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 a writer, speaker, strategist, comms expert and political analyst. She created Crewof42.com, a blog that covers the work of Black members of Congress, in 2009. She's been a former staffer for the Senate Democratic Policy Committee and Director of Communications for Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) and has had a very diverse career in politics and media. Ms. Burke appears regularly on NewsOneNow with Roland Martin on TVOne and has been seen on MSNBC. She holds a B.A. in History from The American University. E-mail anytime: LBurke007@gmail.com. Twitter: @Crewof42. Instagram: LVB325. The ideas and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and have complete editorial independence from any Politic365 partners, sponsors, or advertisers.



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  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!

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