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It's Sharpton vs. Jackson on Smiley vs. Obama

By Hamil R. Harris
The Rev. Al Sharpton broke with other prominent black leaders to criticize Tavis Smiley's "We Count! The Black Agenda is the American Agenda" conference taking place in Chicago this weekend, saying the PBS commentator would use it to criticize President Obama even though he didn't subject the last Democratic president to the same scrutiny.

Sharpton, who told The Post he attended a meeting at the White House this week, questioned black leaders who now criticize president. "We all have to deliver to our constituencies, but they keep saying we have to go back the streets and march, but they were never in the streets," he said. "They keep saying, 'Let's hold Obama's feet to the fire,' but did they do that with Bush or Bill Clinton? When were they marching? Let's hold to the same standard."

But the Rev. Jesse Jackson defended the meeting and told The Post he is looking forward to it. "The agenda meeting is good for the health of the nation," Jackson said, adding that he saw the meeting as simply an extension of his Rainbow Coalition. "The Latinos are marching in Washington this weekend, the gays have been fighting against 'don't tell' -- every group has their legislative issue."

While Jackson praised Obama for being "committed to representing all of America," he said that the Congressional Black Caucus also has the right to voice criticism if members think the president is not doing enough. "I think that within the voice of leadership, each group must express the interest of their constituency," he said of the caucus, which has recently become more vocal on the topic of the president and African American interests. "The civil rights movement wasn't an attack on Kennedy. It addressed unfinished business. I think President Obama will be up to the task."

Sharpton, the head of the National Action Network, said he didn't see skipping the meeting on the campus of Chicago State University as a sign of conflict. "There is no tension between black leaders of organizations. Tavis Smiley is a commentator. He does not have a constituency. We can't mix apples and oranges," Sharpton said.

By Hamil R. Harris  |  March 19, 2010; 6:20 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency , Barack Obama , Cast of Characters  
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Jeff Winbush and AndreaT1 well said! I found myself nodding in agreement reading your post. Thank you!

Posted by: john_clendenin | March 21, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

viable black leaders tend not to let themselves get boxed into a narrow constituency, representing just blackfolk would be counterproductive

its always been more effective to work for the common good that lifts all boats

coalition politics the only thing that will work when you only 10% of the population - and a weak 10% at that

specially in the current political climate, obama running pretty good game all things considered

folk trying to get obama to represent just trying to weaken him, or they are truly naive

smiley is not naive

Posted by: arthurflowers | March 20, 2010 11:25 PM | Report abuse

I watched Tavis Smiley's forum for a while on the internet today, and as I expected, it was an Obama bashing session. Tavis never was a supporter of the President, and this forum was more about sticking it to Pres. rather than addressing the needs of the Black community.

Posted by: mrgrbrad2 | March 20, 2010 8:43 PM | Report abuse

I'm wondering when was the election held that made Al Sharpton and Tavis Smiley "leaders" and why didn't I get a ballot? Maybe I never received one because there never was any such election and where Smiley and Shartpon want to lead Black people, I have no interest in following. I'm an individual first and I don't need professional race scam artists who answer to no one but themselves trying to lead me by the nose to fulfill an agenda I had no input in creating. President Obama will be held "accountable" by the people who put in him power. Not by hustlers and egomaniacs whom are an embarrassment to the legacy Martin and Malcolm and genuine Black leaders left us.

Posted by: jeffwinbush | March 20, 2010 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Fears that Obama could be a one-termer have them thinking they better get what civil rights reforms they can get now.

Posted by: hc2254 | March 20, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

I need to bust the American white media bubble -- but I would say 95 percent of Black Americans DO NOT call Tavis Smiley or Al Sharpton Black leaders. Most of us could care less about what either one of them has to say. I admit Sharpton has done some good for people -- not to take away that -- but he is not our leader. Just because Sharpton is outspoken and a media hog does not make him a leader of Black Americans. I would say that most of my fellow Black Americans would agree with me. And Tavis -- most Blacks do not know who he is or do not like him.

Posted by: AndreaT1 | March 20, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

With Tavis Smiley as host, I'm sure this meeting will be no more than an Obama-bashing session. Smiley(a Hillary Clinton supporter) is continuing his vendetta against Pres. Obama because Pres. Obama didn't attend Tavis' conference during the presidential primary, though he did offer to send his wife ,Michelle, but Tavis turned her away.

Posted by: mrgrbrad2 | March 20, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: SISSD1 | March 19, 2010 11:02 PM | Report abuse

As one who had the privilege of working with Martin Luther King for ten years, I feel compelled to point out that Re.Sharpton shows statesmanship, and a thoughtful concern for the people we all believe need to be helped. If you love the people, it behooves self-designated leaders to get out of the way, and work with this president.

Posted by: drwood1 | March 19, 2010 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Al is a leech! Not a Leader

Posted by: question-guy | March 19, 2010 8:42 PM | Report abuse

This is a very interesting debate. Especially, coming at an awkward time. It's barely been 1 year since the President took office, yet so called "Black Leaders" are criticizing the President for not doing enough. I couldn't disagree more! Ending the war in Iraq helps all Americans, especially African Americans. Fighting for extending Healthcare to the uninsured helps all Americans, especially African Americans. Extending Unemployment Benefits helps all Americans, especially African Americans. I could go on and on. I am an African American male. I consider so called "Black Leaders" who are critics of the President bankrupt looking for a paycheck. The are hoping to exploit the under-educated and get a free paycheck at the President's political expense. Remember, these are the same lame leaders who said they wanted to "cut off the President's body parts!"

Posted by: john_clendenin | March 19, 2010 7:20 PM | Report abuse

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