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Monday, March 22, 2010

Chicago's Black Agenda Forum: Obama Threw Loyal Black Voters Under The Bus

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Panel Criticizes Obama's Handling Of Black Agenda

In the words of Princeton Professor Cornel West, it was about "a black face in a high place.''

President Obama was the target of slings and arrows Saturday from some of the nation's most quoted African-American leaders -- but, they said repeatedly, it was all done "in love."

The rollicking "black agenda" debate at Chicago State University focused on African-American concerns, including jobs and education -- and whether Obama is doing enough. Organized by talk show host Tavis Smiley, it was part revival and all theater.

"I'm very proud," Minister Louis Farrakhan said with timing that drew laughter, "that a black man sits in the White" -- he paused -- "House."

But Obama received mass support from African-American voters, the Nation of Islam leader said, and "we have a right to expect something of the brother."

Georgetown Professor Michael Eric Dyson likened Obama to Jackie Robinson, who broke the color line in baseball. Robinson may not have been the most gifted black ballplayer of all time, Dyson said, but his temperament enabled him to withstand racist abuse. Then, superstar Willie Mays followed.

As for Obama, Dyson said: "I'm waiting for Willie Mays to come behind him."

At one point, Farrakhan, who has been accused of being anti-Semitic, said Obama is not loved in Israel because of his "chutzpah."

"That's a Jewish term that meant testicular fortitude," Farrakhan said.

Then Bennett College President Julianne Malveaux urged him not to "genderize."

So Dyson suggested the term "ovarian audacity" -- to laughter.

West, who jumped up often to hug the 11 other panelists, said Obama has surrounded himself with too many people from Wall Street.

"You can bail banks out," Malveaux said, "But you can't put people back to work."

"Too many of us are just happy to have a black president," said Michael Fauntroy, an assistant professor at George Mason University.

"The black agenda is the humane agenda," said the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Several times, panelists said the Obama administration has been more active on Mideast politics and Latino and gay concerns than on issues that specifically affect African Americans.

But after the criticism and jokes, the participants seemed to scale back the rhetoric, saying they appreciate Obama's challenges.

Farrakhan said he was saddened by "demonizing" of Obama, including renderings of the president with a Hitler mustache, and of Michelle Obama, "the most beautiful black woman to be by his side," as a monkey. "Oh, man," he said, trailing off.

After discussing fears of an assassination attempt on Obama, Farrakhan said, "We need to pray for the brother and his family, and warn America: Leave that brother alone.''

"We love you," Dyson said, speaking of Obama. "We just want some love back."

Some black leaders have accused Smiley of Obama-bashing. He said Saturday's event was scheduled before anyone knew it would come on the eve of a key congressional vote on Obama's health-care reform bill.

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Sources: Chicago Sun Times, MSNBC, Fox News, Youtube, Google Maps

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