Event Meister extraordinaire Tavis Smiley gathered his hand-picked Black All Stars for a “Black Agenda” conference, in Chicago, over the weekend. The usual suspects were in attendance, shining and rhyming luminously and voluminously. President Obama’s stock had fallen, but “blind adherence” to the Democratic Party still reigned near-supreme.
Tavis Smiley’s Annual Black “Radical” All-Star Game
by BAR editor and columnist Jared A. Ball, Ph.D.
“For every Louis Farrakhan ‘testicular fortitude’ there was a Michael Eric Dyson ‘ovarian audaciousness.’”
This week the already blood soaked, broken and dead carcass of a murdered Black radicalism was further kicked around, then adorned, by Tavis Smiley and all those gathered at his annual Black political All-Star Game. And it truly was an all-star gathering where everyone came to play on the big stage. It had all the political ally-oops, 360 degree word play, dazzling no-look Biblical references and behind the back, through the legs, ankle-breaking alliterations. Cornell West looked spry prancing around the roundtable cheerleading and for every Louis Farrakhan “testicular fortitude” there was a Michael Eric Dyson “ovarian audaciousness.” And all but one of the attendees brought flashy Blacker-than-thou critiques of the president, all in love, of course, as was the theme Smiley laid down literally with a so-labeled centerpiece placed dramatically mid roundtable. But this truly was conservatism draped in radicalism. None advocated breaks with the established political parties, none adopted a tradition of radical intra-racial socialized economics and none called for mass protest or civil disobedience. It was post-election criticism, calls for conservative individualized self-help and obedience to the established political order.
Smiley was clear that he wanted his guests to answer for the absence of an overt support of a Black agenda by the president. So now, and only after his election, Jesse Jackson wonders why it is only a Black agenda that Obama ignores, and Farrakhan says Obama was “selected not elected” and lords over the “White House” for “white people,” and Dyson boldly proclaims Obama to be “Pharaoh… not Moses…” or even Dr. King. Dyson went on to say that he has known Obama the longest and supported him first as the political “Jackie Robinson” who might not be the best but is best suited to be first. This should, of course, be seen as an admission of political ineptitude and the fact that neither Dyson nor anyone else who appreciated that comparison brought up the impact of Robinson on the death of the Negro Leagues or use of him by the state to speak against more radical Black leaders like Paul Robeson, means that the real power of that analogy went without discussion.
“None advocated breaks with the established political parties, none adopted a tradition of radical intra-racial socialized economics and none called for mass protest or civil disobedience.”
And other juicy contradictions were all over the place. Like when the sole youth representative, Raven Curling, asked about the absence of mass protests, and Jackson agreed we should not abandon such tactics, Smiley would later say that he and his roundtable of leaders couldn’t make such calls and that actions should be “individual.” The economic equivalent of the individual as power came from Author Tom Burrell who was first to shift blame of Black poverty to Black spending habits with that favorite myth of Black buying power. This sophomoric economic analysis was championed again by Julianne Malveaux and by Louis Farrakhan who took the myth to even greater contradictory heights. The minister, with calls of “do for self,” suggested separately that America was declining and, therefore, was both “for sale,” and leading toward a time when the U.S. dollar would be “worthless.” Following this “logic” we should use a mythological $1 trillion in buying power to purchase equally mythological wealth-building assets from a declining country whose currency is soon to be worthless. With confusion like this it is little wonder why there is so much to lament in the condition of Black America.
There was little more clarity in the arena of electoral politics. Ron Walters twice called for a “Black Party” but confusingly only as a bloc within the Democratic Party. This kind of blind adherence to the Democrats was further displayed when in response to audience member Phil Huckleberry of the Illinois Green Party, who said that his party was the only party with a real Black agenda, all-star panelist Angela Blackwell actually agreed but only that “green jobs” and a “green economy,” not alternative political party development, were part of a Black agenda. It is this kind of confused analysis that led roundtable participant and Civil Rights veteran Dorothy Tillman to say that Black “political empowerment” is as “diminished” today as she has ever seen it and that this is a result of the ascendancy of president Obama. But it is also true that Obama’s ascendancy and that of the gathered all-stars is also the result of a previous murder of Black radicalism.