March 30, 2011
FULL ARTICLE HERE
There I was –humiliated but defiant. In front of me, a cluster of reporters scribbled, recorded and filmed my words. My wife, two daughters and family members sat to my left and right. A large group of my friends, supporters and readers stood behind me in solidarity.
It was Monday, April 13, 2009. Days earlier, I learned that I was to be fired from the job I had held for almost six years, as a columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The St. Louis Newspaper Guild, our union, had unanimously voted to appeal the termination and get the job back. I gratefully declined the offer. I no longer wanted to work for the Post. With the help of my wife and many of our activist friends we organized a stealth press conference. I was determined to break the news to the public of my departure and exist on my terms.
Without revisiting the whole sordid ordeal, managers used a trip to Washington DC — that I had paid for out of my own pocket — as an excuse to fire me for violating the newspaper’s ethics policy. It matters little now. As far as I’m concerned, the managers at the Post just didn’t get it. It was “our time!” The country had just elected an African American president, Barack Obama. I was fired up with the belief that it was time to institute an agenda that would revitalize long-ignored urban cities, create innovative black businesses and development communities of opportunity.
The same week, I learned that I was to be terminated from the Post; I received a call from SmileyBooks –founded by public radio and public television commentator Tavis Smiley. I would be working with writers and big thinkers who were, like me, passionate about the advancement of black people. In my mind, I wasn’t rejected by the Post; I was redirected by the universe.
It was indeed our time!
How naïve I was back then.
Racism – ugly, vile and divisive – once again raised its ugly head. Republicans seem intent on thwarting the President at every turn. Black leaders fussed and fought about Obama articulating a “black agenda” instead of enacting one for black people. Now with looming budget cuts, a divisive far Right anti-Obama mission and another military engagement – this time in Libya – in play, the “hope and change” I anxiously anticipated seems another dream deferred.
Is it “our time” or are we almost out of time?
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