Nothing sets our priorities straight like a tragedy.
The day before yesterday, when I was contemplating topics for this blog, high on my list was a discussion about whether the word “Negro” was demeaning, and who, if anyone, should be able to use the term. Then the news of the earthquake in Haiti hit, and I started to see all the devastation, destruction and death suffered by our brothers and sisters. And little else mattered.
Like most people, my first emotions were sadness and helplessness. But those emotions quickly shifted to an almost unstoppable drive to do something now. But what and how? I was tired of hearing about all the things that couldn’t be done and surrounded myself with my team of producers and engineers, and we put our heads together to figure out what we COULD do.
I’m planning on leaving late tonight to go to Haiti and broadcast the show from the streets. My purpose is to set up an Internet cafe so that Haitians can get in touch with their families. And trust me, as we approach the King holiday weekend and as I prepare for the MSNBC town hall meeting that will air on the King holiday on Monday, the earthquake in Haiti will not take a back seat. The victims of this crisis and their families all over the world, but specifically in Miami and other U.S. cities, are expecting something from our country and particularly from black America. And they should.
If we can use Hurricane Katrina as a template, we learned that we cannot sit back and wait for anyone to do for us what we can and must do for ourselves. Not taking our government off the hook or even criticizing the current administration for what it is and isn’t able or willing do. My point is I’m not even waiting for that, and you shouldn’t either. The 70s hit by Atlantic Starr says, “When love calls, you better answer.” That call can come in all kinds of forms, and yesterday it was Haiti on the line. Wyclef Jean answered the call immediately, and we are right behind him.
The Monday TV special is cool, and I’m very proud to be part of it. But I’d rather walk the walk than talk the talk. In a nutshell, I was going to spend about two hours saying in all different kinds of ways how much and why I love and support black people. I was going to talk about race and racism and how it shows up in ways a lot of people who aren’t victims of it aren’t even aware of. Haiti was in a state of crisis long before that massive earthquake hit. Anyone who thinks that their suffering and lack of support for their plight isn’t compounded by the fact they are black is crazy. All you have to do is compare their treatment versus the treatment of Cubans when they arrive here to try to make better lives for themselves and their families. Heck ,compare it to a whale that washes up on the beach in Miami.
Rev. Al Sharpton pointed out this morning that a lot of mainstream media chose not the earthquake but the late night talk show war between Jay Leno and Conan O’Brian as their lead stories yesterday. So the earthquake in Haiti adds fuel to the discussion of racism, yet sadly – like most of what we will be talking about – it will not bring us any closer to solving the issue. But we’ll keep talking about it, and I’ll keep asking you to send your questions and comments.
In the meantime, I will also be asking you to help us support the fundraising efforts for the Haitian victims because we are and will continue to be advocates for black people and answer when love calls. Whenever, wherever.