning if they threw their support behind Obama and he should lose! The Black Caucus leadership represent the best interest of Black people, so we shall see come time for the Democratic nomination!;…

Tavis admitted “Never in my lifetime have I ever seen the Congressional Black Caucus more divided than it is right now. This caucus is almost right down the middle supporting one candidate or the other.”

Also included on the panel: Former Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele “a proud Republican”; Dr. Robert Franklin, President Morehouse College; Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, (D-D.C.); Rev. Al Sharpton (expected at Third Baptist Sunday morning but did not make it, much to the disappointment of Rev. Amos Brown and congregation); Democratic Superdelegate Donna Brazile, Campaign Manager for Al Gore when he ran for President in 2000. A Louisiana native, Brazile, born at Charity Hospital New Orleans, urged Tavis and the Forum to focus on the Obama/Hillary issue so they don’t get crushed in the outcome of who will win the nomination.

Brazile’s voice quivered with pain when she said Katrina taught her a lesson “My vote is very important – this is a serious election!” She recounted this was the first time to think about her region reference New Orleans, she wants to cast her vote for a “President who gets it!!! Bush didn’t!”

The annual meeting is informative, a lot of high fives, laughter and a chance to acquaint oneself with Black Scholars and professional, and their thinking on what’s wrong with Black America! After all this – what is the bottom line – are there solutions and results! It’s been 2 1/2 years since Katrina – still the Lower Ninth Ward stand as a stark reality of an unfinished agenda!

March 2006 Smiley published “The Convenant with Black America,” a collection of essays by Black scholars and professionals edited by Smiley. The book covers topics ranging from education to healthcare as discussed in several “State of the Black Union” forums a national plan of action to address the primary concerns of African-Americans related to social and economic disparities.

The State of the BlacK Union 2008 showed there’s a divide in The Black Caucus, half (about 42 members) support Senator Clinton, while others support Obama; Representative Sheila Jackson (D-Houston,TX), profoundly stated her support for Senator Hillary who spoke later that day, and the only candidate to do so. Tavis stated Obama was campaigning in Ohio and declined the invite. Lambasted by Smiley on the Tom Joyner Show “I believe this was a critical miscalculation and a missed opportunity!” All Black should embrace Obama – show solidarity whether he’s their chose or not!! Otherwise shut up!!

Obama is not running for Blacks only! He stated in a letter it was critical that he stayed out on the campaign trail in Ohio. Of course Hillary attended in hopes of getting the Black vote which at the start of her campaign she thought in her pocket UNTIL OBAMA showed up in announcing his candidacy February 12, 2007!!! Obama is running for people of all races; why get into the rhetoric which surely would have come Saturday!

Saturday the discussion of race, could not avoid the Presidential candidacy of Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Smiley instructed they did not want to get caught up in a discussion about the election lest we forget about the Black Agenda so prescribed in the Convenant with Black America – a workable plan for our own economic, political, and cultural liberation.

Smiley and co-host Tom Joyner of the Tom Joyner Show of which Smiley participates, kicked off the morning session with welcome to his City from Mayor Ray Nagin, appreciative Tavis chosed New Orleans, that’s still struggling from the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He sat on the morning panel. Nagin vowed “We’re going to rebuild all this City, particularly Lower Ninth Ward! It’s been 2 1/2 years since the Hurricanes, still many can not return home!!!

Nagin expressed “I’m proud of the brother (Obama) I don’t care what happens – he’s got the best shot and Hillary – I bless you too ! (laughter). The Mayor went on to say “ I want a party that’s going to party! We can disagree on Obama and Hillary and McCain – God Bless him too – let’s focus on the future! I’m a P-Funk (sung a few funkadelic lyrics) as we debate and as we go through all we’ll be going through, Parliament had a wonderful song “Get up for the Down Stroke” – that’s what we’re doing!” His comments received with standing ovation and laughter!

“Run Jesse Run” – Rev. Jesse Jackson ran unsuccessfully for President in 1984 and 1988 (feisty Representative Shirley Chisholm first African American woman elected to U.S. Congress November 5, 1968, then ran in 1972 to become the first Black woman to seek the presidency)…it was said Jackson lead the way for Obama!. Jackson laid down a rousing speech as only he can do, sprinkled with biblical wisdom of hope and faith that concluded this is the biggest moment America has ever known – in the middle of something big taking place, urged, “don’t miss this moment – for America, for those who want to move from racial battleground, economic common ground, the moral underground – it’s Obama Rama!” Momentarily stopped the forum!

Tavis, speechless, regrouped, “Conversation today is not about Miss Clinton or Mr. Obama, we’re not going to shut down dialogue about them given this historic moment that we’re in I’m not dumb enough to foreclose on that conversation, I want that to come out! But want to keep our focus on the issues to which we hold them accountable.

“Somebody’s going to win and somebody’s going to lose and when that happens we have a physiological problem – how do we navigate this problem?”

Activist/comedian Dick Gregory whom Tavis called “The original conscious comic – we love us some Dick Gregory! If we don’t laugh – we cry ! “ In his comedic wisdom Gregory provided much humor!

It was said, why have we let White politicians divide us ? Black politicians came out early in support of the Senator not expecting Obama to cause the predicament they find themselves in! My philosophy is never make your move too soon! Loyal to Clintons, rushed to support Her. I respect loyalty on any level in what one believe and side they chose.

As one reader forward me an E-mail stating “The Clintons and their institutional Democratic Party Old Guard shocked, insulted, even hurt that Black Americans might prefer upstart Barack OBama over Hillary Clinton. The National Democratic Party machine had other plans for this election cycle. Democratic Party insiders were fixing to put the First White woman in the White House, not the First Black Man! But then guess who came to dinner???!!!”


Written By Rochelle Metcalfe

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