Conversations with Cosby
PBS VIDEO OF CONVERSATIONS WITH COSBY HERE
Hey! Hey! Hey!… Bill Cosby spoke to a packed house at historically black Harris Stowe State College in St. Louis last night.
He hosted what’s called a “Call-Out” meeting to talk with the community and a panel of local leaders about parenting, education and social responsibility.
And, from the sound of this St. Louis Post Dispatch writer, Cosby’s words on personal responsiblity from public speaking engagements this past year are still ruffling feathers in the black community :
There were laughs to be had as Cosby spoke Monday night at Harris-Stowe State College, but the comedian, whose public persona has turned serious – and controversial – recently, came to issue a call to action and brought along his call-it-like-he-sees-it attitude.
Much of the controversy started about a year ago when Cosby appeared at a Washington commemoration of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision. Cosby did some finger pointing at “lower-economic people,” shoddy parenting, sexual promiscuity, poor English like “Why you ain’t?” and “Where you is?” and names “like Shaniqua, Taliqua and Mohammed and all of that crap.”
A whirlwind of commentators declared Cosby’s comments everything from racist stereotypes to a much-needed moment of honesty. Some found kernels of truth in his statements but wished he’d stayed positive instead of publicly airing dirty laundry that seemed to give racists more ammunition.
While Cosby didn’t hesitate to call people out Monday night, the focus of most of the night was on solutions.
Many African-Americans start out with words like “at-risk” and “disadvantaged” attached to them solely because of the color of their skin, Cosby said. It’s up to parents and other elders in the community to erase those words.
“There’s no dis here,” he said while touching his cheek. “There’s advantage.”
Cosby was joined on stage by a number of role models and positive examples who had erased those words, from a former state teacher of the year to a boy who turned away from a gang and chose going to school and studying.
“Ladies and gentlemen, St. Louis, the revolution is in your neighborhood,” he said. “The revolution is on your block. The revolution is in your mind.”
Cosby told people to hold their leaders accountable. He told parents to get sober and pick up their kids from grandparents who are raising them. He told teachers to have tough talks with the parents of their students. He told fathers to return to rejoin their families, even if they didn’t have money, because their love and presence are needed more than a paycheck.
“There are things happening here that are of epidemic proportion,” he said.
Still, he didn’t pull many punches, and those who were clapping or laughing along one minute might find themselves targeted the next.
“Christians in the projects,” Cosby said. “All of us have Jesus in the projects. Drug dealers in the projects, prostitutes in the projects, all kinds of people in the projects. The Christians just look at them and keep walking. … Jesus Christ walked among the people, and this is what you have to do.”
Post Dispatch writer/editorialist Sylvester Brown “took offense” and felt a need to protect his people against Cosby’s strong words on social responsibility:
“Like any good family member, I took offense,” said Sylvester Brown Jr., a Post-Dispatch columnist who helped arrange the forum with Cosby and also spoke at the event. “I was very defensive. I defended my people.”
But Brown said he now admires Cosby’s courage and can acknowledge that there is some truth in what Cosby says.
“It hurts to be told these things,” he said. “(But) I am convinced his criticism comes from his perpetual love for black people.”
Cosby has visited several cities with a series of “Conversations with Cosby” events. Cities that have hosted the forums include Newark, N.J., Baltimore, Dallas and Atlanta.
Update: (Tuesday AM) Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, has linked to this post. I want to clarify that although I desperately wish I would have made this event, I was not in attendance last night.