The Covenant with Black America
Tavis Smiley (Editor)
Format: Paperback, 254pp
Pub. Date: March 2006
Publisher: Third World Press
List Price: $12.00
Editorial by Dr. Sam Chekwas
FROM THE PUBLISHER
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. 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.
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.
The Covenant with Black America Introduced
by Kam Williams
On Saturday, February 25th, the 7th Annual State of the Black Union was
held in Houston at St. Agnes Church, where an audience of about 8,000
convened to hear about forty prominent leaders discuss a variety of issues
of concern to the African-American community. The affair was hosted by Tavis
Smiley, who announced the publication of a new book which was released in
coordination with the event.
Entitled "The Covenant with Black America," this collection of essays is
ostensibly a step-by-step manual for dealing with the pressing political,
economic and medical concerns of black society. Delineating a checklist of
10 specific goals, The Covenant is also a document signed by each
participant as proof of his or her commitment to the survival of black
people in the United States.
As discussed on the dais, these Covenants include:
#1: Securing the right to healthcare and well-being.
#2: Establishing a system of public education in which all children achieve
at high levels and reach their full potential.
#3: Correcting the system of unequal justice.
#4: Fostering accountable, community-centered policing.
#5: Insuring broad access to affordable neighborhoods that connect to
#6: Claiming our democracy.
#7: Strengthening our rural roots.
#8: Accessing good jobs, wealth, and economic prosperity.
#9: Assuring environmental justice for all.
#10: Closing the racial digital divide.
The day-long think tank, which aired live on cable-TV on C-Span in three
segments, relied on thes aforementioned Covenants as its prevailing theme.
The panel of the mid-day session undeniably had the most heavyweights, with
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, Reverend Al Sharpton, Princeton
Professor Cornel West, Harry Belafonte, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee
(D-TX), Attorney Raymond Brown, Jr., Chairman of the Congressional Black
Caucus Mel Watt (D-NC), Civil Rights Leader Wade Henderson, Dr. Na'im Akbar,
Bishop Harry Jackson, Policy Link Founder Angela Glover Blackwell, Professor
Kimberle Williams-Crenshaw, and State Senator Jackie Winters (R-OR).
While all of the above weighed in eloquently, the biggest crowd pleasers
were undoubtedly Farrakhan Sharpton, West and Belafonte. Minister Farrakhan,
who looked a little weak when he started to speak, summoned enough strength
to bring down the house by the end of an inspirational tirade which not only
indicted America for black folks' woes, but questioned whether the goals
envisioned by The Covenant were even achievable. After he left the stage,
several speakers went out of their way to take issue with his remarks in
The opening session, which focused on business empowerment, was emceed by
NPR's Michelle McQueen Martin and a few of the contributors were the Urban
League's Marc Morial, Dr. Julianne Malveaux, Reverend Floyd Flake, and NBA
star-turned-restaurant chain owner Junior Bridgeman.
The closing session was dedicated to emerging leaders, but they were
unfortunately given short shift since long-winded speeches and CPT delays
meant little time was left when they finally got their chance. Impressive
nonetheless, these rising stars included Princeton Grad Student Victor
March, Malia Lazu of the Institute for Policy Studies, Trish Millines Dziko
of the Technology Access Foundation and filmmaker Shola Lynch, this critic's
pick as the best black director of 2004 for Chisholm '72.
While it is impossible to recount in an article of this length but a tiny
fraction of what transpired during a meeting of this magnitude, those who
missed the gathering are in luck because Tavis and company are taking their
show on the road. Visit:
to see when the series of town hall meeting will be arriving in your neck of
the woods. My only advice to the organizers is to figure out a way to save
time by asking the speakers to stop paying each other so many compliments.
For although it might be polite to give props, you often end up squandering
a significant part of a prime opportunity to share your innovative ideas.
Editorial by Sam Chekwas
Much is made of the state of Black people in the United States of America and
the role government plays in our lives. The fact is that the genie is out of
the bottle and we cannot continue to window dress these issues any longer while
the collective populace of people of color continues to suffer and
A much more serious approach is needed to address the multitudes of social
issues that plague our communities. Most importantly, the black race has got to
change its foolish support to materialism and destructive behaviors, maladies
that government does not force upon us.
Our destructive behaviors is leading the the The killings of our young people
which is now an epidemic.
Our collective abilities to address these issues have failed and it is time to
demand individual responsibilities from our leaders, families and children.
While the efforts of our two learned brothers should be applauded, we believe
that it is now time to demand action from all quarters: the individual, the
community, the leaders and the government. Both brothers have done well for
themselves and in following that great human calling; are giving back to
society. Our problems are now beyond the efforts of two brave men, we need a
million brave men, to organize and to hold all players accountable, and to call
each man and woman into action.
While most of the ills in the Black community today can only be rooted to
failed policies of the past and to the legacy of slavery, some could be
addressed by a well organized assault on the immediate causes of the cycle:
teen pregnancy, absence of fathers in most households, lack of education or job
training, glorification of dangerous lifestyles.
It will definitely help if we can focus on the most serious of issues and
redirect our priorities, hence in order of urgency:
1. #4: Fostering accountable, community-centered policing. Strengthening the
family and the community.
2. #1: Securing the right to healthcare and well-being. Emphasizing healthy
living and free healthcare for all people of color.
3. #2: Establishing a system of public education in which all children achieve
at high levels and reach their full potential. Making parents accountable to
their children's performance.
4. #3: Correcting the system of unequal justice. Educating our children of the
role of the legal system and how to protect themselves.
5. #5: Insuring broad access to affordable neighborhoods that connect to
opportunity. Yes to strong communities.
6. #10: Closing the racial digital divide.
7. #8: Accessing good jobs, wealth, and economic prosperity. Taking our own
finances in our own hands. We control over 50 billion dollars of the economy in
spending. There is no reason why we cannot be in control of our own economic
future. Creating Black owned financial institutions, banks, credit unions,
small loan lending institutions, a different credit scoring system for people
8. #7: Strengthening our rural roots. Whatever that means.
9. #9: Assuring environmental justice for all. Everybody wants this.
10. #6: Claiming our democracy. Everybody wants this.
We believe that we can take control of our future and the rescue our children
from certain doom. Let's unite and face this crisis.