Dear Tavis and Al Sharpton,
I am writing this open letter to you two because I am confused.
The way I heard it, you, Brother Tavis, called out Rev. Al on the Tom Joyner Morning Show earlier this week and criticized him for not being open about what was said when President Obama met with him, NAACP Chair Benjamin Jealous, National Urban League chief Marc Morial and a host of other “black leaders.” Then Rev. Al, you, decided to make it more public and had Brother Tavis on your show later on that day and you two decided to have it out on national radio. And now this clip has been heard round the world.
I’m confused, because I really thought you two were better than this.
As a young African American male at the age of 25, I can’t help but wonder is this the legacy that you all are leaving behind? One of a public discord amongst each other? Come on now. I’ve followed both of you all in my short post-high school existence and both of you all seem to care deeply about those of us who are a part of the black community and, daresay, both seem to push a “black agenda” at one point or another, so why turn this into a battle of the egos and neither one backing down on the other.
Rev. Al, you claim to “keep it real” on the radio show, but yet you’re mum on exactly what was said following the White House meeting with Obama–which ironically was held under the cover of the white snow from Snowmeggedon II. Seriously, given the tenor of your radio program, for you to be quoted as touting Obama’s race neutral policies and being smart to not “ballyhoo a ‘black agenda'” is somewhat irresponsible to me on your behalf.
Brother Tavis, it’s becoming harder and harder to defend you by the day.
You can’t go around calling the meeting of the minds of the “Popes of Blackness” on a nationally syndicated talk show without telling the panelists when the meeting is, that’s just bad PR. Moreover, you didn’t want to back down when Rev. Al pushed back on your comments. Seriously, you should have seen this coming. And all of this amounted to you speaking before you thought. You’re a journalist, and have been doing this for a while, you know how media works and the potential of this. I supported you last year when the rest of black Americans were calling for your head on a platter when you simply asked for “accountability” from our elected officials, but when you go around throwing you’re weight as if you are the “Pope” of Blackness, then me and you have a problem.
And if this rumor I keep hearing about you publishing R. Kelly’s book has any validity, then SHAME ON YOU SIR!
I think it’s interesting that two individuals who supported Hillary Rodham Clinton through a significant portion of the Democratic Primary in 2008 would fall out over an issue such as this.
Just because the president doesn’t or maybe even can’t cater to a “black agenda” (whatever that looks like) doesn’t mean that you’re not supposed to. If we don’t speak up for ourselves, the history and present state of affairs clearly shows that no one else will advocate on our behalf. But we can’t have two black public figures fall out on national radio programs over such a petty issue. Thanks to you two, I’m not writing a blog about the work accomplished because of job creation from the White House meeting, but rather writing an open letter telling you two to get it together–not now, but right now!
I hope this is not the legacy that you’re leaving me. And by the same token, why is it that whenever these meetings take place no one is ever bringing along the twenty-year-olds to sit in on these meetings and learn from the wisdom of the elders? We’re left having to forge our own path and pray that you two will notice us hollering in the crowd “Pick me! Pick me!” Just because your predecessors worked on the old system of “paying your dues” doesn’t mean you have to make the same mistake.
But seriously? Where’s the mini-me Sharpton’s and the mini-me Tavis’?
Granted, neither of you two will be exiting the stage any time soon, but don’t make the same mistakes, enough of us have to last us a lifetime. I’m just tired of not hearing any new names come onto the stage. And when I do, its usually someone who’s knocking on the door of 40. I know it’s not because we’re an apathetic generation. I’ve met far too many young women and men my age who clearly have an opinion and are more than qualified, so I have to believe it’s because neither of you are doing an effective job with training young activists and you all are sadly, focused on self-aggrandizement.
Guess what, it’s really not about you.
Either of you.
I say this in love, but get it together and zip up your egos back in your pants and look at the bigger picture. Rather than sword fighting amongst yourselves, realize that it’s bigger than just you two and that there are a whole host of others of us who have serious issues that need to be addressed. Anytime both of you feel so compelled to jump between radio shows just to prove your point means you’ve missed the bigger picture.
I hope I don’t have to write a letter like this again. So, next time, someone take the high road and do what’s right. Get it together.
Sincerely, JLL, The Uppity Negro