The premiere of Angela Rye’s four-episode special for BET was a riff on President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union, wherein he continued to dip into his bag of cheap tricks, pulling out dog whistles and race-baiting to assure his “base” that he’s the white supremacist in chief.
As usual, Rye, former general counsel to the Congressional Black Caucus and frequent political pundit, brought the heat with a stellar panel of guests, not only to discuss the state of the black union but also to offer politics-based solutions to what has historically been a younger, typically less engaged and perhaps even disillusioned-with-politics millennial audience.
“I think so often about growing up watching BET’s Teen Summit and the real-life issues of that show, and so, in my mind, I thought it would be so great to bring that back,” Rye said to The Root. “Not so much to focus on Donald Trump’s very boring, very long, very negative, very dark State of the Union but to talk about our solutions, our state of the union; how do we as a people move forward, knowing full well that we can do better for ourselves, more than anyone else can.”
We knew that Auntie Maxine would be making an appearance—and that she did, with her singular brand of fire, forthrightness and take-no-shorts attitude. The Democratic representative from California clearly and concisely laid out all the ridiculously unprofessional, unbecoming and downright dangerous actions this president—your president—has taken since he began his campaign—and then went for the crescendo with these eight words: “And that’s why I’m calling for his impeachment.” Why wait? Auntie Maxine asks. She’s seen all she needs to see.
After Waters’ refreshing palate cleanser, it was on to the panel, which Rye handpicked, calling them “some of the most brilliant, dynamic, beautiful minds of our time.” The four panel segments featured a revolving mix of activists and politicians, including Opal Tometi, executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration; Mayor Melvin Carter of St. Paul, Minn.; Rashad Robinson, CEO of Color of Change; David Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition; Stefanie Brown James of the Collective PAC; and the indomitable Stacey Abrams—whom I could listen to all day—a fierce political activist who is now running for governor of Georgia.
The takeaway? There was a lot to be learned, and much to do, and Rye implored viewers to take up the mantle of, if not activism, then some action. That is, getting up, getting out and doing something. She even said that she could see us forming our own “Black Party” within the Democratic Party, both during her SOTU telecast and when we spoke with her.
“I do think there should be a Black Party. And I think if there’s space for a Black Party, there’s space for a Latino Party; and if there’s space for a Latino Party, there’s space for an Asian Pacific Islanders Party; and if there’s space for an API Party, there’s space for an Indigenous People’s Party,” she began, then continued:
What’s my point? Is it that everyone needs to vote race-based? No. But it means that we can create those spaces even inside the Democratic Party. Just like the Tea Party was set up after Barack Obama was elected to ensure that our issues are never left behind; and I’m not just talking about dragging [Democrats] further left; I’m talking about dragging them further black so that we’re never an afterthought again.
Here’s a call to action, because, as Rye notes, “It’s not about them, it’s about us.”