Tavis Smiley Talks Brotherhood, Obama

Speaker, author gives insight into DVD

Throughout the film there is a lot of hugging, crying, and expressing of emotions. Today that is non-existent for black men of all ages. How do we get African American males to be comfortable in their own skin and feel like they won’t get picked on for showing emotions that today, people label as soft?

It’s a powerful question, and the short answer is, we have to learn to be comfortable with the skin that we’re in and you can do that in a few ways. Number one, it helps to stand in your own truth, to be your authentic self, and for a lot of people that’s easier said than done.

Everyone of those brothers that you see in this film is comfortable being themselves. You have 10 or 11 distinct personalities in this film and everyone is comfortable being themselves, you don’t see anyone fighting for airtime, we were in dialogue, and throughout the film everyone has his moment.

There are moments when we’re all in dialogue and then they’re moments when we’re all listening to the person who is doing the speaking and we all revel in those moments. We all revel in those moments when we’re not being heard, we’re comfortable with being generous listeners because we all are comfortable in our skin. There is a force bigger than you, that cares about you and since there is something that cares about your well being, you need to care about something outside of your skin.

So it’s a question about what you believe in and what kind of love and service to your people are you going to engage yourself in.

You’ve received a lot of flack from your criticism of President Obama, and you pose the question, “How can we get Obama to be the next Lincoln if we’re not his Frederick Douglass?” Can you elaborate on that?

Last year when I was raising these issues of accountability, the thing that was most interesting for me is what people didn’t understand was, that was not at all a radical departure from anything I have ever done in my career. To whatever degree I have been celebrated in black America, people know that I love black people and they know that I will do any and everything I can with the platforms that I have been given to pull out the best in black people.

My entire career that’s all I have ever done is to keep people starting with us, accountable for our actions. So the fact that I raised these issues when Obama was running, there wasn’t a change or departure at all but because there was a black guy running people didn’t want me raising issues on matters of importance to black people. Well, for me to all of the sudden not raise issues of consequence would’ve been to abandon what I’ve always done. is it me or is it something else, because All I was doing [was challenging this president] “in-love,” the same thing I’ve always done.

So now, fast forward a year and everybody including the president is talking about accountability. Every speech the president gives he’s talking about accountability and now that he could potentially cut $85 million dollars out of the HBCU’s, now black folk are up in arms and now they’re talking about accountability. No one wanted to ask him these questions and now we have to wrestle with whatever he does as president and be sure to remind him that we expect him to uphold and not because he’s the president of black America but because these are issues we would hold any president accountable for.

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  • Zora

    Great piece, especially the Obama question. I admit, I was a bit miffed at Tavis Smiey for his criticism of Obama, its good to hear his point of view.

    Thanks Mr. Coachman!

  • TK

    Good piece. Tavis is just saying we need to be accountable for our actions.

  • Dorothy

    I have always watched and enjoyed Tavis , I do however take issue with him regarding Barack Obama,we should require anycivil servent to serve the people , Tavis was unduly critical of Obama

  • Shaneel

    I beg to defer with Dorothy. I thank God for men like Travis who question things. Often time we accept what we see and hear instead of critically analyzing things. Travis’ concerns should have allowed us as a people to look at President Obama and analyze what his intentions were and if he would really bring about change, especially to black America. Let us not be fooled by the color of the man’s skin. He could have been, or maybe is, a wolf in sheep skin.


    I viewed the piece “Stand” and enjoyed it; however, I am a bit perturbed by this entitlement mentality some African Americans maintain with President Obama. Throughout “Stand” subtle, overt (and covert) messages of “what is Obama going to do to pay homage to those before (i.e. Jesse Jackson, MLK, etc.)? Aware of countless pioneering contributions some African Americans make and/or have made, at the end of the day, “I” am responsible for taking care of my business. In other words, I only expect President Obama to be the president of the United States of America, in which I am a part. My parents were blue collar workers with high diplomas (my Dad had an 8th grade education) who told my sister and myself we were “going to college”. We knew we were going, but my parents couldn’t do our school work; we had to do it! Do I appreciate the contributions of my parents and my ancestors…YES!!! Thus, homage isn’t something I believe President Obama has to do to prove to us (African Americans) that he cares about “our” concerns and issues…that’s “our” job! PERIOD…