Wednesday, March 01, 2006

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.


D2 said...

I appreciate the post D. Betts! I had forgotten that it was last year during spring break when, I too, stayed up in the wee hours of the morning watching the State of the Black Union 2005. I remember Farrakhan being more uniting than divisive. Hmmm. . .I wonder what happened.

I'm interested to read The Covenent and see what comes. Will it be just another book?

According to the press release:
* Since its release on February 25, 2006 the Covenant with Black America book has ranked No. 1 on the on-line bestsellers' lists of Amazon, Borders and Barnes and Noble. The book was distributed at the 7th Annual State of the Black Union symposium hosted by Smiley in Houston. (I saw that it was sold out on Powells Books' site)

* The Jamestown Project at Yale announced plans to "operationalize" the Covenant Curriculum: A Study of Black Democratic Action, produced by Jamestown Project Advisory Board Member, Dr. Cornel West and Jamestown Project Senior Fellow, Dr. Eddie Glaude. The Jamestown Project at Yale is a national, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to creating, articulating, promoting, and implementing new ideas for enriching American democracy. (I'll have to look this up)

* Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Party, and Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Party, have pledged that candidates seeking their respective party's presidential nomination will address the issues outlined in The Covenant. (WHATEVER!)

Dumi said...

So I couldn't fully comment on David's post until I watched the epic length State of the Black Union (okay so I only watched part 2). Let me first say, no one on that stage could hold a candle to Farrakhan's oratory abilities. The man is one of the greatest exhorters that we will ever see. I have got to say that I LOVED Farrakhan's comments for a couple of reasons. 1) Farrakhan is no longer positioning himself as middle of the road, he's gone nationalist again! And I'm happy that he's there. There has got to be balance in our political spectrum. 2) In the 2.5 hours prior to Farrakhan I didn't really hear a decenting voice. Enter Farrakhan (and his 'testicular fortitude')and differences in ideologies come to the surface. These differences will be key to any implications of a Black agenda. 3) I liked Farrakhan's speech cause he didn't take it as a part of the book tour and actually critically engaged the topic.

Farrakhan's solution is certainly to follow his national agenda. His alternative will grow out of his 9 departments, whether you want to get with that or not, that's his alternative. I'm not concerned about Farrakhan's use of Belafonte's quote. He used that as a metaphor and surrounded it with text to advance his position. Belafonte and West said they want to stay in the house and help and Farrakhan said I'm getting the hell out. My two cents... of and how ridiculous is it for us to be hyped up on Jamestown for 2007???

Anonymous said...

"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."

1) The Us is close to 9 trillion dollars in Debt (and rising).

2) A lagre and growing portion of the US is foriegn owned.

3) The US currency continues to decline.

4) Iran is threatening to use the Euro as standard oil purchase

5) More "American" jobs are being outsourced to India and China.

6) The rise of China and India.

7) The rise of the cost "at the pump" (and its peak in availibility

Like all Empires, America is not guaranteed to last forever (Thats a fact!) So I would like see how people are going to try their best "to put out the flames", based on the above mentioned realities facing this country.

Dumi, good point. I have no bones about what Farrakhan had to say. West and many of these other "leaders" (not mine) did not even mention any solutions. And how nieve they are to mention staying in the house and save it w/ this event being supported by Major Corporations that are the source of "The flames engulfing American Society"!!

You cant speak of Health and turn around and use Mc Donalds & Anheuser busch as sponsors. Nor should one use ExxonMoble as a sponsor when you know full well we are at war over......And Wells Fargo? No comment!

To Cornel West, the only "Pipe Dream" I think of is the one being laid down in Iraq.....

Anonymous said...

Hey! Found your site through the Radical Women of Color Carnival, from Rachel's Tavern who submitted this month. And I'm digging it! I'm a Cali transplant in Grand Rapids, and trying to understand this strange, cold place called Michigan...

I loooooove Harry Belafonte! I love him because he is a radical, and not afraid to say so. I love him because he went to Venezuela and kicked it with the Prez, agreeing that Bush is murdering bastard. I love that he tells the world how jacked up this country treats it's backbone. But yeah, he's got some issues--becuz he's so radical, his voice will never truly be heard by the mainstream, he will always be dismissed. Or seen as a threat, which hasn't happened yet, becuz of 1. But he has been this way for a number of years, the man has been pissing off governments for a while now! You should do a post on Harry for the rest of us!

Anonymous said... News
May, 2006

This past February in Houston, Texas, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan gave brief comments at annual "The State of Black America" conference convened by Tavis Smiley. Those comments seemed to create some confusion; although the audience mostly understood him, there appeared to be some misunderstanding from the panelists.

Minister Farrakhan recently gave an address in Washington, DC from the Union Temple Baptist Church wherein he clarified and expounded on his comments at the State of Black America Conference. For the text of Minister Farrakhan's complete News column, see:

The following are excerpts from Minister Farrakhan's address:

When I participated in “The State of Black America” symposium on Feb. 25, the great forum that Tavis Smiley convenes every year, I was the last speaker. What I said seemed to create some confusion; although the people mostly understood me, there appeared to be some misunderstanding among some of the panelists. But I do not want anyone to think that I would disrespect the work of Tavis Smiley and the group that worked with him to produce that document called “The Covenant.” Brother Tavis and those working with him did a wonderful job.

I listened carefully to every panelist who spoke at the symposium, but I did not hear them mention the Name of God. There is no affair of great resolution that can be accomplished without God. The scripture says, “And lean not on thine own understanding, but in all thy ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” Although I did not hear an acknowledgement of God, I heard an acknowledgement of scholarship. It was not my intention to speak condemningly; I passionately pointed out that our sickness is not only mental and intellectual, but it is also spiritual. So, without a spiritual remedy, any intellectual solution will not win.

Brother Tavis shared two letters from the head of the Democratic National Committee and the head of the Republican National Committee and their promise. He had already stated that a nation that does not fulfill its promise is not good. So I begin by saying that America is no good at all. Was I wrong? If I am not wrong, then do not hold up any papers from known liars, who do not have any power, which cause us to hope again in liars and deceivers. I cannot support you. I am sorry if I hurt anyone’s feelings with my words because that was not my intention—but the leaders of this government are liars. Satan promises only to deceive.

You think President George Bush has power because you do not see the hidden hand that controls him. Even when you meet with figureheads of power, they have to meet with someone else. Black leaders have never met with the people who really exercise power, like the head of the Federal Reserve, bankers, heads of multinational corporations that control your government, neo-conservatives and Zionists that control the government. If you do not meet with these people, then whatever promise you receive from figureheads cannot be fulfilled without their approval. The sooner you recognize your impotence, you will understand that you have to go somewhere else to get the power to deal with the real powers that control government.

Most of our leaders are already covenanted. I recently received a call from a leader and I thought we were going to discuss problems of Black people, which we did for 20 minutes. Then the caller said, “The real reason I called is that I got a call from (Abraham) Foxman (head of the Anti-Defamation League) about something you said and I have not been able to hear it.” I said, “I’ll send it to you, Brother, but you tell Mr. Foxman, since you all like reality TV, you get out of the way and bring them and me into a meeting. I will take on the 12 presidents and whoever else they want to send. I will walk in with God and show you that they cannot defeat truth.” Black leaders are afraid of them and it is their fear that makes them slaves. Jesus is not real if you are afraid.

For the text of Minister Farrakhan's complete News column, see: