By Dr. Boyce Watkins
I received alot of mainstream media requests about the situation between Senator Barack Obama and Tavis Smiley. Some interpreted my commentary to imply that I somehow wanted to take sides on this issue. I also received calls from some close friends of Tavis Smiley (but nothing personally from Tavis, who may be angry with me right now), who were concerned that I felt that Tavis was wrong for doing what he did.
I will now set the record straight.
I make it my primary objective to speak with complete honesty. I also found the situation between Barack Obama and Tavis Smiley to be disturbing. However, I do not consider either individual to be worthy of any form of persecution from the American public. I refused to do any mainstream media appearances to discuss this issue, because there are some things that black people need to discuss among themselves. I have a good relationship with the people at The Tom Joyner Morning Show and Black America Web, and it is my goal to keep it that way.
Tavis Smiley is a good man and a respectable brother. I want to see Barack Obama win this election, and Mr. Smiley has stated that he too celebrates Obama’s success. It would never be in my plans to disrupt Obama’s path to the White House, nor is it to add to the stress Tavis Smiley is clearly feeling right now. Did I take Tavis Smiley to task on what he said? A little bit, yes. But I only made my comments because I felt that some things needed to be said.
It is my personal opinion that while Tavis Smiley has no problem seeing Senator Obama jeopardize his race to The White House in order to appear at the State of the Black Union, I wouldn’t expect Tavis to be willing to jeopardize one of his many corporate sponsorship deals to appear at someone else’s forum. Also, if people were to accuse him of being anti-black for refusing to give up his sponsors, that would be wrong. While Smiley has proclaimed himself to be a tireless freedom fighter for the black community, I have never once seen him take Walmart to task for the way this company has consistently pillaged poor people and those of color. It would not be in Mr. Smiley’s interest to do so, but yet the broader community would certainly benefit from such a commentary. Thus, like the rest of us, Tavis does sacrifice a little freedom for a little “me-dom” every now and then.
So, for those who are fans of Tavis Smiley, Tom Joyner or Barack Obama, please understand that my goal is to be fair, not to take sides. Tavis should have invited Barack to his conference, but for him to assume that anyone who is anyone in Black America should be attending the State of the Black Union…..well, that’s just wrong. There are many forums in Black America that allow individuals to express their blackness, and his convention is just one of them.
Sorry to be honest brother, but I’ve got to tell the truth. I’ve had alot of people compare me to Tavis and we have alot of mutual friends. I will always respect you.
My video statement is at www.yourblackworld.com. A special thanks to the production crew for putting it together. For those who don’t like the hip hop in the commentary, I’m sorry, but that’s just me being Dr. Boyce.
Respect and Love: