Tavis Smiley

*Some noted Black leaders recently have suggested publicly that President Obama does not need to focus on Black issues.

In response to mounting evidence showing African Americans are disproportionately lagging behind on all economic indicators despite assertions of a so-called “post-racial” era, Tavis Smiley said Tuesday he will moderate a national conversation examining whether in fact there needs to be a Black agenda and the accountability of leadership to address issues facing Black Americans.

Smiley formally announced the forum this morning on the Tom Joyner morning Show. Reaction to his statements and position was swift. Immediately after, during a telephone press conference with EUR and several other black oriented media outlets, Smiley said that his comments had already prompted a heated response from Rev Al Sharpton, one of the “Black Leaders” that Smiley identified.

Jealous, Sharpton & Morial speak to press after meeting with President Obama

Among the other “Black Leaders” Smiley is critical of on this subject are Marc Morial of the National urban League and Benjamin Jealous, head of the NAACP. He pointed out that Sharpton, Morial and Jealous recently met with President Obama and afterwards made their statements saying that the president doesn’t need to have a black agenda. Needless to say Smiley does not share this point of view and is on a crusade to spread the word.

The nationally-televised forum, We Count! The Black Agenda is the American Agenda, will be held from 8 am – noon Saturday, March 20 at Chicago State University’s Emil and Patricia A. Jones Convocation Center, 9501 South King Dr., Chicago, IL.  The event is free and open to the public on first-come, first-served basis. Advanced registration is available at www.tavistalks.com.

“From the Carolinas to California millions of Americans are in crisis as a direct result of the recession in historic proportions. Given the joblessness rate compounded by the lack of access to healthcare and the collapse of the housing market, the statistics continue to show that Black Americans in particular are getting crushed,” Smiley said.

“I think the time has come to have an earnest dialogue between Black leaders and Black people about easing the suffering of disaffected communities. A Black agenda is America’s agenda in that what affects the least of us, affects all of us.”

Invited panelists include noted scholar Cornel West, professor and author Michael Eric Dyson, Jesse Jackson, Sr., Marc Morial, National Urban League, and Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to the president for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement. Others include Angela Glover Blackwell, founder of PolicyLink; Tom Burrell, author of BRAINWASHED; U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus; Ben Jealous, NAACP President; Al Sharpton, Dorothy Height, and Louis Farrakhan.

The conversation will also raise awareness about participation among Black citizens in the 2010 Census. The forms, which will be mailed in March, are due on April 1. The data collected by the Census helps determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Your Census form is your chance to be heard about how nearly $450 billion will be spent in your community for schools, job training, health care centers, etc. It’s too important to bypass the opportunity to be counted,” Smiley said.