At about this time each year, I plan for a full day of watching Tavis Smiley's State of the Black Union (SOBU) on CSPAN. I enjoy the panel discussion, the back-and-forth exchanging of critical ideas. I appreciated that people from all walks of life were invited: academics, activists, politicians, and religions leaders. Therefore, I was saddened to hear there would be no more SOBU. To hear why Smiley stopped the SOBU, you should hear it in his own words.
To be honest, many critics took Smiley to task and we should not gloss over those criticisms. Some complained of the strong corporate presence at the SOBU. True, there were corporate entities that only see Black America as dollar bills, but that is what corporate America does. Besides, their support allowed the SOBU to be free to the public.
A criticism I always had was the strong class bias of the SOBU. There were lots of panelists talking about poor people, but rarely did low-income people ever get a chance to air their side of the story.
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