From Atlanta Post:

The funny thing about the much ballyhooed and ridiculed Tavis Smiley/Cornel West joint production poverty tour is how the tables are turned. In the tag team summer wrestling rift between Smiley/West and Sharpton/Joyner – which seemed more like salty long-nailed high school girls scratching it up over the basketball team captain that is President Obama – there were some very distinct class conflicts playing itself out.

Smiley and West were characterized as part of the “Ivory Tower” elite, that Black “Bougie” Jack-and-Jill-like crowd of pretentious and highly educated “middle-class” African Americans that had much to say about the struggle but had never really struggled; in the case of these two, they were bohemian intelligentsia accused of fighting the fight from the comfort of marbled institutions and never really being “on the street.”

Sharpton – with Joyner and then others like Steve Harvey now joining in for fun and ad revenue – represented that “street cred” that Smiley and West never had, highly stylized, sophisticated and very loud “ghetto” activism that spoke to the everyday worries and hardships of the “working class.” If something goes down or pops off “in the community” in any location that is Black USA, you’d find Sharpton replete with entourage, banner signs, megaphone and trademark perm.

For the most part, the distinctions are stylistic (and somewhat demeaning) more than philosophical. Lecture halls versus talk show radio, essentially. Soft versus hard. One “N.I.C.” versus the other “N.I.C.” Mainstream versus fringe. You see where this is headed.

Now, with the Smiley/West co-produced poverty tour, we find an unusual and somewhat silly reversal of roles. The reasons for both men embarking on this multi-city tour are varied and complex. Both need a way to reconnect and remain relevant as they are sensing a loss of audience share; a quarter of the professional, middle-class black population has evaporated with recession, therefore cutting into their earnings of everything from book sales to speaking engagements. Hence, it’s time to find new audience and, possibly, reach out to the old now relegated to poverty and unemployment benefits (or just ran out). Hit the streets, so to speak. In the process, both might discover the “street cred” they either lost or just didn’t know.

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