I was on a panel with Playthell Benjamin and Mele Mell yesterday at LIU. The topic was THE DILEMMA OF BLACK LEADERSHIP IN THE OBAM ERA. I was invited by my friend Curtis Stephen, a distinguished journalist and former student there. It's been a long time since I've been around people and immediately wanted to rush home to take a bath. The experience was toxic:
1. Playthell told students, arrogantly, that there is nothing...NO THING, that a student could teach him, ever. Wow.
2. After two of the three panelists (including me) respected the time parameters for opening remarks, PB went overtime with his. After his long opening, he added, "And if you'll permit me about 10 or 20 minutes more, I will read you my essay on..." Blah, blah, blah.
When the moderator politely said no, all the while being ignored by PB, PB talked over Curtis and warned, "Stop me if you dare!" Oh dip!
3. When the students eventually stood up for themselves and told PB that he was being disrespectful and rude and condescending, he shrugged them off, as if their very attempt to assert themselves proved his point.
It was really sad. At least twice, when I forced myself onto the mic in order to get a word in edge-wise, the audience clapped and you could hear: "Let her speak! It's about time."
The biggest WOW! came when I noticed how many students flocked over the PB after the talk. The students who gathered around me were as perplexed. They asked, "Ms. Silver, why does he have a crowd around him? He was obnoxious and rude and self-centered for the whole program."
"Among other things, he is a fire energy and some people need the stimuli, be it positive or negative. Some people don't mind being abused. It's a real passion for some. Pure human nature."