Black America Needs Tavis Smiley more than Barack Obama right now – by Donnell Jackson

21 Apr

Just last Friday it was announced that Tavis Smiley was quitting his political commentary on the Tom Joyner Morning Show after 12 years of servicing millions of Black listeners. According to Tom, Tavis is quitting because he has received “hate” and “threats” from black listeners who are furious with the way Tavis is critical of Presidential Hopeful Barack Obama. This news hurt my heart. I am a huge fan and follower of the work and speeches that Tavis delivers to Black America. I read his books, watch his shows on PBS and didn’t start listening to Tom Joyner until I realized Tavis had a political commentary on the morning show. So when I learned he was quitting I felt hopeless and discouraged, so to speak.

I felt this way because I know the work and service that Tavis has done for Black America. From his Talent Tenth HBCU tour to his Tavis Smiley Foundation, he has given back above and beyond to the black community. Sometimes his work is unpaid (That’s usually the most powerful). Tavis taught me to have an unconditional love for my people regardless of our shortcomings, differences and disagreements.

My reason for believing Black America needs Tavis Smiley more than we need Barack Obama right now is because Tavis educates, challenges, and most importantly makes black people think. He will NEVER tell you what you want to hear instead, he’ll deliver the most controversial statements. For example his criticism of Barack Obama for not attending the State of the Black Union Address in February, and his criticism for Obama not attending the Martin Luther King 40th Anniversary Events in Memphis. Most people are saying Tavis is hating on Obama and is a “Clinton Henchman.” But I must pose the question as a huge Obama supporter, wouldn’t you want someone who’s respected in the black community (Tavis) to hold our first, real black presidential candidate (Obama) accountable for his every action and word?

Let’s state the Obama facts right now: Obama is running for president of the ENTIRE nation, not just the black nation. Technically, (Correct me if I’m wrong) the black vote makes up less than 20% of the entire general election. That means even if every black person voted for one candidate, the other 80% of the votes would decide the winner of the election. (STILL GO OUT AND VOTE FOR BARACK ANYWAY!) For Obama that means he has to appeal to white voters and please them. Obama can’t be a radical, pro-black candidate for president and be taken seriously by white America. That’s where Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson falls. White America and even some of Black America can’t respect or tolerate the way Sharpton and Jackson delivers their messages.

IF elected president, Barack Obama will have to “pussy foot” in the Oval Office on a lot of Black issues simply because he has so many white people who don’t want to hear race issues all the time. Honestly, that is why I believe Obama did not attend the State of the Black Union address and that’s why he has tried to avoid the race issue until the drama with his Pastor, Jeremiah Wright. IF elected in office, Obama can only be as good as a president to Black America that White America will allow him. He can’t be and won’t be as pro-black as we would love for him to be because sadly, he can’t get on white America’s bad side.

Tavis Smiley does not have that problem.

Do you want to know the difference between Tavis Smiley and Bryant Gumbel? Tavis is an Advocacy Journalist. Bryant is a Journalist. Tavis advocates the advancement of black people in any and all situations and circumstances. For Tavis, everything in America effects Black America. He is responsible for educating many black people about the struggle, and he let’s them know why they are struggling and how they can get out of it (The Covenant with Black America). He educates Black America on how the most recent bill or law passed in the House or Senate will affect them and their children. In this historical presidential race, he has challenged Black America to know their candidates and their candidates views. He makes US think! Tavis can do whatever he wants to uplift Black America and not think twice about how red-necks in Pennsylvania will feel about it. This is something this brother has been doing since high school (What I Know For Sure) and is continuing to do through his black lectures, foundations, programs and addresses.

Barack Obama can not do that right now or even if he’s elected into office. Don’t get me wrong, he will have a strong effect on Black America from new legislation to giving hope and dreams to young black boys growing up in the projects, but right now he will never be able to dedicate his life’s purpose and work to improve Black America like brother Smiley has. We even hear it in Obama’s campaign of bringing folk together. That means people of all races, genders and ages. Brother Smiley has one group and one group only in mind and that’s Black America.

Thanks for reading. Leave your comments below. Peace.

“I love my black folk, I love yall to death and there’s nothing you can do about it”
-Tavis Smiley

Donnell Jackson is a graduate of Temple University and currently works as a News Producer at WXII 12 NBC in Winstom-Salem, NC. A native of New Orleans, LA, he is a self-proclaimed member of the Talented Tenth and along with Tavis Smiley, a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated.


8 Responses to “Black America Needs Tavis Smiley more than Barack Obama right now – by Donnell Jackson”

  1. monna April 21, 2008 at 11:53 am #

    Seth, you could not have said any better. I love Tavis Smiley too; I watch state of the union and record it too.
    I will never forget my first exposure to TS; I landed in the US at 8pm, because of jet lagg and time difference i was not able to sleep, as I surf through the US chanels, there he was hosting a show on BET. He had Maxwell on his show that day; I liked they way he put his questions across; his questions goes beyond a regular journalist reading a script of questions. Needless to say, I have been in the US for 13 years and I watch him when I can or listen to his podcast at work.
    I remember Haiti story; he was the first one to break that story on TJ show. I always tell my friend but TS said this or that. He is my reference point.
    I was dissapointed he did not support Obama, but then again not blacks will support Obama. Nevertheless, I never lost my love for him, the guy is brilliant and Lords know we need someone like him in the black community.
    Oh i forgot to mention when Bob Johnson let him go , I was one of the few folks who wrote not a very nice later to BET.
    You know what Seth, I think we, black folks ,will jell together again come November; stakes are to high.

  2. Ro April 21, 2008 at 2:53 pm #

    Don’t get it twisted. We haven’t thrown Tavis away. Tavis, as of lately has become the victim of a Tom Joyner’s joke. I saw Tavis recently on TV1 being interviewed by Cathy Hughes. When joined by Jay Anthony Brown, Tavis was told, it’s funny when the joke is not on you but you better be able to take it when it does come on you. Jay said these were the words of Tom Joyner. Well lo and behold, it came to pass. Black America just told Tavis about how they feel about his comments, they did not call for his job.

    PS: I’m from New Orleans too.

  3. Teacher April 22, 2008 at 8:01 pm #

    I believe if Barack is nominated and elected President. he will be put in an unfavorable position by White America. These are my beliefs:
    He will be made to appear weak and not expereinced enough to hold the office of Presdient (even though we know better).
    He will be criticized constantly by the news media (Fox News and others).
    He want not receive the support he needs from the House and Senate.
    His family will be in the news all the time.
    Rev. Wright’s sermons will never go away.

  4. Bill May 1, 2008 at 8:16 am #

    Teacher even if thats all true , SO WHAT? Don’t try?

  5. Glenda Jernigan May 28, 2008 at 10:08 pm #

    I grow up during the 1960’s and had no problem with the black race or religion during school. We are all people no mater what their background or nationality. This issue keep gowing and it need to stop we are losing our country to more important proplems.

    I feel as I had the same problems and blacks I was not a Jones had teachers that did not like the poor regardless of the color. I had a third grade teacher that gave a poor white boy in our class a hard time always, he was getting on the bus one morning was run over and killed to this day I feel sorry for that (Mrs. Howell) she did not take it well, I hope she saw the light and changed her ways.

    Grow up with my mother and father raising chickens living in the owner’s house on his chicken farm I just don’t see the difference in raising chickens and picking cotton both are hard work. My father died when I was six years old (he was my best friend) my mother raised three kids working 2 and 3 jobs to keep us fed but never as for help from anyone. Now she is 88 Mom is poor health and I thank God everyday for her for how she raised us.

    I can feel racial to anyone who my feel that way toward me no matter what the reason they might have and it does not have to be a color issue.

    Keep the Faith,


  6. norelle lee June 12, 2008 at 7:40 am #

    I never heard someones words about another person be so nicely out together. Makes a lot of since. I’m so glad when I see my people stand together on a positive note. God bless

  7. ApprxAm July 27, 2008 at 1:54 pm #

    There seems to be some difficultly in understanding the “real world” issue of Mr. Obama’s run for high candidacy and Mr. Smiley’s relevance outside of being a, ah hmm, journalist. Being critical of the Senator is Mr. Smiley’s right and maybe even his duty. But I don’t trust his motives. An Advocate Journalist he may be, but the question is for whom does he advocate? I’m having a hard time believing he’s not in this for himself.

    If running for this country’s highest office displaces the old elite black guard, why would we want it replaced with a newer one? We need a service-based model in the black spectrum not the “leadership” paradigm of the last 60 years. (See Carter G. Woodson; Mis-education of the Negro) Mr. Woodson admonishes us from accepting “leadership” without service, (Chpt XI) and there is, also, the universal principle of results.

    I don’t think he wanted Obama’s presence for the good of blacks or the somber retrospection of the Katrina aftermath, Mr. Smiley wanted him there to give to gain credibility. I’m at a lost as to the author’s assertion that “Smiley tells it like it is” and ain’t afraid”. Those State of the Black Union forums are horrible. They solve nothing, which they can’t. The only purpose for them is to plainly state facts, but every year, they make the same accretions, year after year. In fact, they spend more applauding each other then saying anything of substance. Should he be lauded for this? It mediocrity, plain and simple and we should be tired of this constant stagnation which is the only results from these type of meetings.

    Tavis Smiley is a self-promoting business interest, with no real aim toward helping black people; he’s in it for himself.

  8. Ghaydaa Kalla August 16, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

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