Tavis Smiley And His Traveling Road Show
By Gary A. Johnson
March 21, 2010
Talk show host and walking conglomerate Tavis Smiley is in his glory today. I’m on record saying that Tavis seems happiest when he’s at the top of the news cycle. Yesterday, Tavis’ event management company presented, “We Count: The Black Agenda Is the American Agenda,” and today Tavis was a guest on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” news show. Saturday’s event was broadcast on C-SPAN TV. For Smiley a weekend like this can’t get much better.
Handpicked guests at the “We Count,” panel included Rev. Jesse Jackson; Michael Fauntroy, assistant professor at George Mason University; Professor Cornel West; Dr. Julianne Malveaux, Bennett College president; presidential aide Valerie Jarrett, Raven Curling, CSU student government president; Minister Louis Farrakhan; University of Maryland Professor Ron Walters; Angela Glover Blackwell, founder of PolicyLink; Brainwashed author Tom Burrell; Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson and Dorothy Tillman. Notice I did not use the term “black leaders” when mentioning these notables. To me, the term “black leaders” suggest that the black community has a void of independent thinkers. Noticeably, but not surprisingly absent was the Rev. Al Sharpton. Sharpton, the head of the National Action Network, said he didn’t see skipping the meeting on the campus of Chicago State University as a sign of conflict. “There is no tension between black leaders of organizations. Tavis Smiley is a commentator. He does not have a constituency. We can’t mix apples and oranges,” Sharpton said.
Smiley, who served as moderator told the audience that if President Obama, is going to be a ‘transformational’ president these issues had to be raised. “We love Barack Obama. We want him to be a great president. We believe he can be a great president, but great presidents aren’t born, they are made. They have to be pushed into their greatness. They are pushed into their greatness when we hold them accountable,” Smiley said. Blah, blah, blah.
I am all for this President to be held accountable like any other president. My problem is Tavis. I said it before and I’ll say it again–Tavis has proven that he is not objective. When it comes to criticizing President Obama, Tavis tends to go overboard. Many of us in the media have demonstrated that you can criticize President Obama without guzzling the “Hatorade” as Tavis tends to do. The problem for Tavis is that he can’t seem to shake the “perception” that he has a personal vendetta against the President for not attending his (Smiley’s) “State of the Black Union Conference” during the last presidential election.
Tavis loves to preach to us about being accountable and uplifting the race. Has Tavis been held accountable with regard to his relationship with Wells Fargo? Tavis served as the “point man for Wells Fargo luring mostly Black and Latinos to “Wealth Building” seminars to take out sub-prime loans. Has Tavis been straight with us about why his name was removed from the School of Communications at Texas Southern University? He promised to donate millions and after several years, fell far short of his promise. Has Tavis been held accountable to explain his decision to publish R. Kelly’s autobiography? How will that decision uplift our race?
Tavis talks about how much he loves black people. I don’t doubt that for one second. Black people have helped make him a wealthy man. I would love them too. In the end, despite all of his talk, you just judge Tavis by his actions. If you look at his entire body of work, you will see some great things, but in the end, Tavis is all about Tavis.
You can watch the “We Count! The Black Agenda is the American Agenda,” on “U Stream” by clicking on the following link: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/we-count-the-black-agenda-is-the-american-agenda.
Gary A. Johnson is the Founder & Publisher of Black Men In America.com a popular online magazine on the Internet and the Black Men In America.com Blog. Gary is also the author of the new book “25 Things That Really Matter In Life.”
Photo credit: Chicago Sun Times Media.