Why is Tavis Smiling and Why Are We Watching?

The Black Commentator
Every year, radio/tv commentator Tavis Smiley holds a forum that brings together "the best and the brightest" African-Americans from academia, political, economic and health care, to hold panel discussions on what's wrong with Black America, and how we Black Americans should go about fixing it.

This is a good gesture, if we truly believe it will bear positive fruit in the lives of African-Americans, to the point of where we will actually be motivated to take action to improve and take back the communities that serve to develop and nurture us. I cling to that hope, for in many instances, the hope of a better future is all we, as African-Americans, have left to sustain us.

We live in a country where the President truly engages in all things Orwellian; from the reasons for war, to the reasons why our Black elected officials support legislation designed to harm more than help the majority Black districts they represent. So, when Brother Tavis holds his annual "State of the Black Union" conference, rather than blindly support these forums, we, as African-Americans, need to start asking, as well as looking, for the reasons we choose to willingly give up our Saturdays to be in attendance at such events.

So, this year, when I attended the SOBU event in Houston, I decided I would ask the following questions: What do we hope to get out of the SOBU? Why do we attend?

In response to my questions to the attendees I spoke with, some stated they came to see certain individuals and hear them speak. Judging from audience reaction to comments made by economist Julianne Malveaux ("the mega-churches pimping of Black communities"), while the Rev. Floyd Flake tried to persuade the audience that all Black churches were not like the churches Dr. Malveaux attended, I would say that some attend because such notables will be the voices of concern and frustration that they cannot be. Marc Morial, Wade Henderson, and U. S. Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee provided other topics for concern and discussion, largely to diffuse the conflict between Malveaux and Flake. Some were frustrated because Malveaux hit a nerve with her comments about Black "mega-churches," and since Rev. Flake couldn't really counter what she said, the moderator tried to move that panel along, leaving things that needed to be said, unsaid.

Some attend for informational purposes, and the likes of Dr. Ian Smith, Michelle Singletary, Lynnette Khalfani, former NBA star Junior Bridgeman, or young Mr. Najee McGreen, serve to be useful as they share what African-Americans must do to become more prudent with our financial resources, and pay better attention to our health concerns, while learning how to talk to the physicians that are responsible for our care, yet have no clue of what African-Americans deal with that directly impacts their health.

Some attend to hear leaders like Rev. Al Sharpton, and Minister Louis Farrakhan take their pot shots at the Bush Administration and everything wrong with it, not to mention echoing Kanye West ("George Bush doesn't care about African-Americans"). If we already didn't know that, Hurricane Katrina, and the devastation she caused should have torn the rose-colored glasses from our eyes.

In last year's conference, there was a commitment to develop a sort of "Ten Commandments" for Black America, which became known as "The Covenant with Black America." This year, a book was given to all in attendance. It is the blue print for addressing the ills of Black America on economics, education, civic responsibilities, health and the environment.

The title of the book is "The Covenant." And we're supposed to go into our communities, after reading this book, and implement the plans for taking back our communities, and obtaining and maintaining the political clout that is ours come election time. This would be a good idea, if the blogsphere wasn't already showing signs of resistance from Black Americans who watched the SOBU on television.