The New Tavis Smiley, Beware!

Walking down Mr. Black America's path to fame may lead to the same trap.

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A talent show is underway to select Tavis Smiley's replacement on "The Tom Joyner Morning Show."

It was inevitable that this process would come down to a series of on-air, laugh-out-loud challenges rivaling American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance?

Perhaps it's the spirit of equal opportunity or the clarity of competition, but nothing rallies a crowd of black folks to a cause or generates more wholesale attention, than the business of putting on a talent show.

If you doubt me, ask the schoolteacher, preacher or recreation center director in any black community. They will tell you that a talent show works when all else fails because we, black people, just love ourselves some talent shows. Yes, we do.

So for the rest of July and into August, eight relatively unknown African-American social activists and academics are showcasing their oratorical skills in an open-mic battle on the "Tom Joyner Morning Show." The winner earns a direct path to national celebrity. The contestants are:

· Eddie Glaude, professor of religion and African-American studies at Princeton University and a senior fellow of the Jamestown Project.

· Jeff Johnson, a published author and BET personality best known as "Cousin Jeff."

· Anthony Samad, associate professor of political science and African-American studies at East Los Angeles College.

· Stephanie Robinson, president and chief executive of The Jamestown Project, a liberal think tank in Jamestown, Va.,and the former chief counsel to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.)

· Faye M. Anderson, a political consultant and blogger.