The Covenant With Black America

Currently, the #3 New York Times' best selling, non-fiction paperback is The Covenant With Black America, a collection of essays aimed at improving the lives of Black Americans, edited by Tavis Smiley. The book starkly details the disturbing statistics of a faltering community in desperate need of courageous leadership. However, from the best minds this nation has to offer, we also gain the proper tenets to lead African-Americans through the most difficult phase of an uncompleted civil rights movement.

Back before the end of legal segregation and passing of the Voting Rights Act, Black people were wholly responsible for their own. Clergy and Elders of the community were accountable for ensuring future generations would replicate the pivotal family unit, while understanding only a good education would lift their Black youth out of poverty and discrimination. Under the supervision of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, along with financial backing from the Johnson administration, these were the cornerstones of Dr. King's `War On Poverty' initiative launched in the late 1960s'.

Presently, I can envision no better strategy to possible stem the dire spiral currently gripping the Black community in this country.

We can easily list the many debilitating factors that have contributed; yet we no longer have a Bull Connor, George Wallace or J. Edgar Hoover to assign blame. If the Black faith movement in this country is genuinely growing a moral society, why are building bigger houses of worship and turning morality tales into feature length movies a priority, and an easily financed mission to end the cycle of poverty and illiteracy non-existent? There are over 200 citations concerning the poor in the Old and New Testament, and no mention of Gay Marriage. Which begs the opportune question, by advocating in support of gay rights, why did Coretta Scott King believe it to be an extension of the civil rights cause?

The crisis of moral values that President Jimmy Carter has so eloquently addressed, also means reversing the pervasive `I've got mind, you're on your own' mind-set in Black America. Whereby lifting up those who are comparatively less pious will not ensure salvation, yet condemning their ruinous behavior as not your own, clearly distinguishes you in the eyes of God.

 In an attempt to peel away consistent, older Black voters, RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman has exploited his way into African-American churches to absolve these decent parishioners of the plight facing their community, blaming it instead on the failures of the Liberal Entitlement Welfare Experiment of a neglectful Democratic Party. And, as a direct result of Faith Based payoffs to unscrupulous Black church leaders, the grave threat that is Gay Marriage has suddenly become a priority in news conferences and sermons.

This is symptomatic of Black religious leaders' refusal to hold its congregants accountable, and moreover, marshal them in an effort to confront the ills of their community. Based on 2005 national statistics, 7 out of the 10 children attending their Sunday school classes were born to single Black mothers; unemployment among Black men is four times the national average; the sharpest rise in HIV infections is among minority women; Blacks share the highest rate of high school dropouts, fewer are going on to college and a disproportionate number are making the ultimate sacrifice in defense of this country.

In tribute to the memory of Coretta Scott King, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton pledged to carry on her legacy and cause. Unfortunately, these promises immediately rang hollow, for their earlier statements had established they knew nothing of her cause.  No, the more urgent issue of the day was not the continued plight of displaced Hurricane Katrina victims or Medicare dependent Black seniors struggling with the Prescription Drug Plan.

It was outrage over the absence of Motown recording artists being featured in the Super Bowl halftime show.    

In the era of my parents and the Kings', no matter the wealth or status you achieved, you were still responsible for instilling the same discipline in your children. But even then, your success was measured in part by material gain. However, by nurturing such potential in the next generation, it remained equally important to lift up the entire race, as well. Slavery, segregation, prejudice and discrimination actually fortified this survival mechanism, the central factor aiding the Black race in reaching the goal of full equality, intact. But now, without such obstructs to defy and persevere through, such absolute oversight has become lax and fractured - assumed to be only needed in the struggle against institutionalized discrimination.

Right about that time in the late 1950's and early 60s', like many young Southern Blacks, TCF's father (and many of his siblings) were also moving away from that familial construct, traveling North in search of the plentiful manufacturing jobs (dubbed the Great Black Industrial Migration), and far greater freedoms than the tumultuous, still segregated South allowed. Initially, they did their parents proud, epitomizing the solid, church going, middle class Black family with kids and a mortgage. It's now clear to TCF however, in order to replicate that reliable support mechanism that groomed my parents in their formative years, one should not stray very far from it.

My parents had their siblings nearby to lean on, yet they were just as ill prepared for the pressures they were beginning to face. Absent were the experienced patriarchs and equally qualified preacher beyond familiar with your troubles, and not at all hesitant to call you on your shit. In formal society, they're called family counselors and psychiatrists. Yet, like most Blacks of my father's generation, he had not seen a medical doctor since the Army, or a dentist until he got company health care coverage. Unaware there was help available, many of my parent's generation instead found solace in alcohol. And, when such abuse began to have detrimental consequences, they found themselves surrounded only by those who were also in denial.  

TCF believes this marked the beginning of the moral and societal decline that has gripped Black America for nearly the last half decade.


Isolation has had a debilitating effect on the Black community, where the only self-identifying images beamed into their homes are success and wealth gained by either athletic ability or artistic talent, neither requiring formal education. Too many Black students will conclude the secondary education they are ignoring is only needed in that outside `white world', that they see only on cable. Therefore, anyone found taking his or her studies seriously are pressured or harassed for trying to `be white'. With already too many enjoyable distractions at that age, these bullies fail to understand the critical importance of an education, deluded that their already lofty goals don't require it. And assuredly, it's never to be a drug dealer or common criminal.

Recently, 25,000 applicants showed up for the opening of a Wal-Mart in a near South suburb of Chicago. Knowing the area, TCF bets the vast majority of potential Sales Associates were from the surrounding Black neighborhoods. Of those in line who did not earn a high school diploma or GED equivalent, I'd have just one question: Back in high school, did you ever envision yourself working at a Wal-Mart?


At this writing, the grassroots response to this book has not earned Tavis Smiley an appearance on Oprah, The Today Show or any mainstream network or cable talk shows. Most of you are now expecting me to racially demagogue on this fact. But instead, it reminds me of what I've been attempting to do on my blog for the last three years.

There are many White Americans genuinely concerned as to the plight of the Black community - justified in what they perceive as our failings, but also willing to aid those determined to improve their lives. However, just as many Blacks have used the crutch of racism to curb debate and deflect personal accountability, many more White folk are reluctant to challenge such tired rhetoric, further assuming (incorrectly) that it represents the stated viewpoint of an equally conflicted race.

I have tried to foster open debate on the subject of race, confident to have articulate bloggers of color to aid in such a dialogue, while hoping to attract non-ethnic `lurkers' into a serious, respectful discourse. TCF can only hope that those spurred by Black commercial radio and their fellow congregants to purchase this book will be looking for the help and encouragement to implement these tough and needed measures.

So, next time you're in a bookstore, be sure to thumb through a copy of the Covenant. For, as Tavis Smiley has emphasized, this is a book about Americans in need of help.      

Tags: African-American, black, Poverty, race (all tags)



Re: The Covenant With Black America

Well said colored- fella, I have been trying to do the same.- get an open honest debate about race going-for a long time. Unfortunately, people in the majority population are very edgy about this subject. At times, I can't really blame them because everyone is so afraid that if they say what they really feel they will be called a racist. As far as I am concerned we can always talk and no offense will be taken. All issues are on the table. Once white folks get past my name [field-negro-] they find that I am not such a bad guy, even if I do choose to dwell in the fields and not in the house :)

Your piece was well written, and although I have some issues with Tavis, I don't think he is getting a fair shake. I did buy his book and it does have some interesting things to say about our people.

I live and work in Philly, and unless something is done real soon, these young bucks are going to exterminate themselves with all the senseless killings. It's so sad, but I blame our leaders, clergy, and politicians. They have to take back these neighborhoods and start educating folks on how to raise their children in the right way, and how to cultivate a proper value system among their young.  

I am out Fam. and I will definitely check out your blog, maybe we can even do some things together.




by field negro 2006-04-21 07:07PM | 0 recs
Re: The Covenant With Black America

Thanks for the props FN! I'm very encouraged to find such validation and deep understanding. It seems we've had almost identical blogging experiences right down to monikers that are off putting and misinterpreted.

Most Whites will be shock to hear that we are both disillusioned with the current Black leadership, angered by their exploitation and opportunism. The refusal to hold ourselves accountable is creating a chasm between those that have and the ghetto trash they want no part of.

Let's keep the dialog going...

by thatcoloredfella 2006-04-21 08:52PM | 0 recs
Re: The Covenant With Black America

TCF, great diary. What is your blog url? I'd like to catch up with you later in the week.

by dblhelix 2006-04-23 02:18AM | 0 recs


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