As they embark on a nationwide tour, Professor Cornel West and Tavis Smiley have said that they will highlight hardships in communities across the nation, especially the Black and poor communities.
The bus tour, which is drawing large crowds and media attention, is focused on White House policies that West and Smiley believes are not inclusive of Blacks. The two say they believe that the president does not have a Black agenda, and will be discussing whether he should.
Some Black lawmakers are said to be beginning a campaign to address the staggering unemployment rate among African Americans, an issue that has become a growing source of tension between members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Obama administration. Lack of jobs for Blacks has created tension between Black lawmakers and President Obama.
Smiley and West will be kicking off the bus tour right in the heart of Chicago's Black community, the president's "front yard." "It is not an anti-Obama tour," West says, but it does appear to highlight what West and Smiley says is lack of effort by both the president and Congress to address the needs of the Americans who have been hardest hit by the recession. West has received criticism for speaking out against Obama.
Not too long ago, a colleague of Smiley, Tom Joyner, called those who criticize the President "haters" and that they needed to be quiet because Obama and democrats would be hurt if the Black vote got split.
Also, Rev. Al Sharpton had sharply criticized the motivations and integrity of those who questioned President Obama's willingness to meet with the CBC to discuss targeted jobs legislation.
Then former Princeton Professor Melissa Harris-Perry recently referred to Professor West's critique of the Obama administration as, "a self-aggrandizing, victimology sermon deceptively wrapped in the discourse of prophetic witness..."
It appears that a very troubling pattern has developed within certain segments of the Black community. There's a concerted effort by some to silence those who are offering honest, sincere, and well thought through analysis and criticism of the Obama administration particularly as it relates to the conditions of Black and poor masses. Especially, as they say that statistics show 97 percent of Black people voted for Obama.
The following is a BET.com interview with West prior to the tour.
BET.com: Why are you embarking on the poverty tour and whose idea was it?
West: Tavis Smiley and I had been talking for a year about how to dramatize the poverty and humanize our perception of poor people in America. This is especially so for the Black poor. Poverty has been criminalized, poor people demonized and what we want to do is dramatize poverty and humanize our perception of poor people to overturn what has been in place for so long. When he came up with this idea for the tour I thought it was a magnificent idea.
BET.com: What are some of the stops on the tour?
West: We're going to an Indian reservation in Wisconsin, we're going to hit the brown barrios, the Asian poor communities, White poor communities, the Black hoods and we're ending in Memphis to keep alive the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.'s fundamental commitment to sanitation workers there, and of course his assassination.
BET.com: How are you going to share your observations and some of the things you'll see while on the tour?
West: We've got an embedded reporter from The Washington Post, camera people who'll be keeping track and of course, you'll be able to follow most every second of it on the Internet on the tavistalks.com and smileyandwest.com. And there will be documentary filmmakers so we can keep the story going after. I think we're going to see great dignity, great suffering and great resiliency. What may be getting lost in the conversation is that honest criticism is not betrayal; it is part of the democratic process. It is democracy at its best ... or worst ... depending on who is criticizing whom.