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Should President Obama have a Black Agenda for America?

President Obama, meet in the Oval Office with Rev. Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich on education reform
President Obama, meet in the Oval Office with Rev. Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich on education reform
White House - Public Domain

Does PBS host Tavis Smiley have it right in stressing that President Obama should launch a Black Agenda for America? Or is Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist and one not known for backing away from controversy, correct in proclaiming that Smiley has it all wrong?

Smiley seems more than a little perturbed that some black leaders feel that with the election of the nation’s first black president coupled with the civil rights anthem of the 1960’s “We Shall Overcome Someday” means Black America has largely overcome.

America – particularly African Americans – has to focus not on race but on universal colorblind challenges like economics, jobs, health-care, home foreclosures and recessionary stresses and pressures.

Yet for Smiley, who hosts an annual “State of the Black Union” conference, perhaps did not feel comfortable with the growing feeling in Black America that presidential edicts and calls from the White House for a Black Agenda are not necessarily what is needed in helping the plight of what he may feel are the unrepresented constituencies in black America.

So Smiley wants to hold The State of the Black Union 2010 Round Two. On March 20 he is assembling another black agenda confab to be hosted according to published reports in the President’s hometown of Chicago. The Chicago State University conference will have speakers like Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, Rev. Jesse Jackson as well as Princeton Professor Cornel West, who has publically describes himself as a "non-Marxist socialist".

Recently Rev. Al Sharpton and Smiley came to verbal blows over the contention of a need for an American Black Agenda by the President. Smiley went after Sharpton on Sharpton’s radio show accusing the reverend of giving President Obama a pass on issues affecting black Americans.

Yet the real question seems to be missing from Smiley’s quest for a Black Agenda for America. Why call a summit or a conference or a get-together at all? Michigan is probably dead last in a number of measureable achievement categories and it has a substantial African American population.

Why not move the conference to Detroit or Flint and, instead of talking and pontificating, roll up their sleeves and use some of that collective brain power to work with local officials, families, educational leaders, faith leaders, and the business community and stop talking and start doing something about an agenda.

Perhaps that may be the true answer – less talk from Chicago, less action from Washington and more work in the trenches and neighborhoods where it truly can make a difference.

Guess what? That is a colorblind agenda that all America could embrace.

Let me know what you think! If you agree or disagree or have a different thought or idea send a comment to:


  • Shelly Black 5 years ago

    Would it be right if a white president had a separate agenda for the white population, whites only? Or a Mexican, Armenian, or oriental, president do the same? I know many blacks are expecting something from Obama, but remember he is the president of the entire USA.

  • dave 5 years ago

    president obama had a big bank agenda,a auto maker agenda,a gay agenda,a hispanic agenda.president bush did everything for the people who voted for him big tax cuts that is a special agenda.every person who voted for a candidate wanted something in return,but for blacks we should not expect anything for our vote.another double standard when it come to people are a joke. i will expect something in return just like everybody else.

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