Tavis Smiley Visits Cheyney University
Junious Ricardo Stanton
On Thursday April 23 author, lecturer, television and radio talk show host Tavis Smiley was the featured speaker at Cheyney University at a fund raising event to benefit the Keystone Honors Academy. Smiley who is the author of sixteen books has caught major flak in the African-American community because of some of his criticism of President Obama. In some places Smiley is persona non grata. African-Americans are so enamored with Barack Obama and his status as the first admittedly bi-racial president of the United States that Smiley’s criticisms of Obama have earned him the ire of many Blacks who support Obama no matter what and who do not know the facts. When he visited Cheyney Smiley was on tour promoting his latest book, My Journey With Maya.
During his talk Smiley challenged the students to find a way to navigate a world in which their vulnerabilities may outweigh their possibilities. Smiley shared some unnerving and unpleasant realities about life in the United States for Black people. Citing sources from the Pew Research Center, The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University and the US Census Bureau to buttress his argument, Smiley pointed out that statistics show this generation of African-Americans may be the first in the history of this country to not do better than their parents.
“There are always those who are scared whenever I show up that I’m going to say something about your Black president. I didn’t come to talk about the President; it’s not about him it’s about us. It is very difficult to be a truth teller and a crowd pleaser at the same time. It is difficult to be a truth teller and a people pleaser at the same time. When you know the truth you have to speak the truth. You have to have the courage to say what it is that you see, even when it is uncomfortable and people will hate on you for telling the truth.” Smiley shared.
“The truth is in the era of the first Black president and this is not his fault per se; I want to lay a foundation, the data is abundantly clear we have now arrived at a place in Black America, for the first time ever where this generation that we are here at Cheyney to celebrate, this generation of our babies, is the first generation of Black America that will not do as well as their parents. In this era of the first Black President we have lost ground in every single economic indicator.”
Using personal antidotes Smiley spoke about the subjects of his two most recent books, the two people who’ve had a major impact on his life: Martin Luther King Jr and Maya Angelou. Smiley told the students not to allow setbacks, challenges or vulnerabilities to slow them down or deter them from making a meaningful impact on the world. “There is a debate whether or not Black lives matter. This is a sobering moment and you have to be serious about why you are here and what you hope to accomplish on the other side of being here. If ever there was a time to be abundantly clear about your role in the world, about your place in the world, about your calling, about your vocation, notice I didn’t say anything about a job, it is now. If you came to Cheyney and you are looking for a job you missed it. You are here to be trained as a critical thinker, to be a problem solver to go out and find your calling, your purpose and your avocation. Why were you sent here? What is your assignment? There is a purpose and calling on your life. You have been uniquely and especially gifted to do something in the world, how do you figure out what that is?”
Smiley gave examples from his life and the lives of Martin Luther King Jr and Maya Angelou how to rebound from setbacks and encouraged the young people to boldly make their way in a world where their vulnerabilities may sometimes outweigh their possibilities. Following the lecture Smiley signed books and posed for pictures.