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Thanking C-Span for airing the forum for nine years, talk show host and author Tavis Smiley presented the annual State of the Black Union beginning February 22 in New Orleans. Reclaiming our Democracy, Deciding our future was this year’s theme. Smiley began the forum urging the nearly 5000 people who attended to purchase his “Covenant” book series where the latest edition, “Accountable: Making the Covenant Real” talks about leader accountability.
“We need to hold the next president accountable,” Smiley said to thundering applause.
“We need to make sure that before the allure of the Oval Office creates amnesia,” that the next president of the United States sticks to his or her campaign promises.
Smiley chose New Orleans as the 2008 venue, he said, as a way to hone in on the continuous devastating after effects of Hurricane Katrina, another one of the forum highlights this year, like exacerbated crime, lack of affordable housing and shoddy health care systems.
“We owe it to them, those who survived, those who are still struggling to rebuild their lives,” he said.
“We owe it to them to raise these issues louder than ever.”
Senator/presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, the only candidate to attend, promoted her campaign and defended her husband’s recent political goof ups.
“We’re all in this together for the nation’s sake,” she said pointing to the riff between her and Barack Obama supporters.
“I’ve had enough of “the hand wringing, finger pointing, and grim statistics.”
Then, during a question and answer session with Smiley: “If anyone was offended by anything that was said, whether it was meant or not, or misinterpreted or not, then obviously, I regret that.”
“My husband apologized for slavery. My husband mended, so as to avoid ending, affirmative action. My husband had in his White house, his cabinet, his administration, many of you who I see here, in either full-time or advisory positions,” she added when questioned about former president Bill Clinton’s remarks on Obama winning the Black vote in South Carolina.
Meanwhile, Obama was noticeably absent from the event, a decision Smiley publicly criticized.
“I believe this is a critical miscalculation and a missed opportunity,” Smiley told radio host Tom Joyner earlier this month.
“Just as we would have declined had Hillary Clinton offered Bill Clinton, had John McCain offered Cindy McCain, had Mike Huckabee suggested Janet Huckabee,” he added, in reference to Obama offering his wife Michelle’s attendance instead.
But Obama defended his position via a letter to Smiley earlier this month stating that while he commends Smiley for putting the forum together to discuss important Black American issues, he could not miss the opportunity to prepare for the March 4 primaries.
“In the final stretch, I will be on the campaign trail every day in states like Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin talking directly with voters about the causes that are at the heart of my campaign and the State of the Black Union forum,” he wrote.
Other notables in attendance included Dick Gregory, Jesse Jackson, Ray Nagin and Al Sharpton.