It’s taken me a couple of days to recover from the two hours that I spent last week at the "Responding to the Call: The New Black Vanguard Conference." My senses were assaulted the moment I walked into the joint and saw Innis père and fils standing near the reception desk on which were stacked copies of Scam: How the Black Leadership Exploits Black America, a screed by the Ebonics-speaking Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, the moderator of this lackluster gathering.
If you saw me in the audience on C-SPAN, then you know that I was sitting there looking like I had just stepped in it. And in a sense I had. I had stepped into a parallel universe where professional "black conservatives" proclaim that “God has given us a better chance by giving us President Bush.” During the Q&A session, no one among this untalented tenth could even name a single black conservative elected official.
Conspicuous by his absence was Armstrong Williams, whose office is right across the street. Perhaps he was busy getting ready for his close-up. Like Niger Innis, Armstrong is on the “Negroes of Highest Dubiosity List” compiled by Afro-Netizen.
I went to this outreach charade, cosponsored by Peterson’s group and the Heritage Foundation, to find out who responded to the call. The answer: Very few. Hell, half of the panelists were no-shows, including my buddy Alvin Williams, president and CEO of BAMPAC. Two of the four “leaders” who showed up came from one family—the Innis tag team. And one, Gloria Jackson, the great-granddaughter of Booker T. Washington, proved the adage that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Given his seniority, it was not surprising that Roy Innis dominated the discussion. I was struck by his chutzpah in opining on “principled moral leadership.” The last time I was around him was in 1997 as part of a delegation to observe elections in Nigeria, which CORE's executive director and COO coordinated. In a meeting with the then-military dictator Sani Abacha, Innis praised him for his commitment to democracy. He also complained about hip problems, which I was later told was code for a dash.
It was without irony that these creations of Fox News Channel and Project 21 spent 90 minutes dismissing the “black leadership establishment” as "irrelevant." (Disclosure: I’m a former member of Project 21’s advisory board.) Mychal Massie of Project 21 said: “We don’t need a black leadership. We have a leadership. We have George Bush…We have leadership in Washington. We have leadership in each state.” Have mercy!
Another made-for-TV outreach event will be held this evening at Howard University, where Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman will participate in a “conversation with the community” that will be carried live on C-SPAN. This not-ready-for-prime-time spectacle hosted by the “Howard University College Republicans” will give new meaning to School Daze.