The rift that Tavis Smiley is attempting to create with Sen. Barack Obama could be interpreted as a lame attempt to draw attention to Smiley's conference and his (now) flagging book sales. The conference hasn't received any wide press coverage in years and Tavis' best selling "Covenant" book is a coffee table accessory without the implementation for which it calls.
Thus, Tavis ostensibly wants to coerce Obama to attend his conference, extract a pledge to adopt Tavis' covenant agenda for Black America and to find the means for its implementation, if elected.
Either way Obama would lose and Tavis would 'win' in this scenario. If compliant, Obama would be portrayed as pandering to a special interest group, or, denigrated by Tavis for failing to promise sufficient means for covenant implementation. Regardless, Tavis gets the publicity.
If this is picked up as a national media "story", Tavis will appear before a much wider audience than PBS or CSPAN as CNN and MSNBC banner his book and talk show title under his name during the interview. I gave the Brother more credit. Ostensibly, he has his eye on the wrong prize.
Sen. Obama's letter of response to Smiley is well crafted and bounced the ball directly back in Tavis' court by offering Michelle Obama as a substitute conference presenter, to which Tavis apparently declined. The question begs to be asked; would Tavis Smiley have refused Bill Clinton as a substitute speaker for Hillary? ....I don't think so.
Yet a dynamic, poised, articulate, assertive, accomplished, culturally grounded, highly intelligent, well educated Black woman who is engaged professionally as a community organizer was deemed unworthy to appear on the dais of an annual conference that has no apparent goals and objectives for action items? Oh, PLEASE...TRY to explain, Mr. Smiley, why your refusal of Atty. Michelle Obama's inclusion should not be perceived as a misogynistic, autocratic, plutocratic embodiment of slavery's psychological chains and images that restrict your vision?
We are not a monolith and you, sir, do not speak for all African Americans. Barack Obama has taken the higher moral-political ground and is keeping his eye on the ultimate prize where he will be positioned to facilitate substantive change to impact millions of lives. He is enthralled in a major battle to that end. Obama has given us no pause as not being worthy of achieving both. An INTRARACIAL conflict should NOT be his concern at this juncture when we have witnessed the blind ambition, sense of white entitlement, wrath, ire, vitriole and racist cunning of the Clintons as contenders. There was an implied "or else" in your tone of setting a deadline for Sen.. Obama to respond. Surely, you were not insinuating an endorsement of the Clintons should Obama not comply with your request for his appearance?
Your tactics have appeared petty and lacking the gravitas that we have come to admire in Tavis Smiley as a leading journalist - commentator. Resume your place with Juan Williams, Dwayne Wickham, Susan Taylor, Clarence Paige, George Curry, Sam Yette et al. Don't resort to muckraking politics or grabbing quick headlines. It doesn't become you or enhance your stellar reputation. There will be ample means after the election to hold Barack accountable. They are called the Fourth Estate and the ballot.
Genevieve Myers Stewart