State of the Black Union ’06
What does one do while spending the Spring Break of their Senior year of college back at home with the parents? Why, watch TV of course. While flicking channels at about two in the morning the other day I stumbled across a replay of C-Span’s coverage of the State of the Black Union conference hosted by Tavis Smiley. I caught somewhere over 1/2 of the day’s festivities and came away slightly intrigued. I saw portions of two panel discussions. One discussion featuring people who I’ll call the ‘new leaders’ of the Black community, and another featuring the more recognizable leaders. There was way too much stuff to give a real summary of the events, so I’ll just mention what struck me.
The ‘new leaders’ panel featured Walter Mosely (how he’s a new leader is beyond me, he was there talking about his newest book), Dr. Ian Smith formerly of Celebrity Fit Club , and several people I’ve never heard of. The most impressive thing about the ‘new leaders’ panel was how San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris (who, I feel compelled to mention, is kinda great looking) briefly outlined how it could be more fiscally responsible to have certain inmates enter societal re-entry programs (for lack of a better expression on my part) that can reduce recidivism rates instead of just go right back into the prison system multiple times. Of course, the conspiracy theorist in me believes that her plan is little more than a pipe dream with publicly traded prison management companies like Corrections Corporation of America (New York Stock Exchange symbol: CXW ) floating around. I’ll let you figure out how they might have a vested interest in people going to, and staying in jail.
The main event of the program was the panel that preceeded the new cats. There was an appearance by Al Sharpton who proved once again that, if nothing else, he is a fantastic rhetorician (in a good way, look up the definition ). There were a couple members of the Congressional Black Caucus, a preacher or two, and a bunch of comments about how the book that was the central element of the conference, The Covenant , was a good start towards creating functional public policy. Someone also said that if Black people don’t vote they’re essentially traitors to the race.
But the real juicy part of the discussion, the real reason for this post, has to do with how the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan stole the show. When called upon to comment Farrakhan proceeded to humbly talk about how much he loved Tavis Smiley and everyone else on the panel, emphatically ho the lives (which means harshly criticize for those unfamiliar with Ann Arbor area colloquial expressions) of everyone on the panel using a partial quote of a discussion between Martin Luther King Jr. and Harry Belafonte, venemously call most of Black America impotent, reconfirm his love for everyone on the panel, and quietly leave the stage to give a speech in Chicago. To use the words of Lloyd Carr, it was tremendous.
Farrakhan mentioned how Dr. King once told Belafonte something to the effect of America is a burning house. Farrakhan then quoted multiple scriptures from the Bible and the Qur’an, said The Covenant was misguided, and concluded us Black people should take care of ourselves and let America finish burning.
Farrakhan’s comments were great except for the fact that Harry Belafonte was on the panel–which meant that Farrakhan’s partial quote was exposed. After Farrakhan left the stage Belafonte informed the world that the conversation between himself and King concluded with King saying that Civil Rights leaders should try to act as firemen, not let America burn as the Honorable Minister wished. Cornel West then added that even if America is a burning house we must do what we can to make sure the children forced to grow up in inferno-America have the best shot they can to succeed. West also stated that even when Black people only had the power to sing songs in the face of oppression we were never impotent.
Belafonte’s and West’s responses to Farrakhan resonated with me. I’ll be damned if I just sit around and watch America burn. Farrakhan was harping about how there needs to be something new to take the place of our current system of government, but he never uttered one suggestion of what that something new could be. Despite all of the flaws of our society I’m under the impression that we currently live under one of the more successful representative democracies in the history of civilization. I’m not going to give that up for just any new thing that comes along. There better damn well be an extremely well articulated alternative taking the place of our government, otherwise I’m not down for something new. I’d much rather be a fireman and try to put out the flames engulfing American society. Most of the panelists expressed how much they respect Farrakhan despite his criticisms of them. I share their sentiments. Farrakhan is pretty accurate in many of his assesments of how screwed up America is. However, I just disagree with him as to what to do about all the problems.
Someday I’ll actually read The Covenant, probably this summer after I get this undergrad thing out of the way. Also I have to read up on Harry Belafonte, I never knew anything about him other than he was a singer. But his insight and intellect left me amazed so there has to be something more than just an entertainment career. Peace and God Bless.
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