Sunday, February 11, 2007

The State of the Black Union...

This weekend, Tavis Smiley held his annual State of the Black Union program. For about five years, it's been running on C-Span, and has been sort of a national dialogue between the African American intelligencia and black America. And for many years, it was great. I loved how you could hear from an African American professor like Cornell West and Minister Louis Farrakan, and some young kid doing something. It was must see tv at least once a year. But not this year.

I watched the program and basically yawned. In someways, the Black Union program reminds me of Sundance. Used to be there for indie filmmakers, and now Paris Hilton throws parties there. Same with the State of the Black Union.

Last year, Tavis and others came out with a book called the Covenant, which is supposed to be a blueprint for African America. It reached #1 on the New York Times bestsellers list, and I think something changed in Tavis, the conference, and the participants. This year, there was a LOT of shilling of stuff. A new book, the old book, everybody else's book. Hey, no one can shill a book like me, but it was getting over the top. Speaking of over the top, there were a lot of corporations sponsoring the State of the Black Union, which leads one to wonder if the State of the Black Union is for sale? If so, who is profiting?

Lastly, it was the same old people, saying the same old things, on the same old stage. Nothing new. Just a bunch of rhetoric, sound effects designed to create crowd pleasing applause, but substance no deeper than the nutrional value of cotton candy. There is a point where you can talk too much, and god knows I've been there. But if the State of the Black Union is to be something substantial, it's going to have to morph into something beyond a "Hallelujah fest" that sells books. Because right now, the State of the Black Union is pretty sad, and its participants should take a closer look at whether or not they are part of the solution or problem.

1 comment:

Juan said...

A lot of these cultural events (fairs, speeches, etc.) end up becoming a big fair for corporations to get their name out.

I'm a member of the National Hispanic Bar and pretty much every event is sposnsored by big law firms that hire a Hispanic or minority for that matter, every 5th year or so. It's outrageous.

Go to any street fair in LA (especially Cinco de Mayo festival) and you'll see it overrun with manufacturers and corporations handing out things.

The US Army had this huge recruiting post a few years ago. I kid you not that it took up nearly a whole block on Broadway in Downtown LA.

It definitely detracts from the message or celebration.