Lynne d Johnson



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06.24.08 11:17 PM

Black In America @ Brooklyn Public Library

Tonight I had the pleasure of being invited by CNN to "The State of Black America: A Panel Discussion," with Soledad O'Brien. Panelists included Janks Morton, Dr. Steve Perry, Andre Leon Talley, and Dr. Cornel West.

This is part of a series of discussions that O'Brien has been hosting in conjunction with "CNN Presents: Black In America." There'll be a special VIP screening at the Essence Music Festival, and if you're a journalist or blogger who will be down there, I can send you name forward to get on the list. Just submit your request on my contact form, and I'll send your name to CNN.

With just my Tmobile Wing, it was impossible to shoot the entire event, or even to shoot it that well, but I did get two clips of the discussion. I mainly spent the rest of my time listening in, and eventually adding commentary to the discussion -- to inform them of who currently owns BlackPlanet, as well as to engage Dr. Perry to better understand his position.

Video: Andre Leon Talley asks Soledad O'Brien about the media's fascination with Tim Russert

The only problem I had is that the conversation, as so many conversations about race in America do, focused on the black male and his responsibility. Perhaps because there were four men on the panel, the conversation veered in this direction. A woman, Tara Wall, a conservative columnist and deputy editorial page editor for The Washington Times was supposed to attend but she had a family emergency.

It seems, we spend so much time, as a community, worrying about saving our young black males, that we often forget about the young black females. Many of them are just as angry as the young black males that everyone is focusing on. And many of them are being impacted -- greatly -- by the anger of young black males.

I was glad though that West pointed out that we could not, and possibly never will, be sure if all the steps we make will ever seriously have an impact or effect on the total devastation caused by American racism. I was also glad that he brought up that personal responsibility was just as important as community responsibility. Yet, I didn't wholeheartedly buy into most of the panelists belief that their generation left the next generation with a mess, or even that their generation grew up in a more collective effort and networking environment than the next generation. There's always all this talk about what's supposed to be Gen X, being the me generation, the most commodotized generation, and the most apathetic.

I'm often disheartened when I hear a lot of that generational talk, because I sit in a crossfire right dab smack in the middle of two generations. A lot of what the older folks are saying doesn't resonate with me, and then a lot of what the younger folks are saying doesn't necessarily resonate either.

One thing I do know, we can't let how far Obama has gotten fool us into believing that we have entered some transracial era in American history. If that's where we are in our thinking, it's time to remove the blindfold. We can't ignore that Obama is seen as a magical negro , and not an angry black man, as West also pointed out in tonight's discussion.

And though I didn't fully see eye-to-eye with Dr. Perry, author of Man Up!, I heard him loud and clear when he responded to a young man in the audience who said he was extremely angry after the Sean Bell verdict. He first asked the young man why this death meant so much more than any death that happens every day in the hood. He told him to ask himself that question first. And then told him to think about what he was doing as an individual in his community. That point rang clear and true to the young man, who shook is head, earnestly, in agreement. West added, that we are a blues people and that it's alright to sit back for a moment and think -- to turn on Luther, Aretha, James Clevland, and bring it all back together again.

As I hadn't intended on reporting this event, I didn't take notes, and most of what I've written here comes directly from my recollection. Hopefully, some publication out there is getting it right and telling the truth, in full.

Video: Dr. Cornel West on the Obama era

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