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January 14, 2004

The Baldwin Forum

I attended a panel discussion about black political leadership this evening at the Baldwin Hills Public Library instead of going straight home to dinner. I am so deep in the doghouse that I'm probably going to have to mop the kitchen floor as pennance. With my tongue. This is an object lesson for all of us.

As a longtime veteran of such discussions, I found this one both unique and typical.

I forgot that dressing in my computer geek / soccer dad casuals doesn't quite get me the perky respect I am accustomed to, and I really didn't have anything juicy to say to Barbara Boxer's aides after the show. So I didn't count their non-chalance against them, especially since they were there to present Ofari with a framed Resolution celebrating his father's 100th birthday. Besides, my GOP Integration speil would just seem unnecessarily provocative.

I twitched and bit my tongue through most of the discussion, especially when Erin Aubrey Kaplan summarily dissed Colin Powell and Condi Rice. But she writes for the LA Weekly and cares more about black prisoners than the average bear. Such posturing is expected and I truly hope she can hook up with somebody like Monroe.

However, a cat named Chang had most of my attention and excitement. He and a brother whose name I forget are on their way to building a Charter school over near Washington Prep with funding from the Green Dot folks. This is extraordinary news and of course I wish them well on their endeavor. I met them after the panel discussion - they weren't a part of it. More's the pity.

Ofari was the man I really came to see and hear, since I've been promising to get over to his weekly roundtable. I learned to my delight that he's moved it over to Lucy Florence in Leimert Park which is a brilliant idea. Ofari is exactly what you would hope he would be, eminently reasonable, genuinely concerned and fairly well-informed, but that didn't change the fact that in one hour it is impossible to talk enough about black leadership.

I didn't get an opportunity to grandstand or pub up the website much, but I did press to a crucial few, Ofari not one of them. I did get to meet Joe Hicks, who of the three sounded mostly like me although I didn't have time to convey that either. Kitty Felde was a tad more restrained than her usual self but didn't need to interject much at all to keep the flow rolling. She was genuinely pleasant, as I expected and showed real interest in the blog. Thanks google for making me the top Cobb, I always feel self-conscious having folks scribble out URLs. I gotta get some cards made up.

So what was the discussion all about? In a nutshell it dealt with almost no specific issues. Joe Hicks said that he wished he had more time to talk about education, but the panelists had to trace their way through the minefield of who owns black politics and whom should benefit in what ways from it. Hicks raised class and Ofari grandfathered it out smoothly. So what education policy might all classes of blackfolks agree upon? For another day I suppose.

James Hahn was exemplified, with a bit of snark, as the most successful advocate of black political interests. Tom Bradley's name was brought up but not for what he did, rather the significance of his election and the necessity for cross-racial coalitions to enable black empowerment. I would have liked to have talked about Mike Woo, but..

So while the talk was short on specifics, it was good on general points, or at least not surprising in any dimension to me. This is always good because out here on the web one can get isolated. The consensus: the future of black politics will be intensely local. Hmm.

Out in the lot over by my car three 30something brothers were discussing the subjects with a bit more candor. They were clearly non-plussed by the lack of specifics. Outside of the issue of black male incarceration in California, there was nothing they saw the panelists raising of interest. But all agreed that the days of Jackson and Sharpton and that kind of national profiling are long dead and gone. They are completely welcoming of a broad diversity of black political leadership, but they must deal with root issues and deliver some solutions.

We had to pack up and leave, and I hope folks will be Googling me up. I'm looking forward to more local deeds of this nature. But for the moment, I'm in the doghouse. I owe M9 some help in researching 'responsibility' and my not getting home on time was one of the reasons he was up an hour past his bedtime touch typing (yay!) another essay due tomorrow.

Posted by mbowen at January 14, 2004 11:58 PM

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