How to Make Black America Better: Leading African Americans Speak Out

Tavis Smiley, Compiled by, Tavis Smiley, Author
Tavis Smiley, Compiled by, Tavis Smiley, Author Doubleday Books $21.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-385-50214-6
Reviewed on: 01/01/2001
Release date: 01/01/2001
Paperback - 249 pages - 978-0-385-72087-8
Open Ebook - 272 pages - 978-0-307-48608-0
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-00392-7
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Exhorting black Americans to respect themselves and support their community, BET talk show host Smiley opens with 10 ""challenges,"" focusing on education, health and money. These themes are underscored in the second section of the book, which features a collection of short entries from 28 black movers and shakers, from Maxine Waters to Shaquille O'Neal. While the litany of concerns and lists of remedies may seem repetitious, the net effect is a consensus on the needs of black America: more emphasis on educational excellence, more patronage of black enterprises, more voter registration and political involvement, and more pride in black history and culture. Reform of the prison system is urged by many, as well as a reckoning within the black church with homophobia and sexism. Spokespeople for very different perspectives sometimes offer strikingly similar thoughts: both critic Stanley Crouch and musician Sinbad wonder when it became hip to be dumb. The book ends with transcripts of two discussions with leading black thinkers held at the Democratic convention of 2000. Again, there's much consensus, thanks either to the absence of black Republicans or to a willingness to think inclusively. When educator Jawanza Kunjufu proposes a Ujamaa (cooperative economics) plan for black America, the moderator, attorney Raymond Brown, avoids a response, rather than criticize. Even if they give way to monologues, these two panel talks are longer on substance and shorter on rhetoric than the sometimes tedious earlier sections of the book. (Jan. 9) Forecast: While only the committed will buy and read this cover to cover, there are enough quotable bits to generate interest. Given Smiley's black media connections and the stellar list of contributors, visibility will be high and sales respectable.
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