Tuesday, March 31, 2009

President of Brazil Goes After “Blue Eyed Bankers”

Gordon Brown with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

White, blue-eyed bankers are entirely to blame for the world financial crisis that has ended up hitting black and indigenous people disproportionately, the president of Brazil declared .

In an outspoken intervention as Gordon Brown stood alongside him, Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva pledged to make next week's G20 summit "spicy" as he accused the rich of forcing the poor into greater hardship.

"This crisis was caused by no black man or woman or by no indigenous person or by no poor person," Lula said after talks with the prime minister in Brasilia to discuss next week's G20 summit in London.

"This crisis was fostered and boosted by irrational behaviour of some people that are white, blue-eyed. Before the crisis they looked like they knew everything about economics, and they have demonstrated they know nothing about economics."

Challenged about his claims, Lula responded: "I only record what I see in the press. I am not acquainted with a single black banker."


Click to read.

Recent Poll: Americans Don’t Blame Obama for Economy

U.S. President Barack Obama benefits from a broadly held perception that others bear the bulk of responsibility for state of the U.S. economy, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll published on Tuesday.

Asked who was responsible for the economic meltdown, 80 percent in the poll blamed banks, financial institutions and corporations. Some 70 percent also blamed consumers for taking on too much debt and the former Bush administration for lax regulation. Only 26 percent said the Obama administration was not doing enough to turn the situation around.

Two-thirds of respondents approve of the way Obama is handling the presidency, and 60 percent approve of the way he is handling the economy.

Sixty-four percent said were confident Obama's policies will improve the economy, down from 72 percent just before he took office in January.


Click to read.

Dr Boyce v. The NCAA…John Calipari’s Contract


Sources says that John Calipari from U. Memphis is close to inking a 6-year, $40 Million dollar contract to sign with the University of Kentucky.  Not only does this contract steam me because Kentucky is my alma mater, but it is indescribably unethical for a professional sports league like the NCAA to spend this kind of money and then simultaneously claim that it cannot afford to share revenues with the families of basketball and football players.

I love when these deals are signed, since it reminds the public of just how hypocritical the NCAA happens to be.

There story is here.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

NCAA Responds to Dr. Boyce Watkins

To join the Your Black World Coalition, please click here

The NCAA Explains its Behavior 

By Dr. Boyce Watkins


In its effort to impact public perception and in response to those across the nation who’ve critiqued the NCAA’s revenue generation at the expense of college athletes and their families, the league has put something on its website entitled: Behind the Blue Disk: Why Don't You Pay Student-Athletes?

I have provided the statement made by the NCAA, with a “between the lines” short response, explaining why athletes in revenue generating sports deserve to have the same rights the rest of us enjoy as Americans. The arguments used by the NCAA to justify its behavior are eerily similar to those used during slavery, in which the high profitability of the cotton trade led those in power to presume that it was also O.K. to strip other human beings of their labor rights.   Many years ago, some said that slaves were better off under the control of their masters, and that they were actually protecting African Americans by earning excessive profit from their hard work.  Like slavery’s Underground Railroad (which was illegal at the time), coaches and others are sometimes caught giving payments to players beneath the table so these athletes can help their families.  The arguments made by the NCAA can get a bit silly at times, since they are stuck with the difficult task of defending that which cannot be defended.  Even Walter Byers, former Executive Director of the NCAA said “the federal government should require deregulation of a monopoly business operated by not-for-profit institutions contracting together to achieve maximum financial returns.”  Translation:  the NCAA is earning a great deal of money by rigging the economic game in their favor and Congress has been allowing them to do it.  Byers, and many others are saying that the families of athletes deserve to make a living from sports, just like the coaches.

The NCAA’s statement (and my response) is below.  Enjoy!

Dr. Boyce Watkins


This is America! Student-athletes should get paid!
Critics often cite capitalism as a reason for paying student-athletes. But not everything that looks like capitalism is capitalism.
Higher education and intercollegiate athletics generate significant revenues, but the revenues don’t go to making a profit for owners or shareholders - or campuses or college sports, for that matter. The revenues go to providing increased opportunities for all student-athletes.

Rebuttal: As I mentioned earlier, slaveholders justified taking away labor rights of slaves because they argued that they were using the revenues of slavery to feed the slaves and clothe them.  They neglected to mention that they were making many individuals wealthy in the process.  Today, the NCAA is a non-profit organization, granted.  But coaches, commentators, corporations and administrators earn millions from this non-profit organization every year.  Finally, the NCAA earns more revenue during March Madness than all the other professional sports leagues, including the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB.  I am a Finance Professor, and I know capitalism when I see it.

Nonetheless, student-athletes are doing the work. They should get paid!
This argument falls apart right from the start because student-athletes are students first who have the opportunity to compete athletically. They are not university employees. As student-athletes, they are among the fortunate few that are able to continue their development in both the competitive arena and the classroom.
Rebuttal: I have seen this system up close for the past 15 years as a professor at 4 universities with major athletics programs.  Student athletes are NOT students first, especially those in basketball and football.  Their scholarships are taken away if they do not perform on the field, they are put in dorms away from the other students, they are expected to miss class to play in games, and their time is so taxed that they barely have a chance to do anything else.  The NCAA hardly runs a “weekend warrior” operation, since athletes bring in more money than nearly any other employee campus.

I’m not buying it. Big-time athletic programs are awash in money.
Wrong! More than 90 percent of NCAA schools consistently lose money on their athletics programs. Most are forced to rely on alternative funding to even field teams. Paying players would only make the problem worse.

Rebuttal: Any school that is not making money from college sports should not be paying its head coach more than $100,000 per year.  Instead, many schools sign deals for as much as $6.5 million per year for football and basketball coaches.  It is a bit nonsensical to attempt to argue that you are wallowing in poverty when your organization is creating millionaire television commentators, coaches, and athletic directors every year.  Additionally, schools don’t have to pay athletes at all.  They should only allow athletes to have the same labor rights as coaches and other Americans.  The athlete can then earn money from his/her own image from sources off campus.  You see?  With just a little bit of intelligence, we can assuage the NCAA’s concerns, as they argue that they are nothing more than harmless paupers barely squeezing by.

Why not eliminate the non-revenue sports and pay the football and men’s basketball players?

Nice try but there is no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow either. In Division I, only 30 percent of football and 26 percent of men’s basketball programs make money. For the pure capitalist, that means more than two out of three football teams and three out of four basketball teams would be in jeopardy because they are losing money. But let’s get beyond the economics. The NCAA is about increasing participation opportunities for all student-athletes, not diminishing them. The benefits of participating in college sports are too valuable to limit to a chosen few in two sports.

Rebuttal: Even a company that is not making a profit should have to fairly compensate its employees.  Additionally, many of the universities who claim to be broke are signing multimillion dollar deals with their coaches (the University of Kentucky just gave its basketball coach $6 million dollars to quit).  If you were to simply redistribute the revenue that the coach earns, your problem would be solved.  Finally, participation for all athletes in non-revenue sports is certainly important, and it is ridiculous to believe that other sports would not exist without the blatant violation of student athlete labor rights.  High schools operate sports programs on far less than the billions earned by the NCAA.    

OK. But aren’t student-athletes being exploited?
Absolutely not. Our ground-breaking studies show most current and former student-athletes appreciate the educational and athletics opportunities that college presents. In general, student-athletes graduate at a higher rate than the general student body. They do so while simultaneously playing the sport they love and preparing for their future as a pro in something other than sports. And let us not forget the average full-ride scholarship at a public school is worth more than $100,000, no small sum by any means. In total, Division I and II institutions cumulatively award $1.5 billion in athletics scholarships each year. Division III does not award athletics aid.

Rebuttal: I am not sure what the NCAA is referring to with their “groundbreaking study” (I hope it’s not as bad as the CBS infomercial they featured me on last year, which included several millionaire coaches and commentators - Coach K at Duke, Clark Kellogg, Billy Packer - explaining why athletes’ families should be left out of the revenue-generating pool).   I also recommend that they do a survey of athletes in revenue-generating sports to determine if they agree with the NCAA’s optimistic assessments of the student athlete experience.  The NCAA seems to work very hard to shape the playing field in their favor, as any unbiased survey would show that athletes in revenue generating sports (and their families) would much rather have their labor rights restored.  In fact, the NCAA almost never engages in public debates to defend their current system (when I spoke on this issue on CNN, the NCAA refused to put someone on the show to debate me.  I speculate that they are nervous about dealing with a Finance Professor and Educator who knows the system and has the ear of African American males).
Does Title IX play a role in this issue?
We’re pretty sure it would. This historic 1972 federal civil rights law has been interpreted to say female student-athletes are to be treated the same as male student-athletes. Although it has never been tested in court, we suspect this same interpretation would apply if colleges started paying either. The penalty for not complying is the loss of federal educational funds, something no college can survive without these days.

Rebuttal: The NCAA does not have to pay anyone.  The argument is that they and Congress should stop restricting the labor rights of college athletes.  They can do the same for female athletes as well.  Hiding behind Title IX simply doesn’t work, since there would be no violation necessary.

Documented benefits of being a student-athlete:

  • They enjoy high levels of engagement in academics, athletics, and community

Rebuttal: I’ve dealt with student athletes for the past 15 years.  Many of them are tired from practicing constantly, USA Today found that they are steered toward particular academic majors, and they are constantly in fear of disobeying their coaches, even if it is to attend class.  Many athletes do not have the sheer joy that the NCAA attempts to present to the American public.  This reminds me of pictures of happy slaves my history teacher used to show in class.

  • They have very positive feelings about their overall athletics/academic experience

Rebuttal: Again, I recommend having an independent body do a survey of former student athletes in revenue-generating sports to determine if their experience was as enjoyable as the NCAA proclaims it to be.  Just ask the family of Curtis Williams, a football player at The University of Washington, who was paralyzed in a game and died a few months later.  The NCAA initially refused to pay for his home care and then later refused to pay his death benefit, even though he was paralyzed on the football field. I would not consider this to be a positive athletic experience.

  • They attribute learning invaluable life skills to being a student-athlete
  • They are more likely to earn similar or higher wages after college than non-student-athletes

Rebuttal: I do not disagree with either of these assessments, since I enjoyed being an athlete when I was young.  However, the idea that someone benefits from something doesn’t imply that you have the right to steal their labor rights.  Those forced into slavery gained tremendous physical strength from picking cotton all day, but that doesn’t justify the master’s criminal behavior.  The bottom line is this:  The NCAA has colluded with Congress to strip fundamental rights from a select group of individuals through a nexus of rules and cartels with serious threat of punishment to those in violation of cartel policies.  This sort of behavior would be illegal in nearly any other industry in America, but it is acceptable to the rest of us because most of the players are Black.

So, as the NCAA argues that such abhorrent behavior is actually helping college athletes, we must remember that a thief who vacuums your carpet is still the guy who broke into your house.  There is no getting around accountability.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and author of “What if George Bush were a Black Man?”  For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The World Loses a Soldier


John Hope Franklin, one of the most prolific and well-respected chroniclers of America’s torturous racial odyssey, died of congestive heart failure Wednesday in a Durham, N.C., hospital. He was 94.

It was more than Franklin’s voluminous writings that cemented his reputation among academics, politicians and civil rights figures as an inestimable historian. It was the reality that Franklin, a black man, had seen racial horrors up close and thus was able to give his academic work a stinging ballast. Franklin was a young boy when his family lost everything in the Tulsa race riot of 1921. The violence was precipitated by reports that a black youth assaulted a white teenage girl in a downtown elevator. In the end more than 40 people died, mostly blacks, although some reports put the death total much higher.

Franklin was among the first black scholars to earn prominent posts at America’s top — and predominantly white — universities. His research and his personal success helped pave the way both for other blacks and for the field of black studies, which began to blossom on American campuses in the 1960s.


Click to read.

Notre Dame Criticizes Choice of Obama to Speak

Jimmy Carter came to Notre Dame in 1977. So did Ronald Reagan in 1981 and George W. Bush in 2001.

The University of Notre Dame has a tradition of inviting new presidents to speak at graduation. But this year's selection of President Barack Obama has been met by a barrage of criticism that has left some students fearing their commencement ceremony will turn into a circus.

Many Catholics are angered by Obama's planned appearance at the May 17 ceremony because of his decisions to provide federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and international family planning groups that provide abortions or educate about the procedure.

The consensus Thursday on the campus of the nation's most-prominent Catholic university was that any president should be welcomed at Notre Dame.

"People are definitely entitled to their outrage, but I think the main thing is to see that it's an honor to have the president of the United Statescome to speak here whether you agree with him or not," said Katie Woodward, a political science junior from Philadelphia.

Justin Mack, a senior film major from Dallas, agreed.


Click to read.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Your Black Money: Obama Speaks to the Nation about the Crisis

Click the image to watch President Obama’s recent economic address!



Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Professor Boyce Watkins calls for NCAA Reform

Here is the schedule for coming media appearances related to the call for NCAA reform by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Finance Professor at Syracuse University.

Boyce Watkins to discuss NCAA and Black athletes on WBCP Radio, Champagne, IL - 3/27/09

Boyce Watkins to appear on Gtown Radio - 3/26/09

Dr. Boyce on NPR to discuss NCAA - 3/26/09

Dr. Watkins to appear on XM Satellite Radio - 3/27/09

Dr Boyce in the Baltimore Sun-Times - 3/25/09

Dr. Boyce discusses the NCAA at Loyola College in Maryland - 3/24/09

President Obama Has Icy Exchanges with Media

U.S. President Barack Obama listens during a prime time news ...

After an uncharacteristic gaffe on 'The Tonight Show' and an unfortunate case of the giggles on '60 Minutes,' President Obama had a lot riding on his Tuesday night press conference. The president largely stayed on message, using the hour to focus on the economy, the budget, and his anger (even if was delayed) at those darn AIG bonuses.

The buzziest moment came about 35 minutes into the press conference when Ed Henry of CNN asked the President why he didn't spew outrage as soon as he learned about the AIG bonuses. Why, Mr. Henry asked, did the president wait several days before speaking out? The president, with an icy stare, responded that he "likes to know what he's talking about" before he speaks. It was a pretty testy exchange that brought about nervous laughter from the other reporters andsnarky responses from Twitterers. Boom! Next question.

Another moment that seemed to strike a chord came when Chuck Todd of NBC asked the president what sort of sacrifices he would like to see from the American people during this economic crisis. The president responded that he expects Americans to do what they've always done "which is working hard, looking after their families, making sure that, despite the economic hard times, that they're still contributing to their community..."

Chip Reid asked a tough question about Obama's controversial budget. Reid asked if the budget, which will increase the debt to "$7 trillion over the next 10 years," is a case of passing problems onto the next generation. Obama responded that investments need to be made to "meet our growth targets that put us on a pathway to growth.

Click to read.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Black Love gone bad: Whose at Fault in Domestic Violence Situations?

By Hugh V. Collins

Based on the article posted earlier, "Boston Teens state Rihanna is at Fault for Assault", I was compelled to add my perspective.

I am a Boston resident and while I'm not surprised at how some "teens" may think, it is surprising and alarming that they think Rihanna is responsible for her demise. I see teenagers running the streets of the city daily and I tell you, sometimes I just have to shake my head. Why do I feel like you see the same behaviors and think the same thing?

One may say a person's behavior is a direct indication and response to what medicine they receive at home. I use the term medicine because it is something someone usually takes to heal a symptom and some of these kids haven't been getting the right medicine. Domestic violence is common. Whoever tells you domestic violence it is not common is living under a rock. The thought process of the teenagers surveyed, while not unstable, may have answered in honesty based on their exposure to what happens in their home, and how they perceive the behavior of the participants of the parties involved - the abuser and the abused.


Click to read.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Fed Chief Says Entire Financial System Must Be Overhauled

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks about reforming ...

The nation's financial regulatory system must be overhauled to strengthen oversight of banks, mutual funds and large financial institutions whose collapse would put the entire economy in peril, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Tuesday.

"We must have a strategy that regulates the financial system as a whole, in a holistic way, not just its individual components," Bernanke said in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations.

In his most extensive remarks on the subject, Bernanke built upon previous suggestions to bolster mutual funds and a program that insures bank deposits — and repeated his call for Congress to create a system to cushion fallout from the failure of a big financial institution.

The Fed chief's remarks come as the Obama administration and Congress are starting to crafting their overhaul strategies. For the administration, critical work on that front will be carried out among global finance officials this weekend in London. That will help set the stage for a meeting of leaders from the world's 20 major economic powers in April.


Click to read.

Dr Boyce Watkins on NPR: Politics, Obama, Foreign Policy, Social Commentary

Dr Boyce Watkins, Finance Professor at Syracuse University, discusses foreign policy, The Obama Administration and the Economy.  Click the image to listen!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Obama to Lift Stem Cell Ban

President Obama will sign an executive order Monday lifting limits on human embryonic stem cell research and will direct federal agencies to "restore scientific integrity" to decision-making, White House aides said Sunday.

Obama's order follows years of wrangling over stem cells and scientific decision-making in the Bush administration.

"Public policy must be guided by sound scientific advice," said Nobel Prize winner Harold Varmus, co-chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, discussing the order and memorandum Sunday.

Melody Barnes of Obama's Domestic Policy Council added that the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy will set standards for federal science advisers, insulating them from political interference.

The executive order will reverse President George W. Bush's 2001 decision to withhold federal support of research on newly collected colonies of embryonic stem cells, the master cells from which all tissues are formed. Bush, who opposed the destruction of embryos necessary to harvest the cells, limited research funding to 21 stem cell colonies, or lines, already in existence.

Click to read.


Monday, March 9, 2009

The Irony of Obama’s Fear Language

By Dr. Boyce Watkins


Let’s be clear: This recession has become President Barack Obama’s personal War on Terror. Like the War on Terror, the enemy is evasive, the challenge is global, international cooperation is necessary, and the battle is unlike any other in our nation’s history. Wars are good for political business: when people get scared, politicians get a blank check to fulfill their legislative agenda. After 9/11, President Bush used fear to get the entire nation to sign onto the Patriot Act, and years later, we are wondering if someone is going to tap our cell phones and illegally imprison us for not eating our Freedom Fries. Bad legislation is like an STD: you can pick it up with a snap decision, but you pay the price for the next 20 years.

Click to read more.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Dr Marc Lamont Hill Discusses Michael Steele

by Dr. Marc Lamont Hill

Columbia University

Over the past week, the political world has been tuned into a highly  unusual soap opera involving Republican Committee Chair Michael Steele  and conservative radio jock Rush Limbaugh. After Limbaugh was publicly  lambasted for stating that he wanted President Obama’s agenda to fail,  Democratic leaders wisely used the moment as an opportunity to anoint  the polarizing pundit as the de facto leader of the GOP. Steele, the  actual leader of the party, dismissed Limbaugh as a mere “entertainer”  whose show trades in “ugly” and “incendiary” remarks. Limbaugh soon  fired back, telling Steele to do his job and to stop acting like a  “talking head media star.”

Of course, partisan infighting is not uncommon in politics –though  such public spats are typically the property of the Democrats.  The  difference, however, has been the party’s response. Instead of  rallying around its newly appointed leader Steele, GOP honchos have  either taken the side of Rush Limbaugh or remained conspicuously silent. Even Steele himself caved into Limbaugh, apologizing for his  remarks and removing any lingering doubt about who the real don is.
By allowing Michael Steele to be publicly undressed by a party  extremist, Republicans have tacitly confirmed what many of us already  knew: they haven’t changed one bit. Despite their post-November promises to rise above bitter partisanship, the GOP decided to cosign  Limbaugh’s antipatriotic machinations. Instead of living up to their  promise to broaden their message and appeal, Republicans have instead opted to defer to the steward of its most vile, ignorant, and bigoted  constituency. Most disturbingly, they have legitimized their antidemocratic enterprise by hiring a black man,  but giving him no more political muscle than the queen of England.

To be clear, I am not trying to diss Michael Steele, who I know personally and like a great deal despite our political differences. My concern is that the seductive aroma of power and prestige have  diverted his attention from the harsh realities of his circumstance. 
Like many prominent African Americans, Steele has climbed the heights  of white society under the false premise that he is being judged purely on merit rather than color. This couldn’t be further from the  truth. While the Republican party is willing to use Steele’s black  face to celebrate its ostensible progress, it is equally committed to  reducing him to nothing more than a paper champion. Hopefully, Brother  Steele will stop drinking the Kool-Aid long enough to recognize this  and come back home.

Technorati Tags: marc lamont hill,michael steele

Sunday, March 1, 2009

What Exactly is the Black Church Anyway?


By Rev. Nicholas A. Pearce

Though often portrayed as a singular, monolithic entity, many scholars debate whether “the Black Church” truly exists. While the distinctive differences that have so long divided predominantly African-American Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, and non-denominational churches are apparent, a potentially pernicious predicament currently demands our attention. While many people focus on the differences that exist among denominations and local churches, our attention must turn to one critical challenge we face within many of our churches. Young people are always labeled “The Church of Tomorrow,” which suggests two things: (1) that their spiritual gifts, leadership, and contributions are less meaningful, insignificant, and/or invalid at present and (2) the presupposition that tomorrow is promised. As countless young people leave the Church and still others sit restlessly in the pews waiting for a tomorrow deferred to finally arrive, the question we must confront is clear – when is “tomorrow” today?

The situation looks much like a track relay race. Our parents in the ministry were passed the baton of the Word of God by their parents and find themselves running the race of leadership as the next generation prepares in anticipation of receiving the baton in the exchange zone. Our forerunners in the ministry generally fall into one of three typological categories as they approach the exchange zone. (1) Some of our parents finish strong and cleanly pass on the baton to the next generation to run the next leg of the race. (2) Others of our parents, hearing the acclamation of the cheering crowd, decide to run an extra lap and skip the waiting generation in the exchange zone. Other racers with fresh legs soon pass by as these overzealous individuals run out of energy and solemnly realize that the baton was meant to be passed to the next generation. The overlooked and disenfranchised next generation ponders their befallen state and searches for other constructive outlets for their energy and talent that was intended to be expended in the race. (3) Still others of our parents approach the exchange zone with timidity, fearing that they will slowly fade out of the picture as they relinquish possession of the baton to a seemingly untested new generation. The combination of the outgoing generation’s insecure ambivalence to let go and the waiting generation’s consequent loss of self-assurance, the baton exchange is botched. No matter how well the previous lap had been run, no matter how talented the next runner may have been, the baton was dropped; the race was lost.

Does the Church have the luxury of leaving its young people and their gifts in a perpetual holding pattern, never to land? Can the Church afford to continue to mistakenly equate seniority with maturity as young people are prepared yet overlooked in the exchange zone? Will the Apostle Paul’s 1 Corinthians 12 treatise on unity in the body of Christ and the importance of each member thereof extend to a generation waiting to lead? Even a cursory glance at the state of the “Black Church” reveals an institution wrestling with its identity, struggling with being attractive while remaining authentic and grappling with the challenges and realities of a new day. Will an intensifying focus on devising better methods instead of making better men and women for the Kingdom of God cause the 21st century Black Church to institutionally marginalize itself? God forbid – but let us earnestly wait for the day when tomorrow becomes today and the next generation carries forward the baton of leadership.

Rev. Nicholas A. Pearce serves as Associate Minister of the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago, IL and is a doctoral candidate at the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management. Contact: npearce1@alum.mit.edu

Dr Boyce Watkins: 10 Thoughts about the State of the Black Union

By Dr. Boyce Watkins


I love Tavis smiley and I love the State of the Black Union. I must also admit that my mouth (which my mother used to say will either “make me great or get me killed”) has probably burned any bridge I’ve had with Tavis, thus implying that you will likely never see me on a panel at The State of the Black Union conference. I am ok with that, since I don’t like traveling when I don’t have to, and I don’t like the idea of having to kiss pinky rings of old school leadership in order to fit in (once you accept someone’s support, you can become beholden to them, reducing your ability to be honest). Beyond that, I have a nasty habit of telling the truth, which is neither profitable nor popular. So, the Your Black World Coalition is going to be my venue of choice when it comes to matters of Black Public Policy. Our corporate sponsors are clean, which means that we have a green light to do what’s right without worrying about offending Exxon Mobile, Walmart, The Republican Party, or McDonald’s. Again, I say this with all love and respect for Tavis Smiley.

As a Finance Professor who has spent the last 20 years studying money, I want us to understand the nature of how financial incentives can play a role in the nature of a forum such as The State of the Black Union. This is especially true in the midst of a financial crisis, during which our financial challenges may lead us to make decisions that are not always in the best interests of our constituents. I want to make it clear that my commentary on the State of the Black Union in the past has not been intended to be destructively critical in any way, as I feel that the forum is an important and necessary component of the Black community. But I am going to propose some quick thoughts about the State of the Black Union that should be considered for the future. If this venue is to be considered an important component and gathering of some segments of Black leadership, it is critical that we understand how to properly manage the temptation by some to use the venue as a source of power.

1) Corporate sponsors should be properly vetted: If the State of the Black Union is to be presented as the pseudo-diplomatic forum that Tavis Smiley wants us to perceive it to be, then just any old sponsor simply won’t do. No banks accused of predatory lending using the venue to wash away their sins with a donation to the Tavis Smiley Bank account. No firms trying to sell liquor, tobacco or other products. No companies which appear to get rich from exploiting the poor. All potential corporate sponsors should be evaluated by an unbiased committee and careful consideration should be given to the nature of the donor, where the money is going and other ways that the sponsor must prove their interest in serving the community. President Obama would never allow his State of the Union address to be sponsored by enemies of his country, but that is what we are doing if we allow any dirty corporation to walk through the door to give us money for our forums.

2) Consider the political agendas: I went to a great conference a couple of years ago in Atlanta, and wondered why there were so many videos and speeches being shared that had nothing but good things to say about the Bush Administration. It didn’t take me long to figure out why – The Bush Administration was a major donor to the conference, and in exchange for their money, they wanted the organizers to persuade Black folks to become Republicans and to love George Bush. I don’t think it worked. The lesson to be learned is that taking care of the gatekeepers can mean that those behind the gate are being manipulated. Don’t let another man sell your brain. If your brain gets sold, you should get the money.

3) Be careful with the Obama-Haterology: It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Tavis Smiley was a clear “homie” to Hillary Clinton. This close relationship, as well as some hope that he might be her Press Secretary, led to some “interesting” words being fired across the aisle last year as Barack Obama chose not to attend the conference. This forum is designed for the people and should not be used to reflect the personal agendas of a few powerful men. One must draw the line between carefully considered critiques on The White House vs. politicized attacks in response to being “dissed”. I too have critiqued our president, but I have always wanted him to succeed.

4) Kill the self-righteousness: There is no boss of the Black community. We are not children who need to be told what’s best for us. Being of a strong religious background, Tavis Smiley can sometimes become more of a preacher than a leader. There is this idea that he and a few others know the solutions and the rest of us don’t have a damn clue. Please get over your selves….we’re all smart people. This does not, for one second, imply that strategic and intelligent guidance cannot be meaningful. But this guidance must be balanced with mutual respect for the people you are serving.

5) Kill the “flossing”: Sometimes, when people get on their respective soap boxes, the forum can become a contest of who can make the most earth-shattering, slap-ya-leg, koolaid-coming-out-of-your-nose, “hoo-hoo-she-sure-is-funny!” moment. Due to the presence of media, which many people on the panel are seeking by attending this forum, we can be pressured to entertain more than enlighten. While entertainment is excellent, the focus must be on commentary which educates the public. I encourage the audience to watch the forum and listen to the content and substance of the rhetoric, and not be swayed by distractive inflections, body language or vocal tones. Some of us are very good at saying a lot and saying nothing, all at the same time.

6) FYI – Here is the source of Smiley’s power (for which I congratulate him): He gets C-span to show up and he has access to major White corporations. Were there no media and/or no corporate sponsorship, The State of the Black Union forum would cease to exist. This is not to disrespect the nature of the platform, but to help those who don’t understand business and media to see why so many of our leaders flock to the forum and why many Black leaders gladly appear on Fox News. Since they don’t have any other outlets for their work, this is one of the few provided. This gives a great deal of power to the owner of the platform, sort of like having the only grocery store or hospital in town. When Black folks get more ownership of media (even online media), the need to succumb to the power of others will cease to exist.

7) This is not the only forum in Black America: Kevin Powell, a man who will eventually be elected to Congress, holds Black male empowerment forums in New York City. The “Your Black World Coalition” has done amazing work in the past. “Color of Change” engages in meaningful, effective protest that is not sponsored by any of the corporations known for the exploitation of African Americans. “Dangerous Negro” is a group of young, intelligent brothers who are changing campuses across the world. Tavis Smiley’s insinuation that The State of the Black Union forum is the place you must be if you truly care about Black people is simply wrong. You can be in a lot of places and still care about Black people, which is why there are a lot of Black Bloggers, Black leaders and Black business people who are choosing not to attend The State of the Black Union.

8) The Money Makes a difference: I am a Finance Professor, which makes me the last person to criticize anyone for showing up to collect the cash flow. But the truth is that money is POWER. Money determines what we do and who we do it with. So, the idea that (what some consider to be) one of the most critical forums in the Black community is driven by corporate sponsorship granted by our historical oppressors is a very serious and problematic contradiction. I encourage us to find ways to sponsor other forums without sponsorship from mainstream corporate America so that we can speak real truth to power.

9) The Covenant with Black America: This is a great book. But it is still just a book. It is a book written to make a profit. When you see the book being advertised to you, there is a business model designed to sell the book. It is not the most important book in Black history, it is not necessarily a “must-read” for you and your kids. It’s just a book. Remember that. If the advertisers convince you that it is a “must-read”, then they’ve achieved their corporate objectives.

10) We need Tavis Smiley: Tavis, like most of us, has to make a living. He has done an amazing job with his work and platforms, and like the rest of us, he is not perfect. If you are compelled by his work, you should support him and support The State of the Black Union, I know I will. Also, just because Tavis seemed to have personal reasons for his attacks on Barack Obama, that doesn’t mean that his critiques were invalid. Yes, we have a Black President, but we need Black leaders. The greatest Black leader in the world is the one you see in the mirror. Get out there and do your thing.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor and author of “What if George Bush were a Black Man?” For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com.