Obama Speech: A Sankofa Analysis

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The fact that these two intergenerational contemporaries, both of whom are principled, talented, and complicated Black men have been pitted against one another at this moment in Obama's historic presidential bid is not an accident nor a surprise.

[Elections 2008: On The Obama Speech]


Framed by the glorious colors of "Old Glory" with a contrasting royal blue backdrop, Senator Barrack Obama was poised to give the "speech of all speeches" on Tuesday at the historic National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

Wearing a dark suit, accompanying sky blue tie and at times a deeply furrowed brow, Obama's resolve to explain, address and quell the seemingly rapidly growing angry sentiments that were being expressed by the public was clear.

The brief but powerful "gangster rap-like" and well orchestrated video vignette of Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright's oration in the pulpit of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago has now become the new "Boogieman Negro" marker designed to both racialize and plague Obama's popular democratic presidential campaign. The looming question remains whether Obama's straight forward truth telling oriented delivery will be enough to curb the concerns being raised about his twenty year relationship and affiliation with his former pastor Rev. Dr. Wright.

For many Africans Americans from the Philadelphia region, including myself, we remain avid admirers of Rev. Dr.Wright who himself is a well- known and beloved Philadelphia native son.

I have interviewed Rev. Dr. Wright in the past about his ministry on WURD, the local African American owned talk radio station, and his daily sermons were added to the station's broadcast lineup under the leadership of the founding general manager, W. Cody Anderson.

Despite the use of the cruise missile-like video clip that has now been viewed 'round the world, I remain a strong admirer of both Wright and Obama. The fact that these two intergenerational contemporaries, both of whom are principled, talented, and complicated Black men have been pitted against one another at this moment in Obama's historic presidential bid is not an accident nor a surprise.

The singled mindedly ethnocentric construction of "this alleged news story" by the "bleached" entertainment oriented news industry is embarrassing. While the coverage remains intellectually limited; it continues to fuel the kind of negative cultural tensions referenced in Obama's speech and it provides few useful insights for all news watching Americans. 

Its titillating, under investigated and attack laden presentation of strong Black men and Black women as they dwell in the sanctuary known as a historical enclave and womb of the "Black Church" is difficult to watch. It is as if the television media executives, even in 2008, are still unaware of the struggle, history and rationale for the creation of the "Black Protestant Church" in Philadelphia and the rest of the United States.

It remains obvious that the Eurocentric media either knows little or cares nothing about the Black Liberation Theology movement birthed in the 1960's and there is no real desire to present any other social agency centered and liberated oriented realities forged by Black people throughout their collective and painful history in America.  

Back in the 1960's, it was hoped that if the previously under represented and marginalized "brown faces," elsewhere referred to as "reporters of color," were added to the rank and file of  the "mainstream" media, it would bring about balanced and albeit fair reporting. These previously hostilely labeled "affirmative action employees" have clearly neither moved up the ladder to the more powerful management decision making positions as hoped or they have received monolithic  pop cultural journalism degrees along with their white counterparts. The fact that this still obviously racist medium employs a bipolar “good verses evil, bad-Negro scary-Negro" framework in its reporting of such critical information is shameful.

One need only ask the former Poet Laureate of New Jersey or as he likes to refer to himself in a previous interview I had with him as, "the Last Poet Laureate of New Jersey," Amiri Baraka why he was stripped of his honorary title for writing a thoughtfully critical poetic piece entitled, "Somebody Blew Up America."

Baraka was painfully reminded that America rarely tolerates the differences of opinion that it claims that it was founded upon. There are many other examples in American history of the utilization of the Boogieman Negro archetype when for example, the beloved color barrier breaking former Brooklyn Dodgers baseball great Jackie Robinson was coerced to attack the reputation of the late Paul Robeson under the aegis of anti-American communist sentiments expressed by Robeson.

Back then, Robeson was being presented as the supreme "Boogieman Negro" public enemy number one who was stripped of his passport, and separated from any honorable means of earning an income. His broken spirit but now vindicated life is honored today at his former residence in Philadelphia, where he died a frustrated yet brilliant and highly principled man. 

While I admit that I disagree with a few components of Obama's genuine narrative and discussion in Philadelphia the other day, particularly his analysis of Rev. Dr. Wright's oration and the reasons beneath the surface of Black and White American's angst and rage, I do believe that the sum total and intent of the Obama speech compares well with the intent and delivery of President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address from over a century ago. 

A Sankofa analysis requires that we look back at our past and go back and take the learning from it and move it forward for a better future. I have attempted here in this space to go back and look at our complicated American past and demonstrate how a still bigoted American electronic media intentionally attempts to thwart the aspirations of both Black and White Americans as it constructs a newer version of a "Boogieman Negro" paradigm in 2008.

I can only hope given the now five year anniversary of President George W. Bush's  heinous war, that the press well step to him the same way that they have dogged a much more honorable Brother, Barack Hussein Obama, a name and a man that all Americans can be proud of.
 


Cooper, Ph.D. is a member of the Social Work faculty of Widener University and is a talk show host on 900 AM WURD radio station in Philadelphia.

He can be contacted via email at
drrichardcooper@gmail.com  

 


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