On Saturday, Oct. 6, at the Nate Holden Theater, 4718 W. Washington Blvd., radio station KJLH/Front Page and the Council of Black Political Organizations (COBPO) will sponsor a policy debate between Maulana Karenga, Ph.D., chair of Africana Studies, California State University, Long Beach, and David L. Horne, Ph.D., professor of Pan African Studies and Public Policy, California State University, Northridge.

The topic will be whether President Barack Obama’s administration has tangibly benefited the Black community or not. The debate is part of COBPO’s mini-conference for 2012. KJLH will broadcast and live-stream the presentation from 8 a.m.-10 a.m. The debate itself will begin at 9 a.m. The public is invited and there will be a Q & A session right after the scholars spar.

Of course, others have already pontificated on their view of the president’s effectiveness in addressing the persistent needs of the Black community, including brothers Smiley and West, and a handful of YouTube ministers. For the most part, however, those earlier presentations have spread more misinformation and confusion than light and clarity.

Hopefully, we two Cal State professors will have better results. The issue is terribly important.

Beyond both the unrealistic and the realizable expectations we have collectively put on President Obama, the mood of Black folks right before and on Nov. 6 can be unhelpfully impacted by whether the community believes the president has done as much as he could to champion at least some of the causes current in the Black community.

Already, many of the polls are reporting that the president has a significant margin of favorability, and is in very good shape before the first presidential debate this Wednesday. That does not usually portend good news for the Black electorate. As we did with former L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley’s gubernatorial race a few decades ago, when we think you’re already winning, according to mainstream polls, and we think you’ve taken us for granted, we tend to stay home on voting day. We do not vote against the candidate who looks most like us. We just don’t vote at all.

Not saying there’s a guarantee that will happen again, and nationally this time, but it is a concern to be addressed. This is especially the case when so many Black naysayers, for diverse purposes, have been busy traversing sections of the Black community, and using the mass media, to undermine President Obama and to downplay his achievements. There is a discernible chance that significant portions of the Black community will opt out of this particular election cycle, given the confusing and often frustrating dynamics.

Thus, the idea of sponsoring a clear-the-air debate on the issue, to illuminate both the large and nuanced portions of the glory and discontent that surround the president’s job evaluation as it pertains to the Black community, was presented to Front Page’s producer, Dominique Diprima, and to the two scholars, and they accepted the challenge. They intend to open the issue up for public explication.

Debates, when they are good, are excellent for that purpose. This does not necessarily mean regular college forensics, which, to the unskilled eye, often looks like loud, semantic confusion, with only humiliating one speaker or the other as the objective. Using a modern derivative of the classic Lincoln-Douglass debate style shown in Denzel Washington’s “The Great Debaters” film. This time with a moderator to ask unrehearsed questions, audiences can actually learn a great deal relevant to the topic at hand.

In fact, more Black youth should learn debate techniques and participate in debate tournaments. It is a highly useful skill-set that provides a foundation for future greatness. Debate and chess–two equal opportunity skills available for members of the Black community to invest and excel in.

Neither is blocked by out-of-the-world financial expenses and both simply require concentrated and persistent time well spent in study and practice.

Come to the affair on Saturday, or minimally watch or listen to it–for a model of what we can do with practical information and informed analyses.

Thank you, Mr. Wonder.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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