9:00pm August 10, 2011

Amid Critics, Smiley/West Poverty Tour Stops by Nation’s Capitol


“This is not an anti-Obama poverty tour and I’m tired of hearing that quite frankly,” broadcaster Tavis Smiley told ABC News White House correspondent Jake Tapper today on his way into DC Central Kitchen in the nation’s capitol.

Smiley and Princeton Prof. Cornel West have embarked on a lengthy multi-city Poverty Tour around the country to highlight the problem low income Americans.  Fourty million people live at or below the poverty line in the United States.

Despite their efforts, many have been critical of the tour saying that it is a veiled attempt to criticize President Obama.

Comedian and radio host Steve Harvey, who typically does not delve into political matters on his show, commented on the West/Tavis Poverty Tour this week.   Harvey also read a letter from a listener on the air yesterday to listen click here.  The letter, from “Mrs. Jones for Charleston” read in part, that the two “did a lot of poverty pimping” on the tour “selling books.”

Though Harvey does not speak out as much on politics compared to other celebrities, many of the sentiments he expressed have been heard by others regarding the Poverty Tour.

Smiley has called for a White House conference on poverty.  Harvey was critical. “Once again Mr. Smiley, you are demanding [to be] the center [of] attention with the President of the United States,” Harvey pointed out. “Who in the hell has two or three days for [Smiley]?”

“Poverty existed before January 2009 — where was your poverty bus when Clinton was President or Reagan or the Bush Administration when we were being driven to this new level of poverty,” Harvey added.  Many feel that House Republicans, who have consistently opposed President Obama and are attempting to dismantle the social safety net, should be criticized on social policy, not President Obama.

Outside DC Central Kitchen, Smiley said Americans, “want the President to focus on jobs, they want to know he’s going to fight for them. They are tired of seeing the Republicans clean his clock on every piece of legislation.”

“They are tired of compromising his way out of the foxhole rather than fighting his way out of the foxhole,” Smiley added. “The new poor are the former middle class. It breaks your heart to hear, to see former middle class people talking about losing their jobs.”

“There is a moral and spiritual as well as political and economic dimension in this.  People are hungry and thirst for people who will talk candidly about these issues,” Prof. Cornel West said.  “When you hit that moral and spiritual dimension you’re talking more than Democrat and Republican parties we’re talking something deep within the American people,”  Prof West said.

Before making the stop at DC Central Kitchen, the two made a stop at the Progressive National Baptist Convention.

About the Author

Lauren Victoria Burke
Lauren Victoria Burke
Lauren Victoria Burke is an opinion journalist, comms expert and political analyst focused on justice reform policy. She created Crewof42.com, a blog that covers the work of Black members of Congress, in 2009. Ms. Burke was a staffer for the Senate Democratic Policy Committee and Director of Communications for Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN). She has had a very diverse career in politics and media and appears regularly on NewsOneNow with Roland Martin, Hardball and Up on MSNBC, WVON in Chicago, WURD in Philadelphia and WOL and WHUR in Washington, D.C. She is currently the Managing Editor of Politic365 and a contributing writer for TheRoot and NBC Black where she writes opinion and analysis. Additionally, Ms. Burke has been a contract photographer for Associated Press since 2004. She has authored three books of photography including two on President Obama's 2008 campaign for the presidency and one with Marvel Comics publisher Stan Lee. Ms. Burke was born in the Bronx, New York and grew up on Long Island. She holds a B.A. in History from The American University. Here e-mail is: LBurke007@gmail.com. Twitter: @LVBurke. Instagram: LVB325.



Spectrum Act a Step in the Right Direction, but Congress Can Do More

On November 2, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (H.R. 1341). Besides avoiding yet another fiscal cliff scare, the law, raises the debt ceiling and funds the federal government through 2017...
by Kristal High


Fixing the System Starts with Making it Easier for Families to Stay Connected

Earlier in the week, VICE debuted a documentary on HBO called Fixing the System which explored the ways America’s criminal justice system undermines democracy, disrupts families, negatively impacts the economic well-bei...
by Kristal High


The Gaping Hole in Pope Francis’ Anti-Poverty Agenda

By Jessica González-Rojas “This papacy begins with a name,” wrote Howard Chua-Eoan and Elizabeth Dias in their 2013 “Person of the Year” profile of Pope Francis for Time Magazine. Indeed, when the man formerly known ...
by Guest Contributor



White House Council Releases Report to Increase Broadband Adoption

President Obama, like many Americans and national leaders across the country, recognizes the importance of broadband as the most critical infrastructure of the 21st century. “Access to high-speed broadband is no longer a lux...
by Kristal High


GOP Looking to Prove It’s #CommittedToCommunity with New Outreach Effort

Earlier this week, the Republican National Committee launched a first of its kind effort to meet Black Americans (and would be voters) where they are by partnering with Radio One for #CommittedToCommunity: Engage, Empower, Upli...
by Politic365 Staff



  1. chriscogmta

    I am tired of all the talking!! where is the action. Smiley and West have been talking for at least decade or two and there track record of results is less than stellar. They have accomplished some great things in the African-American community, but nearly as much as they have profited off the plight of that same community. I understand their "beef' with Barak but in the end its all about action. The rhetoric needs to stop and we need a collective movement to empower and encourage socioeconomically challenged people in America.

    • Black Man

      Please name these great things they've accomplished in the African American Community because I can't name one single thing!

      • chriscogmta

        Tavis has a leadership program that helps hundreds of minority kids across the country get access to college programs, funding and leadership skills that they would otherwise never be exposed. Dr. West has been an intellectual pilar in higher education for years, providing inspration for several notable African American administrators and higher education professionals.

        Just to name a few.

        • yungCAUCASOID

          Shhhhhhh…stop it, you're making too much sense and telling too much truth, which highlight real agendas of Tavis & Dr. west.

          It's truly amazing, the realities which Blacks have to turn blind eyes toward…in order to extend their vile mistruths about Tavis & Dr. west here.

  2. Brenda Lowe

    Intellectuals are in the eyes of the beholders. It's not enough for activists to do good, they must be seen doing good. Looking for boogers is something everybody is capable of doing. The poor always speak for themselves and those who say they speak on behalf of the poor have to be careful they are not pimping the idea of being poor.

  3. [...] is not an anti-Obama poverty tour and I’m tired of hearing that quite frankly,” broadcaster Tavis Smiley told ABC News White [...]

  4. [...] is not an anti-Obama poverty tour and I’m tired of hearing that quite frankly,” broadcaster Tavis Smiley told ABC News White [...]

  5. The paragon of undesratdning these issues is right here!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>