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The Covenant with Black America, by Tavis Smiley

By an everyday book reader
May 1, 2007

Six years' worth of symposiums come together in this rich collection of essays that plot a course for African Americans, explaining how individuals and households can make changes that will immediately improve their circumstances in areas ranging from health and education to crime reduction and financial well-being.

As we witnessed in the 2004 presidential election, Americans are deeply divided between race, class, gender, political ideology and moral values.

A divide so extreme, that in order to bridge it, we must speak openly, freely, without judgment and work together. It is imperative that we take this opportunity to consider the issues of particular interest to African Americans and to establish a national plan of action to address them.

The Covenant with Black America
by Tavis SmileyBook Picture

Softcover: 254 pages
ISBN: 9780883782774, 0883782774
Third World Press
January 2006

No longer can we sit back and expect one political party, one segment of the population or one religious denomination to speak for us or to act on our behalf. It is our responsibility as an entire community to no longer be left behind politically, socially, or economically and to bridge the economic and social divides ourselves, by encouraging a conversation and a commitment that will inevitably benefit all Americans.

Addressing these pressing concerns are contributors Dr. David Satcher, former U.S. surgeon general; Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights; Angela Glover Blackwell, founder of the research think tank PolicyLink; and Cornell West, professor of religion at Princeton University.

Each chapter outlines one key issue and provides a list of resources, suggestions for action, and a checklist for what concerned citizens can do to keep their communities progressing socially, politically, and economically. Though the African American community faces devastating social disparities - in which more than 8 million people live in poverty - this celebration of possibility, hope, and strength will help leaders and citizens keep Black America moving forward.

The rise of The Covenant with Black America to #1 on the New York Times bestseller list proved that there was tremendous interest in a plan of action that addressed the concerns of Black Americans. Tavis Smiley, the visionary responsible for creating and building the momentum around the book, embarked on a five-month, 20-city national tour, holding sessions in churches in cities such as Philadelphia, Atlanta, Memphis, New York, Baltimore, and Cleveland.

To build on the excitement and discussion around the book, Tavis Smiley invited people around the country to host Covenant Celebrations as part of the Covenant Conversation and Celebration Weekend. The first 1,000 party hosts who sent Smiley an invitation to their celebration received a special covenant gift pack. One lucky party hosted Smiley and Princeton University professor Cornel West as their guests, where they discussed issues in The Covenant.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that the nettlesome task of Black Americans is to bear the burden of redeeming the soul of America. Without question, Black folk have always been the conscience of the country. It is our hope that we can yet again help our beloved nation live up to the promise of her ideals. The political paradigm has shifted; it's time to build a new construct, and the Covenant with Black America is the tool for the task.

"This collection of essays is both a plea and a response to the self-assessed critical circumstances of black America today. Tavis Smiley provides the introduction, touching on the issues he explores as host and interviewer on public television and radio; Cornel West and Haki Madhubuti also provide commentary, tying together the common theme of planning how to address the circumstances faced by black Americans. Marian Wright Edelman offers the statement of purpose introducing the 10 covenants, pledging individual effort in the areas of health care, public education, criminal justice, community-centered policing, affordable neighborhoods, democracy, agriculture, economics, environmental justice, and technology. Among the contributors are Marc H. Morial, Angela Glover Blackwell, and Wade Henderson. Each section offers facts on racial disparities in the U.S.; practical suggestions on what individuals, communities, and the government can do to rectify problems; and other helpful resources. Although specifically aimed at problems and issues facing black America, this work has appeal for all readers interested in social issues that plague the nation as a whole." - Vernon Ford, Book List, American Library Association

The Covenant With Black America is made up of 10 chapters on the issues identified by the public. They include economic disparity, health, education and environmental justice. While the completion of the book marks the end of one journey, it is in many ways the first step for those who want to move forward toward real progress in improving Black communities.

In taking that first step, it is important to be aware of the issues outlined in the covenant so that anytime a politician asks for your vote, you can ask where they stand on any of the 10 covenant issues outlined.

Tavis Smiley is the author of eight books, including Doing What's Right, Hard Left, How to Make Black America Better, and Keeping the Faith. He hosts an eponymous talk and interview show on PBS stations and his radio program, The Tavis Smiley Show, is syndicated by Public Radio International. As the host of BET Tonight with Tavis Smiley, he was a three-time winner of the NAACP Image Award. He lives in Los Angeles.

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The most important result of any grassroots action is - a strengthened democracy for all.


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