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
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
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: http://www.covenantwithblackamerica.com/moving.html
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.
Read Editorial by Dr. Sam