Among the panelists were Cornel West of Princeton University, Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan, political strategist Donna Brazile and former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders. There was an empty chair in honor of the actor Ossie Davis, who had been scheduled to participate.
About 6,000 people packed the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church for the event.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that a major topic at Saturday's meeting was an "African-American contract" on national goals. Smiley said the contract was inspired by last year's presidential race, which revealed fissures in the black community on issues like gay marriage.
Smiley, who has shows on PBS and National Public Radio, also talked about his own efforts to take charge of his health -- including losing 60 pounds.