Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Is there a leader among us?

[The always fantastic Kenna Toney returns; check her out every day at!  As always, if you would like to contribute, email]

Dr. Cornel West, author and professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, and TV/radio talk host Tavis Smiley have created a lot of debate by criticizing President Obama's leadership. They are currently on a nationwide "poverty tour" that will take them to 16 poor communities across the United States.

 It is interesting that Dr. West and Tavis Smiley started their tour in August, the same month that, in 1964, bodies of three civil rights workers who had been killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan with the aid of local sheriffs were found; in 1965 the Voting Rights Act was signed, and five days later, the Watts riots started.

West and Smiley started their tour in Obama's hometown of Chicago.

Tom Joyner, also a nationally syndicated radio host with a large following, has had a public falling out first with Tavis Smiley and now Dr. West; apparently the falling out started during the presidential campaign in 2008. Tavis was clearly not a big supporter of Obama and Tom was.

And it certainly is no secret that this past April on MSNBC, Al Sharpton and Dr. West went toe to toe over President Obama’s focus, or lack thereof, on the Black agenda.

Sharpton's position was that most Black leaders, except for Obama, are silently doing nothing for the black community, while West called Obama no more than a "black mascot" for the wealthy. I should also mention that after this, Rev. Sharpton was given a show on MSNBC.

According to Dr. West, the poverty tour "is not an anti-Obama tour;" he and Tavis Smiley seek to draw attention to and highlight what they believe is lack of effort by both the president and Congress to address the needs of the Americans hardest hit by the recession. 

Unemployment is at 16.1% in the Black community.

As an African American woman looking at my elders duke it out in the media, I am truly frustrated. There are not that many Black activists - leaders who garner national attention. In the infamous words of Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?”

And for goodness sake, if they can’t get along, is it necessary to air dirty laundry for all to see?

I started off as a strong supporter of then Senator Barack Obama. I walked precincts, posted fliers, knocked on doors, arranged and attended community meetings.  I was looking for change, hoping this president would do what no other had:  use the historic nature of his presidency to bring a different perspective to some of the issues that have plagued my community for generations.

But, when it comes to issues of particular concern to the African American community, the President’s response is, “I am President of all of America, not just a narrow special interest group.”

Special interest group? Every President that has sat in the Oval Office has been the “President of all of America,” yet they have attended to their own “special interest group” in some way or fashion.

Now I wasn’t expecting Obama to order reparations or anything that spectacular, but I, as with many other volunteers and supporters, was certainly expecting my community to garner some type of political capital.

Where has the president expended any political capital on behalf of issues of particular interest (jobs, justice from the legal system, and civil liberties) to the Black community? So the gays get all sorts of gay rights, Hispanics get a Supreme Court Justice, amnesty, and the D.R.E.A.M. Act; and Black folks get, “I’m President of all of America?”

I continue to support our President, but it certainly isn’t blindly. It just seems that Dr. West, Tavis Smiley, and Tom Joyner should be working together, and at some point with President Obama, not causing factions to be developed in the community.

Without a leader we face more of the divide and conquer that has gotten us nowhere.


  1. Get Sharpton off of MSNBC! He is a bigot, and nobody can understand what he is saying!

  2. Great post! It's nice to see a black woman speak up. I ask myself this question all the time.

  3. "...but I, as with many other volunteers and supporters, was certainly expecting my community to garner some type of political capital"

    Sad. So because a black man was elected, you "expected" something?? This is what divides our country.

    When you stop expecting things from our government and politicans(black, white, brown, green...), you'll be better off. Been telling liberals that for years.

  4. Thing is, he campaigned on this. He hasn't helped a community that he promised change to. I think it is ok to "expect" something if you vote for someone who pledges to give you what you "expect."

    I mean...he could at least throw a bone...

  5. But, PFP, if a certain community expects and recieves special treatment...isn't that the very thing that we are trying to prevent???

    And he also campaigned on closing GITMO and ending the wars....

    I mean, I thought you wanted "equality"? There is nothing equal about showing a group of people special treatment because of the color of their skin.

  6. Again...he campaigned on I don't find it unreasonable if an entire voting block feels hoodwinked when the person they voted for completely ignores them.

  7. I'd tell them to get used to's politics!! LOL