Review: Black America Covenant

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Every February for the past seven years, in the wake of the President’s State of the Union Address, talk show host Tavis Smiley has convened many of the nation’s top Black leaders to assess the State of the Black Union. Feeling that an annual symposium simply exchanging opinions wasn’t enough, Tavis and company decided to come up with a blueprint addressing the most critical issues confronting the African-American community.

In consultation with some of the most brilliant Black minds around, that blueprint has arrived as The Covenant with Black America, a book containing 10 Covenants written by 11 different authors, each of whom focuses on his or her own area of expertise. For instance, former Surgeon General Dr. David M. Satcher, M.D., handles the opening covenant, entitled Securing the Right to Healthcare and Well-Being, while Columbia University Education Professor Dr. Edmund Gordon, Ed.D., deals with the second, Establishing a System of Public Education in Which All Children Achieve at High Levels and Reach Their Full Potential.

Other areas covered include Criminal Justice (by criminal lawyer James Bell), policing (by the ACLU’s Maya Harris, Esq.), Housing (by urban activist attorney Angela Glover Blackwell), Democracy (by civil rights lawyer Wade Henderson), Rural Roots (by Oleta Fitzgerald and Sarah Bobrow-Williams), Employment (by Urban League President Marc Morial), Ecology (by Clark University Sociology Professor Dr. Robert Bullard, Ph.D.), and Accessing the Internet (by publisher/editor Tyrone Taborn).

Despite this diversity of contributors, The Covenant maintains a similar tone throughout, because each of the entries follows the same format. First, there’s an introductory essay in which the problem area is identified. Then, there’s a statement of general facts supported by statistics. Finally, solutions are shared under the headings, “What the community Can Do,� “What Every Individual Can Do,� “What Works Now,� and “What Every Leader and Elected Official Can Do.�

Besides all of the above, the book features a Call to Action by Princeton Professor Cornel West, an Afterword by author/publisher Haki Madhubuti (formerly Don L. Lee), and A Statement of Purpose by children’s advocate Marian Wright Edelman, Esq., who indicts the criminal justice system as a new form of slavery.

As a whole, The Covenant with Black America amounts to an exhaustive, encyclopedic assault on the litany of woes presently plaguing African-Americans. What makes this treatise unique is the plethora of practical guidance it provides in terms of the undoing the persisting inequalities. In advocating evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary solutions, this inclusive, optimistic opus ought to inspire anyone who reads it to get involved personally, and to lend their talents to the eradication of the seemingly intractable impediments to Black progress.

The Covenant With Black America
Edited by Tavis Smiley
Third World Press
Paperback, $12.00
268 pages, illustrated
ISBN: 0-88378-277-4

Excerpts: “Why a Covenant with Black America? In short, because… without organization, Black folk will never be able to take, keep, or hold onto anything, much less the hard-fought gains that we have struggled to achieve. Our interest with this document was to create a national plan of action to address the primary concerns of African-Americans today. Once we are organized and mobilized, we can create the world we want for generations to come. The Covenant is required reading for any person, party, or powerbroker who seeks to be supported politically, socially, or economically by the masses of Black people in the coming years. So start reading.�

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