Tavis Smiley Blog Contest riles Black Bloggers with its lameness


The Black Blogosphere has taken issue with Tavis Smiley’s State of the Black Union 2009 symposium blog contest. The issue was brought to our attention by (who else) our fellow Texan Gina McCauley at What About Our Daughters. In her original post titled Black Bloggers Second Class Citizens Gina is one of the first to make us aware of Tavis’ intent.

Ironically on the day that we announce the second gathering of Black new media content creators in Chicago next June, Tavis Smiley made an announcement of his own. Y’all Tavis is getting with this century and in his own “special” way acknowledging the growing influence of Black bloggers.

Tavis is holding a “contest” to RANDOMLY select the next “Web Star”- His words not mine.

Gina then goes on to detail all that’s wrong with this contest; so does Black Web 2.0, so does Jack and Jill Politics, so does Global Grind. I agree with Jill Tubman who posts “The truth is that Tavis should be begging us to sit on stage with him not the other way around.”

Any one who clicks the link above can see how condescending this contest is to grown folks, but here are a few problems in bullet point form:

  • we’re offering the opportunity for ONE special blogger to sit on stage and ask the important questions of panelists in our first and exclusive live Webcast!

What’s up with the “one special blogger stuff”? I mean it sounds like an offer to 8 years olds. And is the blogger special because they are deemed so by this contest?

  • Imagine yourself hanging out for the weekend and engaging in dialogue with figures such as Dr. Cornel West or Danny Glover or maybe even Nikki Giovanni and Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Imagine what that means for your Web site, your blog… your career!

This might be good for someone who just started a blog or someone who is star struck. But for the serious Web Journalist or online activists that’s not a selling point.

Here’s the kicker for me, contest rule #1.

  • 1. Three (3) previously posted/published articles demonstrating legitimate coverage of news items of interest to African Americans

So that means Three (3) posts of interests to African-Americans makes you “one special blogger.” Wow. I would have thought 300 posts as a minimum for such and honor.

Then it really gets weird.

  • Sponsor will randomly select the potential Contest winners from all eligible entries received during the Promotion Period, on or around December 5, 2008. The potential winner will be notified by mail, email or phone.

Now “one special blogger” is selected randomly? What’s so special about that?

Tavis Smiley, unbeknown to him, has been a distant mentor to me over the years. After reading his book Doing What’s Right, I began to refer to my work in the community as advocacy and took a number of pointers from Tavis on engaging people.

state.jpg But somewhere along the way Tavis has lost the pulse of the people. It’s evident in how he reacted to Barack Obama skipping The State of the Black Union last year. That became Smiley’s line in the sand and he threw rocks at Obama’s Presidential Bid the rest of the way.

When listeners of the Tom Joyner Show became upset with Tavis, he picked up his ball and went home.

Tavis loves Black People, but I’m not sure if he understands black people. He understands our problems as a people, and he has his own ideas on how those problems should be solved. But does he really understand black people?

He obviously doesn’t understand Black Bloggers, because the rules and language of this contest is a slap in the face for people who lead the way in the Shaquanda Cotton, Don Imus, and Jena 6 issues of 2007 and made great strides in 2008 during the Presidential Election.

The only thing that makes any of us special is the fact that people choose to visit our sites from time to time. What makes Dallas South special is our readers, not a contest. Who’s to say that appearing on CSPAN at 2 a.m. won’t make somebody’s career. I guess it’s possible. But this brother will wait for another opportunity to become that one special blogger.

note: check out Gina’s post about the response she received from Tavis’ office.

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