Found this on the Uppity Negro Network, a column by CNN analyst Roland Martin on PBS’s Tavis Smiley who is promising a verbal thrashing of any presidential candidate who dares to snub the State of Black Union event on Feb. 23 in New Orleans, La. The big to-do is typically a well-attended event broadcasted on C-SPAN, attracting well-known black activists, politicians and intellectuals.
Naturally, Tavis is throwing his weight around trying to draw attention to this annual event.
During his commentary Thursday on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, the most listened to black radio show, Tavis said he’s invited the three top candidates, Republican frontrunner, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, and Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. He said only one has accepted, and he will wait until tomorrow for the other two to decide.
He didn’t say which one decided to attend, but on Friday, Clinton announced that she was attending.
In his commentary, Smiley said he was going to snap on those who don’t attend on Tuesday’s show, demanding that they own up to black issues and zero in on social justice issues as outlined in the book he edited, “The Covenant with Black America.”
Martin states that Obama did not attend last year’s State of the Black Union because Obama was busy launching his presidential run. I’m not going to debate whether or not this was a legitimate excuse as a lot of people runing for president manage to show up at things. But Martin defends Obama emphatically about his right to not show up. As for Tavis, he never got over the snub and is going to raise hot holy hell if the Great Black (Presidential) Hope does not show up at the event.
Martin outlines the pros and cons to both Obama and Clinton’s attendance. Clinton already RSVPed and Martin rightly points out she needs to be there more than anyone to repair her relationship with black voters. Obama and McCain (that’ll be a shocker if he shows) are the only ones who are likely to be no shows. I’m pretty sure Huckabee would show up for shrimp cocktails and a free copy of “B-Day,” but I don’t know if he was invited.
Obama recently sent a letter saying he can’t be at the event and asked Tavis to “reconsider” having the more than capable Michelle Obama represent him at the event. Martin said Tavis gave that idea four thumbs down.
Do you think this is a do or die situation for Obama? Does he still need to make pledges of fealty to the likes of Tavis Smiley, the black media elite? Does he need Tavis who is very influential via his work in radio, books and talk show on PBS?
I get Tavis’ deal. He wants people to talk about and be aware of black issues. And he knows his event is going to be hella lame if Barack Obama is there.
Think about it. This is your big party, your show for black a American and you can’t get the most popular guy in North America right now next to Will Smith and Joel Osteen? If you can’t get the hope of Negroes at home and abroad? Tavis needs Obama at this event more than Obama needs to be there. Obama gives the event credibility, legitimacy. Plus, all those snobby black folks who will be there want to hob knob with the Big O. Cornell West and Aaron McGruder are going to be a little bummed if the show up to only find Shelby Foote and Andy Young, yet again. Oprah’s going to need to give away cars to perk those people up.
Personally, I think Obama should go if he can. I don’t think it will kill him and it will make a-plenty an uppity Negro very happy. But he shouldn’t do it just because Tavis whipped out a threatdown, which is remarkable considering I didn’t know Tavis was big enough to whip out those effectively.
UPDATE: Papa Snob tossed in his two cents on the matter, pointing out that Roland Martin takes the issue of blow back from the white press too lightly. Papa said if Obama attends the State of the Black Union it will be on par with answering the “your stance on affirmative action” question.
He thinks that despite the gains made racially in this country there are some issues that can still cause you to crash and burn on both sides. Like airing your opinions on Affirmative Action may disenchant whites who are for racial equality but hate race-based quotas. Another answer could disenchant blacks if you come down on the wrong side of the program they believe forces fairness on a racially reluctant job market.
Papa said Obama would have been better off if he’d gone to last year’s event when he was still fund raising for his blossoming campaign. He thinks because Obama has already pissed Smiley off once he is less inclined to play nice and deal this year.
As for the blow back, Papa Snob said this event would get an insane amount of press if Obama is there. They will cover every talk, gaffe and trip to the restroom. Obama has largely avoided having the racially charged relics and warriors of the 1960s and 70s stand behind him at speeches and photo ops. But there will be no way to avoid the white folk scaring patina of race with the likes of Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and other black people who scare/annoy white people around. The press will be looking for that embrace, that big green light from the Negroes (never mind that the Negroes, through voting, have spoken). But the press is going to murder Obama up and down with this “black enuf” issue, with the cosigning on the black agenda issues, with the “are you really a black radical in sheep’s clothing” issue.