Talk show host Tavis Smiley has decided to end his annual State of the Black Union Conference. In 2005 the conference spawned the book “Covenant with Black America,” about issues in black community.
In more recent times the conference took a very critical tone towards President Barack Obama.
“[The State of the Black Union] doesn’t have the premium that it used to have – and that’s a good thing,” Tavis Smiley, The Associated Press.
Seems to me Obama as the first Black president was such a game changer conference regulars weren’t sure how to react. Which is fine because many of us didn’t, but I find their harsh tone is suspicious. As a nightly half-hour talk show host on PBS Smiley has facilitated many conversations about President Obama not being Black enough, acknowledging Black people, and not standing up for Black people enough.
I think the last criticism is valid because without Black people President Obama would have never been elected. A vote for him was not a given, as we saw in the early stages of the last presidential race when many Black people supported Hillary Clinton.
The first 2 criticisms about President Obama not being Black enough acknowledging Black people are suspicious to me coming from panelists who make a lot of money from speaking fees and speeches about what’s wrong with Black people.
Their comments come off knit-picky and anti Obama overall. I don’t readily criticize Cornell West but c’mon, are you really that upset because Obama called Martin Luther King Jr. “a preacher from Georgia” instead of by name?
OK, maybe it was weird that Obama did that twice in major speeches but we know who he was talking about. Aren’t there bigger issues we could focus on here?
“That the president of the United States felt compelled to join us live to acknowledge the power of this symposium over 10 years, and what it had accomplished, raising the kind of issues that helped him get elected – that was significant,” Smiley said.
In February 2009 Obama spoke to those at the conference via satellite from the White House.
Smiley claims money was not an issue in ending the conferences. Certainly there seemed to be lots of money around with broadcasts on C-SPAN, corporate sponsorship from Exxon Mobil, Nationwide Insurance and last year’s major sponsor Wells Fargo.
About that Wells Fargo sponsorship: Smiley ended up in some controversy when the NAACP filed a lawsuit against Wells Fargo for allegedly pushing blacks into high-interest mortgage loans while offering whites with the same qualifications lower rates.
Wells Fargo & Co. denied the allegations but Smiley ended his deal with the company when the lawsuit was filed.
Tavis Smiley is proud of the 2005 conference inspired “Covenant with Black America” book and feels responsibility and accountability were important aspects of the book.
As a person who actually took the time to watch more than one State of the Black Union Conference I can’t say I’ve seen accountability or responsibility come out of it.
What I have seen were a lot of speeches, rants about Hip Hop, Black people not loving themselves, baggy pants, praising God, speculating on what white people think of us, very little problem solving, lots of “entertainment” and posturing geared towards getting applause and laughter. Some may even say the conference always becomes a cook out.
Making a lot of speeches an little more is an issue with the American left now anyway.
Also, little or no references are made to environmental issues in Tavis’ conferences.
These conferences are all alike with very little representation of young people or a sane voice in Hip Hop. If you’re lucky somebody has seen fit to call Chuck D.
I used to think something would really come out of these but maybe the corporate sponsorship should have been a tip off. Or maybe the fact that it was televised, cause the revolution isn’t supposed to be.
The State of the Black Union Conference is outdated by someone’s masterstroke of electing President Obama. There is a new frame Black people, America and the world has to deal with.
This conference is as old hat as the phrase “old hat”. So it’s good that it’s gone and I can’t wait to see what shows up in its place.
Hopefully whatever that is it will involve sane voices of a certain age that actually know about and love Hip Hop and have vision.
I nominate these 3…
Harry Allen the Media Assassin
A very, very smart man who is considered by some to be the only Hip Hop journalist…ever.
Super blogger and vlogger supreme with nuanced and strong views, a love for Hip Hop, lots of sanity…and a cat. Jay Smooth also has a cat.
Hip Hop lover, activist, former Green party Vice Presidential nominee that offers stinging criticism of President Obama for better reasons than most.
I’m sure Tavis Smiley will have nothing to do with whatever takes the place of his conference. In the meantime he will be busy publishing R. Kelly’s memoir among other things.
Who else should be involved in the State of the Black Union’s replacement?