Smiley on Black People's 'Backstory'

Radio and TV host Tavis Smiley

Smiley on Black People's 'Backstory'

The radio and TV host Tavis Smiley tells us why the DNC is the perfect backdrop for his black-history exhibit.

Published July 2, 2012

(The Root) -- With "America I Am: The African American Imprint" making its home in Charlotte, N.C., while 35,000 visitors descend on the city for the Democratic National Convention in September, Tavis Smiley is sending a message. "It's important for Americans to understand that there is a 400- to 500-year backstory to Barack Obama," the radio and TV host told The Root. "He didn't just fall out of the heavens."

From June 30 through Jan. 1, 2013, the exhibit's more than 200 artifacts, which trace the contributions of African Americans to the history and culture of this country, will fill the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. The museum is named for the history-making first black mayor of Charlotte, an architect and community leader who has advised the second, and current, African-American mayor, Anthony Foxx, as he prepares to host the convention.

Author and advocate Smiley shepherded the exhibit through its creation and four-year tour. When he spoke with The Root recently, Smiley and professor and author Cornel West had wrapped up their poverty-awareness tour, during which they talked about the challenges and possible solutions explored in their book, The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto.

Though the two have taken heat for their criticism of President Obama, Smiley said that it's in keeping with "the best of our black prophetic tradition, which in my mind means speaking truth to power and to the powerless." Smiley talked with The Root about why it's important for the shapers of democracy in both parties to consider the exhibit and its message about America's obligation to all of its citizens.

To read the entire Q&A with Tavis Smiley, click here.


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(Photo: Paras Griffin /Landov)

Written by Mary C. Curtis,


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