I must confess that I paid little attention to the brouhaha that erupted when scholar Cornel West disparaged President Obama on cable TV in April. I was much too focused on my graduate school studies for any foolishness. But since my wife and I were heading to the national Alpha Phi Alpha convention at the Hilton Hotel in Chicago, we decided to attend what was touted as a rematch between West and the Rev. Al Sharpton about what Black America needs most, since that event would be nearby along Michigan Avenue at the Drake Hotel.
Journalist George Curry brokered the second Sharpton/West encounter and the National Newspaper Publishers Association agreed to host it at its annual convention. NNPA, also known as the Black Press of America, is a decades-old federation of 200-plus community newspapers from across the United States. Sharpton was already scheduled to keynote its luncheon, and so he and West were to go at it immediately afterward, with Curry as the moderator.
Hours before the encounter, however, it appeared to be an effort to manage expectations -- with the desired outcome being an honest and temperate discussion with opposing views, but not another unfortunate display of black leaders at each other's throats.
In any event, Mira and I arrived at the Drake Hotel in time to get our seats and greet some friends and acquaintances from NNPA and the National Association of Black Journalists.
Rev. Sharpton begins his luncheon keynote by acknowledging presence and contributions of other black leaders and thinkers in the room, and also a wedding anniversary.
Then Rev. Sharpton speaks positively about West.