Monday, March 29, 2010

Tavis Smiley’s “The Black Agenda is the American Agenda”


I’ve had a busy month, and I wanted to drop you a note about one part of that month—Tavis Smiley’s “The Black Agenda is the American Agenda” event in Chicago on March 20th. This event came out of a dispute between Tavis and Rev Al Sharpton, among others, over whether President Obama needed to have, or even to address, a Black agenda. This event focused on an important question, one that is up for large numbers of people in this country. That question is, how to assess Obama’s 1st year plus in the White House? To be blunt, do we need to give “the brother” more time to affect the kind of changes needed, or is the oppression of Black people runs so deep in this society that Obama couldn’t do anything about it if he wanted to? I’ll speak to this question in a minute.

Tavis’ panel of 11 notable Black people contained an array of divergent views. Angela Blackwell-Glover felt that the Black agenda was clear, and Obama was quietly working on it, tho’ she wished he’d be more vocal about that. From the other end, Cornel West felt that the cabinet and advisors Obama had surrounded himself with and the failure to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan pointed to a failure to act for change. Dorothy Tilghman urged people to get active, “to mobilize people to speak out for the things they need, just like other groups do.” Julianne Malveux felt that the depth of the conditions faced by Black people underscored the urgent need for an approach directly geared to these problems. Louis Farrakhan said that Obama had been selected to sit in the White House to represent white interests. Michael Eric Dyson went so far as to say, “Obama is not Moses. He’s Pharaoh!”

Despite this diversity of views, there was an overall framework that all the speakers stayed within, and I think this is framework is one that needs to be broken out of. That framework was that the way to work to end, or at least ease, the oppression Black people face is within the confines of this system. This approach limits people to working to pressure those with the power to do something about the problems they face.

The problem with this approach is that the oppression of Black people and all the other problems people face today around the world are built into the very fabric of the imperialist system we live under. Staying within the confines of the system means putting up with these problems and working to lessen them.

But things don’t have to be this way! We could end the oppression of Black people, the wars for empire, the oppression of women, the starvation and disease, everything foul people endure today thru revolution. All this is why we in the Revolutionary Communist Party are involved in a campaign centered on broad distribution of the statement, “The Revolution We Need … The Leadership We Have.” The goals of this campaign are to put revolution back on the map in this country, introduce people to the leadership we have for this revolution in Bob Avakian and to mobilize a core of people who are clear on the need for revolution and are determined to fight for it.

Had I been on this panel, all this would have been injected into the discourse. The 4000 plus people who attended this event, must of whom were in their seats in the auditorium when it began at 8 AM sharp, would’ve heard a radically different alternative to staying within the channels the system puts out there. Which is something I think is critically needed today.

I’ll write more on the other things that have taken me from DC to LA to Chicago and back to NY soon. Anyone who wants to get more info on Tavis’ event in Chicago should go to the web site: