Pledging Fidelity to the Grand Poobahs of the Black Media Elite

UPDATE 1:57 p.m.: Observations from Papa Snob added

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.

7 thoughts on “Pledging Fidelity to the Grand Poobahs of the Black Media Elite

  1. Tavis Smiley doesn’t speak for all Black people and I personally wish he would just shut up and go away. I know I’m kind of old to be saying this, but I can’t wait until the younger generation of Blacks can take up the mantle and move on using their own ideas and relegate these dinosaurs to the retirement home where they and their out dated plans and ideas belong. It is a new millennium now and whether we like it or not we need to devise new strategies, hell we need a whole new paradigm, because the methods of old do not work in this post racial world where cries of reverse racism get more attention and credence in the press and popular opinion than actual cases of discrimination (like two years after Katrina still in a trailer or out of state but no one seems to remember).Sorry for the endless rant! I feel better now.

  2. Obama should be as far away from New Orleans as possible. Tavis should NOT take it as a snub. Obama has to walk a fine line which he has done an excellent job of being the President for ALL. Showing up at The State of the Black Union will erode his Indie support and the 8-10% Obama Republicans he enjoys. Papa Snob is right!

  3. I feel that the older organizations really are in dire need of a modernization or restructuring. I feel like they only know how to act if is a “well duh, it’s racism” moment. They are not attuned at dealing with problems that are either then aftereffect of institutionalized racism or are, in all reality, issues of class rather than race. They seem reluctant to take the government to court over the very separate and not equal state of urban and rural public schools.I realize that it’s more complex to argue how wealth determines your level of health care, your standard of living and what kind of school your kids goes to, but THOSE are the major hurdles blacks are still dealing with. Those are the major issues. We got our freedom. We got our right to vote. We got accepted to the universities and colleges, so let’s get this to the next level of improving the quality of life for blacks, creating alliances with other like-minded groups irregardless of race or gender, making sure opportunities are there and working for fairness in education and in the judicial system.I don’t know why this is rocket science for some people.

  4. Papa Snob is right. It would be an unbelievably difficult feat of tightrope walking were Obama to attend Tavis’ annual convention. But that isn’t the most important reason Obama shouldn’t attend.Obama shouldn’t attend because as entertaining as Tavis’ event is, it’s actually a pretty unproductive, unfocused, PR opportunity for a good number of self-promoters who use the forum for everything and anything but serious solution finding. A real gathering of intellectual heavyweights who dedicate themselves to black issues would be a truly welcome thing. It would most likely take place outside of the camera’s eye, which is reason enough for some of our most media-friendly Negroes to pooh-pooh the idea. Tavis’ oratorical carnival is fun to watch, but like some of those newfangled (if theologically and doctrinally weak) non-denominational super Mc-Churches, its really much ado about nothing.

  5. Tavis Smiley has self-appointed himself as the freer of the Black Race, the authority on what Black America needs, and Leader supreme of the entire Black race. We commend his work on the Covenant with Black America, but his idealogue is misplaced. Running on an all black platform will not work….Ask Al Sharpton & Jesse Jackson. Hillary is more than willing to pander to any race, any time, any place to get the nomination.To be honest, the NAACP really doesn’t carry that much weight anymore, the CBC (Congressional Black Caucaus)aka Congressional Black Crabs in a barrel,”old-guard leaders” is full of ole has-been, washed-up warriors really don’t want things to change, they like to hold on to the past in order to maintain their boastful sense of self-righteousness.Things for us has gone to hell in a handbasket under their watch, but they still want to maintain the status quo because deep down inside they like it that way. Content to stay in the Clinton plantation afraid of change, don’t want to get out of their comfort zone and stuck in that slavery mentality “If ‘massa’ Clinton wins”, they are thinking in terms of what’s in it for them. Blacks are so used to scrapping, fighting, worrying, begging, hoping and praying, that’s all we know. Once the fight is over we don’t know what to do with the gloves but prepare ourselves for another fight. We spend so much time praying for victory that when victory comes we don’t know how to embrace it.(steping down off my soapbox)

  6. I just wonder how many meetings do we have to have before shit gets done? When I was in Bakersfield, CA every year they had an MLK march and an MLK breakfast in January and then for the rest of the year folks still didn’t have health care, didn’t have better jobs or housing and still went to crappy schools.And of course, no one did anything about it.The event sounds nice, Tavis, but wake me up when it’s “revolution time,” please.

  7. I listen to Michelle Obama speak about the “Tavis Situation” on Michael Baisden show yesterday and Tavis asertion that if Obama could not show up, Michelle Obama appearance would be “inappropriate”…and if Barack could not show up to speak to the “Black Agenda” he did not deserve our vote.Barack makes a good point saying the issues he addresses ARE the issues that affects black America as well as other Americans. Blacks aren’t the only ones suffering in this economy, lacking healthcare, decent education, etc. Besides, Barack isn’t running for president of Black America.If Mr. Smiley has all of the answers, and feels he can solve all the issues and problems of the entire Black race then he should have taken a shot at becoming the first Black President. He should have taken an overdose of “BIG BOY Pills”, took the giant leap and subjected himself to public ridicule and, criticism and live in a fish bowl like Mr. Obama has done. Just because Mr. Obama did not ask his permission to run for President doesn’t mean that he have to make attempts to undermine his campaign. But that is what happens when someone comes down with the “crabs in the barrel syndome.” Willie Lynch pegged us negroes just right! “Keep them confused and fighting among themselves and they will never come together.”

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