Ten years ago, Tavis Smiley’s book The Covenant with Black America hit the New York Times Best Sellers List, laying out a blueprint on how to make Black America better.
Now, Smiley revisits the topics covered in his 2006 release with fresh analysis to “underscore missed opportunities and the work that remains to be done.”
Of The Covenant with Black America – Ten Years Later from Amazon.com:
In 2006, Tavis Smiley teamed up with other leaders in the Black community to create a national plan of action to address the ten most crucial issues facing African Americans. The Covenant with Black America, which became a #1 New York Timesbestseller, ran the gamut from health care to criminal justice, affordable housing to education, voting rights to racial divides. But a decade later, Black men still fall to police bullets and brutality, Black women still die from preventable diseases, Black children still struggle to get a high quality education, the digital divide and environmental inequality still persist, and American cities from Ferguson to Baltimore burn with frustration. In short, the last decade has seen the evaporation of Black wealth, with Black fellow citizens having lost ground in nearly every leading economic category.
On Thursday, Smiley joined Roland Martin on NewsOne Now to talk about The Covenant with Black America – Ten Years Later and shared his views on the state of Black America in 2016.
Prior to discussing his new book, Smiley took a moment to clear up a misconception about the initial release of The Covenant with Black America in 2006.
The New York Times Best Selling Author explained, “When you talk to our people, it’s important to lay out this chronology.”
“We announced in 2005 we were going to do this book — the book comes out in 2006, Barack Obama shows up and wins in 2008. For all those persons for all these years who thought it was about Barack Obama, it never was.”
Smiley continued, “The book was out before he ever showed up to [run] for president — so it was never about me having some issue with Barack Hussein Obama.” He added, “It was about our community and how we hold ourselves responsible and hold other people accountable.”
The book laid out the “top ten issues of importance to African-Americans.” Ten years later, Smiley said it was time to “ask what happened.”
Despite “pockets of progress,” Smiley told Martin, “The bad news is — and it pains me to say it — but in every major economic category, Black folk have lost ground over the last ten years.”
Later in their conversation, Smiley explained that his new literary work is not about Pres. Obama, saying, “This book is about us and what we do to advance the causes that we care about.”
“Something is wrong ten years after this ground-breaking book when Black boys and Black men are still being shot dead in the street by cops who get away with it, when Black women are still dying from preventable diseases disproportionately, when Black children still don’t have access to an equal high quality education. Environmental racism is still real, the digital divide is still real,” Smiley said.
“We’ve gotten to a point where this generation of kids are not going to do as well as their parents in Black America and we sit around and talk about everything but what we ought to be focused on, which is how do we turn the tide against what is trying to take us under.”
When asked about why the statistics detailed in The Covenant with Black America – Ten Years Later reveal a significant downturn in Black economics during the era of the first African-American president, Smiley said, “Black people were too deferential — we love our president — I love him, but symbolism ain’t substance and we were sidelined and silenced in terms of making demands.”
He added members of the LGBT community made demands of Pres. Obama “and that is why they got what they wanted.” Smiley said, “You got to make demands, we can’t be deferential to our detriment.”
Along with what seems to be an unwillingness to challenge the nation’s first Black President, Smiley cited “too much indifference to the president by these Republicans who were hating on him for all of his term” in office as another hindrance to the advancement of the Black community during the last ten years.
Watch Roland Martin, Tavis Smiley, and the News OneNow panel discuss Smiley’s new book The Covenant with Black America – Ten Years Later in the video clip above.
Subscribe to the “NewsOne Now” Audio Podcast on iTunes.