REV. AL SHARPTON
Rev. Al Sharpton, founder of the National Action Network, criticized Sen. Obama for supporting Sen. Joe Lieberman’s reelection bid, and urged presidential candidate Obama not to take the black vote for granted. “Why shouldn’t the black community ask questions? Are we now being told, ‘You all just shut up?’” Sharpton told a TV reporter during the campaign. Since the election Sharpton has become one of the president’s strongest allies. Obama tapped Sharpton to promote education reform and he’s been a visitor to the White House on multiple occasions. The New York Times recently reported that according to Sharpton, the President is smart not to ballyhoo “a black agenda.” Clarifying his point, Sharpton said “The president doesn’t need to get out there and do what we should be doing. Saying the president shouldn’t ‘ballyhoo’ a black agenda is not saying the president shouldn’t be held to a black agenda or deal with a black agenda.”
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
DR. CORNEL WEST
Cornel West, Princeton professor and author, publicly supported Obama for president. However, he has been a vocal critic of the Obama administration for supporting big business as opposed to the unemployed. “How deep is your love for poor and working people?” West asked, urging the President, “Don’t simply be the friendly face of the American empire.” West told theGrio that “Obama has an economic team that’s composed of persons who have no history whatsoever of being concerned about poor people.” West added that “Obama’s been doing a good job of reassuring the establishment. But there’s many of us who believe the establishment is on our necks.” For the administration’s first year in office, West gave Obama an A for uplifting people’s spirits, and a C minus for policy.
(AP Photo/Earl Gibson III)
REP. MAXINE WATERS
Rep. Waters (D, Calif.) was originally a supporter of Hillary Clinton for president. A hardliner on health care reform, Waters told the President that she must get tough with the senators who oppose the public option. “We’re going to say to the president, ‘We want you to use every weapon in your basket in order to get those senators to do what they should be doing,’” Waters said.
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
REV. JESSE JACKSON
Rev. Jackson accused presidential candidate Obama of “acting like he’s white” for not speaking up for the Jena Six, a group of black Louisiana teens charged with assault in a racially-tinged case. During the 2008 presidential campaign “Barack’s been talking down to black people … I want to cut his nuts off.” He later apologized for the comment, which he said following a Fox interview while the microphone was still on. Standing with 200,000 people in Chicago’s Grant Park on election night in 2008, Jackson cried when he learned that Obama would become the next president. His reason for crying, he said, was that he had wished Dr. King and Medgar Evers could have been there, while some speculated that he cried crocodile tears.
(Press Association via AP Images)
REP. BARBARA LEE
Rep. Lee (D, Calif.), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, endorsed Obama in the 2008 presidential primary. At a recent meeting with the President, Lee, along with a group of liberal lawmakers, expressed her disappointment that the public option, an expansion of Medicare and other items are not on the table in the health care reform legislation the President endorsed.
(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
DR. JULIANNE MALVEAUX
Julianne Malveaux, economist and president of Bennett College for Women, believes that black leaders must provide Obama with consistent input on African-American issues, and should be as insistent with him as with any other president. “One might think that with an African-American man in the White House, there is no need for African-American leaders to clamor for regular attention from this President,” Malveaux said. “But African-American leaders should not take President Obama for granted and assume that, because of his race, he will pay special attention to black issues. He should not.”
(AP Photo/News & Record, Nelson Kepley)
REP. JOHN CONYERS
Rep. Conyers (D, Michigan) criticized the president for “bowing down” to “nutty right-wing” proposals from Republicans and corporations just to get a health care bill passed. “I’m getting tired of saving Obama’s can in the White House,” Rep. Conyers said. According to the veteran lawmaker, the president asked Conyers why he was demeaning him.
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Smiley, talk-show host and author, has convened “The State of the Black Union” conference for the past ten years. He has been a vocal critic of the President, and has stressed a need for African-Americans to hold Obama accountable. Smiley believes that the President is not doing enough to help African-Americans, and opposes the sentiment from some black leadership that we do not need a black agenda. Whether Tavis’s anti-Obama stance is an example of accountability or just plain arrogance is in the eye of the beholder.
(Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC NewsWire via AP Images)
Dr. Dorothy Height, chairwoman of the National Council of Negro Women, declared in a recent interview that President Obama should be left alone. “We have never sat down and said to the 43 other presidents: ‘How does it feel to be a Caucasian? How do you feel as a white president? Tell me what that means to you,’ ” Dr. Height said. “I am not one to think that he should do more for his people than for other people. I want him to be free to be himself.”
(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
MINISTER LOUIS FARRAKHAN
Minister Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam predicted trouble for President Obama from the “white right”, who he said is conspiring to make Obama a one-term president. Farrakhan also said the President must do more to help blacks. “Your people are suffering. You can’t ease their plight, but you can use your bully pulpit. Speak for the poor. Speak for the weak.” Farrakhan supported Obama, who distanced himself from the minister because of past statements regarded as anti-Semitic.
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
REP. JOHN LEWIS
Rep. Lewis (D, Georgia), veteran civil rights activist, originally supported Hillary Clinton in the presidential primary before switching his allegiance to Obama. Lewis was on stage during Obama’s inauguration. Lewis condemned the tone of the campaign rallies held by Republican presidential running mates Sen. John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin, comparing them to those of Governor George Wallace.
(AP Photo/Paul Abell)
Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League, recently joined NAACP head Ben Jealous and Rev. Al Sharpton for a meeting with the President to discuss unemployment and job creation in minority and urban communities. Morial said President Obama was “engaged and sensitive to the challenges facing the most vulnerable in our society,” and helped stave off a great catastrophe through his leadership. Morial also said there needs to be a stronger focus on employment counseling, job creation and direct aid to public employers. “The crisis of unemployment and underemployment among urban and minority communities has reached a devastating level and it continues to deepen,” Morial said. “While the overall picture appears to be brightening, we cannot allow it to blind us to the worsening situation for black Americans. I believe our meeting today with President Obama has focused his attention more solidly on the plight of these neglected communities.”
(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON
Michael Eric Dyson, a professor at Georgetown University, is a longtime Obama supporter who has expressed frustration over the President. “All these teachable moments,” Dyson said, “but the professor refuses to come to the class.” Dyson told MSNBC that “I think that we should push the president. This president runs from race like a black man runs from a cop. What we have to do is ask Mr. Obama to stand up and use his bully pulpit to help us. He is loathe to speak about race.”
(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Oprah Winfrey, television talk show host and producer, was an early supporter of Obama. According to one estimate, Oprah was responsible for giving the presidential candidate one million votes.
(AP Photo/Harpo Productions, Inc., George Burns)
RABBI CAPERS FUNNYE
Rabbi Funnye is head of the predominantly African-American Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation of Chicago, Illinois, and a member of the Chicago Board of Rabbis. Known as “Barack Obama’s rabbi”, Rabbi Funnye is First Lady’s Michelle Obama’s cousin. He supported Obama in the 2008 campaign, but didn’t publicly endorse him, fearing the association would hurt Obama in the Orthodox Jewish community and among fervent Zionists. Rabbi Funnye is reportedly much further to the left than the president on Middle East policy.
(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
Tom Joyner is the host of The Tom Joyner Morning Show. Joyner’s show used the airwaves to support Obama’s presidential candidacy in 2008. Tavis Smiley reportedly quit his weekly political commentary spot on Joyner’s show due to flack from listeners on his criticism of Obama.
(AP Photo/Donna McWilliam)
BENJAMIN TODD JEALOUS
Ben Jealous, president of the NAACP, wants the president to adopt policies based on poverty rather than race. “In these times, it didn’t make sense to talk about race-based initiatives,” Mr. Jealous recently said. “It made more sense to target poor areas.” He added, “When you’re on the ground, the poor black community is the same as the poor white community.” He praised Obama for speaking about structural inequality in society and the need to dismantle it, and the mass incarceration of African-Americans during his address before the NAACP last year. Jealous feels that Obama, a civil rights lawyer with a community organizing background, “gets it” and is going to fight for the American people.
(AP Photo/Paul Abell)
REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT
Rev. Wright, former pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, was known as Obama’s pastor and mentor, and a part of the candidate’s presidential campaign. When certain videos surfaced— in which Rev. Wright gave fiery sermons denouncing America’s foreign policy— Wright left the campaign, and Obama eventually distanced himself from his pastor. An unfortunate media circus resulted. Ironically, Obama’s speech on race in Philadelphia, in which he responded to the Wright “controversy”, was regarded as a hallmark of his campaign. Wright voted for Obama nonetheless. Last June, Wright said “I love President Obama as my son, and support and honor him as the President of the United States of America and leader of the free world.”
(AP Photo/Jamie Martin)
REV. JAMES FORBES
Dr. James Forbes of the Riverside Church in New York City said that Obama is someone who listens to both sides of an argument, and is headed towards a more just society. After Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize, Forbes also said that “we have to work harder to make sure that President Obama is listening to our more progressive and even pacifistic perspectives.” Forbes attributes the intensity of anti-Obama sentiment to the president’s race, and his desire for more equitable distribution of resources through health care and other policies that are painted as socialist.
(AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)
TD Jakes, chief pastor of The Potter’s House, led the early morning prayer service for President Obama’s inauguration. Jakes, a Republican and a Bush supporter, said Obama’s nomination for president gave him “goosebumps”.
(AP Photo/Bill Janscha)
PROFESSOR CHARLES OGLETREE JR.
Ogletree, a Harvard law professor who is close to the President, said he “finds puzzling the idea that a president who happens to be black has to focus on black issues.” Ogletree said Obama was never reluctant to talk about race, but is more careful and scripted now.
(AP Photo/Steven Senne)
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In light to the recent debate between Tavis Smiley and Rev. Al Sharpton on the need for a black agenda, theGrio thought it would be useful to profile a number of black leaders and notable figures and examine their stance on President Obama.