Voices From Smiley's Black Agenda Summit

Thousands gathered in Chicago and got fired up, but did they leave with an action plan?

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"I think he's brilliant and has fresh ideas, but I was under no illusion that if he became president, he could change black suffering,'' Farrakhan said. "When you sit in that seat ... you feel the forces that surround power ... President Obama does not run this country. He has been chosen to run white affairs ... If we get something, it's because we organized and forced the government to speak to our needs.''

"Everybody's always fired up, but they never tell you how to do anything,'' she said.

Isaac Hayes, a Republican candidate for Congress who grew up near the president's former stomping ground on the South Side of Chicago, agreed. He said people need directions on how to bring about change because many have reaped the benefits of the civil rights movement. They do not know how to fight for change.

"They could have benefited from a Republican voice on the panel like Michael Steele [chairman of the Republican National Committee],'' Hayes said. "We have different approaches to problem solving. It's not about big government throwing money at a problem. It's about shaking things up.''

For his part, Smiley was pleased to start the conversation about whether there is a need for a black agenda in America.

"For me the mission has been accomplished in terms of raising these political issues and putting them on the table for discussion in black America, in Washington and inside the White House,'' Smiley, flanked by panelists, said at a news conference after the event.

Lynette Holloway is a Chicago-based writer. She is a former New York Times reporter and associate editor for Ebony magazine.