Dear Editor:

For years I’ve talked openly about having a series of town hall meetings aimed at the African-American community across the country. The goal is to reunite the African-American community, create an interest in volunteering inside the African-American community and strengthen the African-American family both biological and communal.

Last Nov. 12 at the beautiful August Wilson Center, that dream was realized with the first in a four-part series of conversations titled “The Disappearing Black Community, and How Can We Get it Back.”

At that meeting, an illustrious panel headlined by outspoken civil rights activist and comedian Dick Gregory, looked at the problems in the African-American community and outlined how we got to where we are today.

On March 11, in Pittsburgh, Pa., we will go inside the Black community to look at our responsibilities for some of those social problems, like an increasingly escalating high school dropout rate coupled with a high teenage pregnancy rate.

To undertake this challenging responsibility, I’ve invited leaders and experts in the fields of community development, and political achievement. I asked the founder of the Million Man March, The Hon. Min. Louis Farrakhan, along with Assistant Minority Leader in the U.S. House of Representatives Congressman James Clyburn, D-S.C., and Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation to participate in this event.

All agree that this conversation about our community is long overdue and they are excited to be a part of the discussion and want to help find solutions to the problems plaguing our community. Simply, the discussion is aimed at Black People only.

This is why I was somewhat perplexed and later outraged at the suggestion from the Jewish Chronicle that our efforts to talk to people we feel are relevant to our community, is an offense against the Jewish community.

For years I have enjoyed a relationship with the Jewish community and cannot understand why a community who has suffered discrimination as my community has would suggest that we should not have the ability to meet and discuss with anyone we want to regarding the Black community.

This town hall meeting is not about the Jewish community, Egypt, the current problems in Afghanistan or anything else, except, its sole purpose is to discuss the state of the Black community in 2011.

I resent those outside forces that are trying to highjack this town hall meeting by making their concerns the center of our discussion. This is not a meeting to discuss anti-Semitism. Their suggestion for us to not have Min. Farrakhan at the table for this important discussion, reminds me of what White slave owners use to do to their Black slaves, and that is to tell the slaves how to meet, what to talk about and who to talk to.

I am offended by those outside forces contacting me to suggest I cancel my guest, notably, the Hon. Min. Farrakhan because of issues they may have with him.

At no time during the planning of the first town hall meeting did the Jewish Chronicle or any other Christian organization contact me to talk about the importance of these meetings within our community.

I am willing to sit down with members of the Jewish Chronicle, the Christian Association of Southwestern Pennsylvania or any other group interested in making our community better and I welcome the opportunity to do so after the town hall meeting March 11.

Again I am setting the record straight, Min. Farrakhan is coming to town along with some of our other distinguished guests to focus solely on how we can rebuild and unite the African-American community.

I feel strongly that no one can dictate to the African-American community who they can have as a guest around my Black family table—The Bev Smith Show.

Bev Smith

Syndicated talk show host, The Queen of Late Night Talk, American Urban Radio Networks

(Editor’s note: This is in response to the Jewish Chronicle’s recent article titled, “Purpose of town hall defeated with Farrakhan appearance”.)

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