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King to Obama: The Black Male Experience?

Let me first to admit that I am cynical and over opinionated. As much as people believe that I'm very positive and optimistic and I am, I rarely believe things are as simple as it seems or appears so as I viewed the documentary by Tavis Smiley, "The Stand", it was not from an objective view. I brought with me my understanding of Tavis' personal history and journey to success, his world view, and his recent "troubles" with Obama and Tom Joyner. Is this fair? (shrug) But I wanted to preface my review of the documentary so you know I went in LOOKING and listening with a highly critical EAR. I also kept in mind this was suppose to be a look at the 40 years from King to Obama.

Historical Context
The one thing I did like about the documentary was its historical context. I think the documentary provides and inside look at Martin Luther King and his humanity. It lets us remember the struggle of the movement 40 years go and the fortitude it took to overcome each day. So yes, show your children the documentary. It does allow the world to view intelligent black men who have a world view, who have understood the importance of education and our historical importance of the past, present, and future. Kudos.

Community includes Diverse Thought
As Tavis introduce each of the men who were to participate on this road trip, he let us know these were his friends, his boys. We understood there would some instant familiarity with each participant but does this get you to your outcome? This was the intended outcome:

"Smiley and friends explore the diversity and complexity of the Black male experience in America past, present and future."

hmmmm.....diversity and complexity of the Black Male Experience?

So who are these Black Males:

Tavis Smiley, Dick Gregory, Eric Michael Dyson, Cornel West, Cliff West, Eddie Glaude, BeBe Winans, Wren T. Brown, Daron Boyce, Robert Smith and Raymond Ross.

Is this a diverse group?

I'd say no. Yes, Eric Michael Dyson and Cornel West can speak on anything BUT is that really bringing in diversity to the Black Male Experience. As much as I can appreciate seeing very well EDUCATED Black men, intellect isn't always attached to a degree where was the Obama generation (Generation X and the Milliennials). Eddie Glaude, was a spectator and the two young men were there to witness this historic event. And even at 44, Tavis gravitates towards the "old way". His use of term "negroes" sounds dated.

So how can you go from King to Obama without truly looking at the MTV/Hip Hop generation, have them actively participate in this discussion to represent a varied point of view on the Black Male Experience. I would say, this wasn't Tavis' true intent. It was just a very specific slice of the experience with "negroes" he was comfortable with and could agree with.

Please note: I respect and adore all of the men in the film. I'm just looking at the intended outcome. The Black Male Experience is diverse. We have Black male intellectuals who could have truly represented the Obama generation. I could say more but.....

The Black Church and Christianity
I am a Christian. I love Yeshua. Ok.

The Black Church in 2009 has no influence on public policy, social issues, education, etc as it did 40 years ago. We have to stop thinking that it does. It doesn't because its focus turned inward. It is no longer about the store front but about the MEGA church. Its no longer about the community where it resides but the community within its walls. I know this from working in social service and calling churches for assistance with people from their community. Membership required.

Also, it was the INTENT to me to leave out the Muslim experience and to push a Christian agenda. Remember, I love Yeshua but I also can see between the lines. Eddie Glaude's admitting that he now believes in a god because he listened to a Christian song actually made me go...."Oh brother". Editing is a trip. I'm like Tavis, remember what your outcome is with this film, the Black Male Experience. That experience hasn't been totally in the Black Church. It has been in Mosques and NOI meetings as well. Showing clips of each man, "teaching" (more like preaching) in a black church was very intentional but exclusionary. This isn't the total experience but a slice.

Was the Black Church important to the civil rights movement? YES. VERY Important. Is it important to the civil rights movement of today? NO. Why? Because it doesn't want to be.

"Thou protesteth too much"
We know of Tavis' issues with Obama and its made clear, to me anyway, in this film and in his remarks afterwards. He's still trying to convince us that he likes Barrack but he's just holding him accountable. Ok Tavis. :/

There was a definite negative Obama vibe to this documentary. This notion of holding Obama accountable is interesting. NEVER have I heard so much about accountability until now. Is this a case of "I don't wanna look like I'm being soft on a brotha"? Yes, Tavis has criticize the Bush administration but what about accountability? (shrug) Seems interesting. He has to give it up. Stop overly explaining why you say what you say about Obama. I wholeheartedly agree that we need to hold Barack accountable as President of the US. We must criticize him when he fails to do as he's promised. Unfortunately, Tavis' message of accountability is clouded.

Three things that I noticed at the session afterward the viewing:
  1. Tavis criticized Barack's lack of a stance on the underserved and poor. He criticized Obama's simplified response as he put it. So when a woman stands up to address her issues with the educational system and even on some level the black bourgeoisiebut mentioning she read Tavis' book, "The Covenant with Black America", Tavis, in my opinion, pitched his books and didn't not fully take on the issue that the woman was making. The woman was in tears speaking on how the system had "lynched" her son.
  2. He also used the opportunity to demonstrate how the last book regarding accountability was already in the works so it wasn't about Obama.

I thought it also interesting how there was issue with Obama for addressing Black Fatherhood. To be honest, that's another blog altogether. I truly believe Black single mothers have NO issue with Barack's message to Black men. Accountability goes both ways.

I could go on and on especially about the black middle class and our own classism.

At the end of the day, I recommend anyone to watch it. I do believe most people will love it. I think because I've been in the community, I know this film really won't change anything. Its educational entertainment.

My rant has ended for now.......


Max Nomad said…
It boils down to the answer of a rather simple question: In the Relay 440 Race known as the Civil Rights Struggle from the 60s through today, did the baby boomers let go of the baton too soon (expecting the next generation to be right there to run with it) or did Gen X/Y not appreciate the race enough to run hard and fast enough to catch the hand-off?

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