Interesting Newsweek cover story titled “The Reinvention of the Reverend Al.” Writers Allison Samuels and Jerry Adler ask tough questions that are sure to stir up your opinions. But the biggest question looms. Is Al Sharpton needed now that we have a black president? Here is what he has to say, and the writers who predict what he wanted to say weigh in.
Excerpt from Newsweek Magazine:
But the interesting question is whether his role is still needed in an era when the man atop the national power structure himself is black, and Sharpton now regularly meets with him—issuing not just demands but advice. If you asked Sharpton himself, he’d undoubtedly reply, are you serious? Blacks still have twice the unemployment rate of Americans overall, and young black men are still being shot by cops under circumstances that range from tragic to suspicious. The election of Barack Obama has provoked an almost hysterical reaction from the far-right media, which last week claimed as its latest victim an obscure African-American official in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Relaxing with a thick Ashton Churchill in a plush midtown cigar lounge, the once-and-still Reverend Al scoffs at the idea that there is, or ever has been, a new Sharpton. “My mission, my message, and everything else about me is the same as always,” he says. “The country may have changed, but I haven’t.”
So, taking him at his word, Sharpton—at 55, a half-generation younger than Jesse Jackson and seven years older than Obama—can serve as a marker against which to gauge the shifting river of American race relations. Contacted in May by the family of a 7-year-old girl accidentally killed by Detroit police, Sharpton called no angry press conference and declined to get himself arrested. Instead, he preached an impassioned, but hardly inflammatory, sermon whose message—”we are all responsible for our children’s safety”—could have offended no one except Mike Cox, a Republican candidate for governor of Michigan, who pronounced himself “disgusted” that Sharpton would come to his state to preach at a child’s funeral.
What has changed, though, is the center of gravity of political anger in America. Sharpton’s next big project is a march on Washington planned for Aug. 28, the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Sharpton’s “Reclaim the Dream” rally will coincide with a speech by Glenn Beck near the Lincoln Memorial. Sharpton is especially cutting about Beck’s “Take Back America” tour with Sarah Palin earlier this year. “The nerve and gall,” he expostulates. “Who are they taking America back from, and who are they giving it to?” Reclaim the Dream versus Take Back America. CLICK to Read More from NEWSWEEK