Tuesday, March 3, 2009
My State of the Black Union Experience
Finally! My apologies for posting this late. My allergies got the best of me the last few days. I hope you watched Tavis Smiley's 10th State of the Black Union on C-Span. It was sooooo good. I had a hard time getting up at 6am Saturday morning to make the 8am taping but I did it. When will I ever be in a room where I can see and hear Cornell West, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Iyanla Vanzant, Julianne Malveaux, Randall Robinson, Michael Eric Dyson and so on? The conversation was stimulating. On one hand it felt like being back college and discussing world affairs with your classmate. But it also felt like church too because panelists like Michael Eric Dyson and Washington Post finance columnist Michelle Singletary were teaching and preaching. When they said something on point, the audience was clapping, shouting and waving their hands to the Heavens. I was proud that black people packed the LA Convention Center. I estimate there were probably 1,000 people there. That's my own estimate so don't quote me on it. It also felt like a family reunion because I ran into a few people I hadn't seen in a while. I liked the theme of "accountability." The panelists addressed holding our president accountable for the promises he made during the election and we as Americans practicing personal accountability. Rev. Iyanla Vanzant brought up personal accountability when she revealed that she lost her house in 2006. Based on what she said, it sounded like she had an ARM because she said her mortgage ballooned. She couldn't make the payments after losing a book and TV contract. I guess when it rains it pours because Vanzant is taking care of her deceased daughter's teenager, had surgery on her foot, but can't afford health insurance. That totally caught me off guard. I spoke to her backstage later on and will have some details from that interview by the end of the day. That woman has a lot of faith because her spirits are high and she told the audience that she was going to make it.
Speaking of backstage, let me tell you I was in the zone. I hadn't been to a press conference in so long. I enjoy the chaos, the excitement, the fight to get that good shot and question. One of the many reasons why I love journalism. Above is a photo from the press conference back stage. My camera went out of focus for some reason. But you can see Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al, Bennet College President Julianne Malveaux, etc. Later on I also got a good shot of RNC Chairman Michael Steele. He has been in the press a lot lately but I'll go into that some other time.
The very last panel was about blogging. That aired on Tavis Smiley's website. I think blogging and the digital divide should have been folded into the other panel discussions. The digital divide is a term that refers to how certain groups don't have access to technologies while other groups do. In 2003 a study from the Department of Commerce found 54% of black folks don't go online. And 62% of Americans earning between $15 and $24 Grand don't go online. I know we as black people are dealing with the economy, poor education, high incarceration and I could go on. But it seems just about everything is going digital.And black bloggers are playing a role in informing the community.
Another topic missing from the discussion is the AIDS crisis. The disease is killing the community, especially sistas but people are afraid to talk about it.
I'm not sure where the next SOBU will be held but if it ever comes to your town, go. Whether your black, brown, yellow, white--go check it out. You don't have to agree with everything said, but you may learn something. It's free too attend.
For those who missed it you can see it online at C-Span. The program was good because I didn't leave until 5:30pm. That's a work day. Somebody should pay me. :)
Both photos taken by Jenee Darden