‘The Covenant with Black America’ – Ten Years Later

Go Lean Commentary

In 2006, [writer-commentator] Tavis Smiley — along with a team of esteemed contributors — laid out a national plan of action to address the ten most crucial issues facing African Americans. The Covenant, which became a #1 New York Times bestseller, 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 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.

And so in these pages Smiley calls for a renewal of The Covenant, presenting the original action plan alongside new data from the Indiana University School of Public & Environmental Affairs (SPEA) to underscore missed opportunities and the work that remains to be done. While life for far too many African Americans remains a struggle, the great freedom fighter Frederick Douglass was right: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

Now is the time to finally convert the trials and tribulations of Black America into the progress that all of America yearns for.
The Covenant with Black America – Ten Years Later (Retrieved 01/14/2016) –
Hay House, Inc, January 5, 2016 – Social Science – 296 pages
- Photo 1

With descriptors like the foregoing, it would be understandable if Black people from other countries are dissuaded from emigrating to the United States. Yet, the opposite is happening! The book Go Lean … Caribbean relates that people in the Caribbean – mostly Black and Brown – are beating down the doors to get out of their Caribbean homelands, to seek refuge in places like the US; (a smaller faction emigrate to Canada and Western Europe). This really conveys the sad state of affairs for the Caribbean eco-system. While things are bad for Blacks in America, according to the foregoing, more Black people want to come in, instead of working to remediate the problems in their own homelands.

Black America has some work to do. Travis Smiley – the eloquent social-political commentator, and his band of experts – provided a blueprint-roadmap to effect change in their communities. See here:

Book Title: Covenant with Black America
By: Tavis Smiley
Third World Press, 2006 – Political Science – 254 pages

Six years’ worth of symposiums come together in this rich collection of essays that plot a course for African Americans, explaining how individuals and households can make changes that will immediately improve their circumstances in areas ranging from health and education to crime reduction and financial well-being. Addressing these pressing concerns are contributors Dr. David Satcher, former U.S. surgeon general; Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights; Angela Glover Blackwell, founder of the research think tank PolicyLink; and Cornell West, professor of Religion at PrincetonUniversity. Each chapter outlines one key issue and provides a list of resources, suggestions for action, and a checklist for what concerned citizens can do to keep their communities progressing socially, politically, and economically. Though the African American community faces devastating social disparities—in which more than 8 million people live in poverty—this celebration of possibility, hope, and strength will help leaders and citizens keep Black America moving forward.

What is the Covenant with Black America?

The Covenant with Black America is a national plan of action to address the primary concerns of African Americans today—from health to housing, from crime to criminal justice, from education to economic parity.

Why A Covenant and Why Now?

As we witnessed in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections, Americans are deeply divided between race, class, gender, political ideology and moral values. A divide so extreme, that in order to bridge it, we must speak openly, freely, without judgment and work together. It is imperative that we take this opportunity to consider the issues of particular interest to African Americans and to establish a national plan of action to address them. No longer can we sit back and expect one political party, one segment of the population or one religious denomination to speak for us or to act on our behalf. It is our responsibility as an entire community to no longer be left behind politically, socially, or economically and to bridge the economic and social divides ourselves, by encouraging a conversation and a commitment that will inevitably benefit all Americans.

State of the Black Union: Defining the African American Agenda Part I & II

For the last ten years, the country’s visionaries, educators, public policy makers, religious leaders, opinion makers, and community organizers have come together to weigh in on the most challenging issues facing Black America. This symposium—The State of the Black Union—has always encouraged dialogue and the exchange of ideas about issues and factors that gauge the progress of America’s promise for African Americans; however, last year’s gathering marked a turning point.

On the heels of the 2004 presidential election, a sour economy, a rising death toll in Iraq, a growing prison population, and deepening disparities in healthcare and public education, collectively “we the people” decided that it was time to shift the conversation from talking about our “pain” to talking about our “plan”. It is a plan that moves our critique of America to a construction of America—a country that is as good as its promise. At the close of the 2005 State of the Black Union, the public was invited to share what they wanted from this plan. African Americans across the country let us know what their concerns were once we put out the call for them to do so at our website. In short, take control of their own destiny. We believe that The Covenant has the power to do this and more.

Less than one year later, that plan, roadmap, blueprint was published as the Covenant with Black America. On the recommendation of Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery, co-founder with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we decided to call this document a “covenant” and not a “contract” because it speaks to the spiritual dimension of the Black struggle for progress in America.

We are especially pleased with the thought-leaders and opinion-makers who have contributed introductory essays to each of the 10 covenant chapters in the book. Each is nationally recognized for contributions in their various fields of interest and each donated his/her time and expertise to make this project possible.

It was important for us to maintain the integrity of this project by guaranteeing that from conception to birth, this project would be imbued with the spirit and soul of Black people. We made the plea over the nationally-syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show and Black folk everywhere responded. The name of each donor is listed in the text of the book. It’s a wonderful thing to peruse the list and to see the names of individual Black family members who supported this effort. It is even more empowering to know that these citizens are serious about their future and that of our country.

The rise of the Covenant with Black America to #1 on the New York Times best-seller list proved that there was tremendous interest in a plan of action that addressed the concerns of Black Americans. Tavis Smiley, the visionary responsible for creating and building the momentum around the book, embarked on a five-month, 20-city national tour, holding sessions in churches in cities such as Philadelphia, Atlanta, Memphis, New York, Baltimore, and Cleveland.

To build on the excitement and discussion around the book, Tavis Smiley invited people around the country to host Covenant Celebrations as part of the Covenant Conversation and Celebration Weekend. The first 1,000 party hosts who sent Smiley an invitation to their celebration received a special covenant gift pack. One lucky party hosted Smiley and PrincetonUniversity professor Cornel West as their guests, where they discussed issues in The Covenant.

- Photo 2Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that the nettlesome task of Black Americans is to bear the burden of redeeming the soul of America. Without question, Black folk have always been the conscience of the country. It is our hope that we can yet again help our beloved nation live up to the promise of her ideals. The political paradigm has shifted; it’s time to build a new construct, and the Covenant with Black America is the tool for the task.

The Back Story of The Covenant Cover Photo

The background image on the cover of The Covenant book is an original photograph by world renowned photographer Chester Higgins, Jr. The photograph features eight year old Sojourner from New York.

In the face of this young girl, the cover of The Covenant represents our family histories. The image of the child’s face is composed of over three hundred smaller images of our ancestors submitted by African Americans across the country.

The Covenant is about the future. About the hope of Black youth yet unborn. About our past and the courage of our ancestors. About the present—right here and right now. The Covenant will reflect our independence, our interdependence and our interconnectedness.
Source: http://www.covenantwithblackamerica.com/background.htm; posted 2006; retrieved January 14, 2016

The Caribbean also has some work to do. The book Go Lean … Caribbean serves as a roadmap for effecting change in the Caribbean; it introduces the technocratic Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU) as a vehicle to bring about desired change in the region’s economics, security and governing engines.

The Covenant with Black America addresses Income Inequality in the US, identifying the Black population versus the full general population. The book reveals that the Black Population is not just failing to keep pace with other communities, but also falling behind; going backwards, in the last 10 years.

This is bad! This corresponds with much of the time period for the focus of the Go Lean book. Go Lean was composed in the wake of the Great Recession of 2008 – a frequent topic for the Go Lean book and accompanying blogs. The desire to eliminate or reduce Income Inequality is a practical argument to enhance social cohesion and reduce social unrest. Social eruptions can weaken society and start the slide down the “slippery slope” to Failed-State status. It is important for Caribbean society to be “on guard” for encroachments in this regard.

This Go Lean/CU roadmap is designed to provide better economic stewardship (governance), to ensure that the economic failures of the past, in the Caribbean and other regions – like the US – do not re-occur here in the Caribbean homeland. The book posits that we must NOT fashion ourselves as parasites of the US, but rather pursue a status as a protégé, benefiting from their lessons-learned but molding a better society.

The Go Lean book cites the example of the American Dream and the failings to execute on that promise, as demonstrated with the Occupy Wall Street protests of 2011, with these quotations:

The Bottom Line on the American DreamPage 223
The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work. This idea of the American Dream is rooted in the US Declaration of Independence which proclaims that “all men are created equal… endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights” including “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The meaning of the “American Dream” has changed over history, and includes components as home-ownership and upward mobility. A lot of people followed the American Dream to achieve a greater chance of becoming rich. For example, the discovery of gold in California in 1849 brought in 100,000 men looking for their fortune overnight—and a few did find it. Thus was born the California Dream of instant success. Historian H. W. Brands noted that in the years after the Gold Rush, the California Dream spread across the nation: “The old American Dream . . . was the dream of the Puritans, of Benjamin Franklin’s “Poor Richard” . . . of men and women content to accumulate their modest fortunes a little at a time, year by year by year. The new dream was the dream of instant wealth, won in a twinkling by audacity and good luck. [This] golden dream . . . became a prominent part of the American psyche”. Today, some posit that the ease of achieving this Dream changes with technological advances, available infrastructure, regulations, state of the economy, and the evolving cultural values of the US demographics.

Ways to Impact Wall Street – Learn from Occupy Wall Street Protest MovementPage 200
This protest movement began on September 17, 2011, in Zuccotti Park, located in New York City’s Wall Street financial district. The main issues raised by the protests were social and economic inequality, greed, corruption and the perceived undue influence of financial service firms on the Federal government. The slogan, “We are the 99%”, referred to Income Inequality and wealth distribution in the U.S. between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of the population. In hindsight and as a lesson for the CU, these underlying concerns were legitimate as the 2008 Great Recession had its root causes tied to the many issues of Wall Street abuses against Main Street.

The Go Lean book does not cast judgment on all of the American people. It is the position of this commentary that for the most part, the people of the United States are good-natured and mean well in their pursuits of the Greater Good. But this commentary frequently relates that the continued institutional racism in America sets a barrier for progress for  Black Americans, in terms of education and career opportunities. In addition, there is a Shadow Influence in the US financial eco-system that undermines a lot of policies for the Greater Good. Therefore the inequalities between Black society and general society are merely a reflection of the societal defects in the US in total. This land (America), despite the actuality, should not be so alluring to foreign Black people. See a related VIDEO here:

VIDEOhttps://youtu.be/qIc014b491YTavis Smiley: Obama Failed Black Americans as President

Published on Jan 11, 2016 – Radio show host Tavis Smiley tells Fox News’ Megyn Kelly that Barack Obama failed Black Americans as President.

The book Go Lean … Caribbean posits that America is plagued with institutional racism and Crony-Capitalism. It is therefore not the eco-system for the Caribbean to model. Rather the roadmap designs more empowerments for the Caribbean Middle Class – as in creating 2.2 million new jobs – and less to the Rich – One Percent. (Though there is no plan to penalize success and to forcibly redistribute any wealth).

In general, the CU will employ better strategies, tactics and implementations to impact its prime directives; identified with the following 3 statements:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy to $800 Billion & create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to protect the resultant economic engines and mitigate internal and external threats.
  • Improvement of Caribbean governance to support these engines.

Early in the Go Lean book, this need for careful technocratic stewardship of the regional Caribbean economy was pronounced (Declaration of Interdependence – Page 12 – 13) with these acknowledgements and statements:

xi.   Whereas all men are entitled to the benefits of good governance in a free society, “new guards” must be enacted to dissuade the emergence of incompetence, corruption, nepotism and cronyism at the peril of the people’s best interest. The Federation must guarantee the executions of a social contract between government and the governed.

xii.   Whereas the legacy in recent times in individual states may be that of ineffectual governance with no redress to higher authority, the accedence of this Federation will ensure accountability and escalation of the human and civil rights of the people for good governance, justice assurances, due process and the rule of law. As such, any threats of a “failed state” status for any member state must enact emergency measures on behalf of the Federation to protect the human, civil and property rights of the citizens, residents, allies, trading partners, and visitors of the affected member state and the Federation as a whole.

xxiv. Whereas a free market economy can be induced and spurred for continuous progress, the Federation must install the controls to better manage aspects of the economy: jobs, inflation, savings rate, investments and other economic principles. Thereby attracting direct foreign investment because of the stability and vibrancy of our economy.

xxv.  Whereas the legacy of international democracies had been imperiled due to a global financial crisis, the structure of the Federation must allow for financial stability and assurance of the Federation’s institutions. To mandate the economic vibrancy of the region, monetary and fiscal controls and policies must be incorporated as proactive and reactive measures. These measures must address threats against the financial integrity of the Federation and of the member-states.

The Go Lean book stressed the key community ethos, strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies necessary to regulate and manage the regional economy and mitigate Income Inequality in the Caribbean eco-system. These points are detailed in the book, as in this sample list:

Community Ethos – Economic Principles – Economic Systems Influence Individual Choices Page 21
Community Ethos – Economic Principles – Consequences of Choices Lie in the Future Page 21
Community Ethos – Economic Principles – Money Multiplier Page 23
Community Ethos – Governing Principles – Lean Operations Page 24
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Future Page 26
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Greater Good Page 37
Strategy – Mission – Fortify the Stability of the Banking Institutions Page 45
Strategy – Provide Proper Oversight and Support for the Depository Institutions Page 46
Tactical – Ways to Foster a Technocracy Page 64
Tactical – Growing the Economy – Minimizing Bubbles Page 69
Tactical – Separation-of-Powers – Caribbean Central Bank Page 73
Tactical – Separation-of-Powers – Depository Institutions Regulatory Agency Page 73
Anecdote – Turning Around CARICOM – Effects of 2008 Financial Crisis Page 92
Implementation – Assemble Caribbean Central Bank as a Cooperative Page 96
Implementation – Ways to Better Manage Debt Page 114
Planning – 10 Big Ideas – Single Market / Currency Union Page 127
Planning – Ways to Improve Failed-State Indices Page 134
Planning – Lessons Learned from 2008 Page 136
Advocacy – Ways to Grow the Economy Page 151
Advocacy – Ways to Control Inflation Page 153
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Wall Street – Lessons from the “Occupy Wall Street” Protests Page 200
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Main Street Page 201
Advocacy – Battles in the War on Poverty Page 222
Advocacy – Ways to Help the Middle Class Page 223
Advocacy – Ways to Impact the One Percent Page 224

The points of effective, technocratic economic stewardship of the Caribbean have been detailed in these previous blog/commentaries:

http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=6563 Lessons from Iceland – Model of Recovery
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=6531 A Lesson in History – Book Review of the ‘Exigency of 2008’
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=6399 Book Review on ‘Mitigating Income Inequality’
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=6286 Managing the ‘Invisible Hand of the Market’
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=5733 Better than America? Yes, We Can!
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=5597 Economic Principle: Market Forces -vs- Collective Bargaining
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=3582 For Canadian Banks: Caribbean is a ‘Bad Bet’
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=3090 Introduction to Europe – All Grown Up
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=2930 ‘Too Big To Fail’ – Caribbean Version
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=1014 All is not well in the sunny Caribbean
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=782 Open the Time Capsule: The Great Recession of 2008
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=353 Book Review: ‘Wrong – 9 Economic Policy Disasters and What We Can Learn…’

- Photo 3The Go Lean book reports that the Caribbean is in crisis. Too many people leave! The region is suffering a debilitating brain-drain estimated at 70% with some countries reporting up to 81%. This is due to “push-and-pull” factors. We must lower these factors. The “push” refers to the overbearing deficiencies in the homeland that people need refuge from; the “pull” refers to the lure from distant shores, as if the “grass is greener on the other side”. But look here at the 10 issues of concern for Black America. So while all is not well in the Caribbean, neither is all well in America.

The Go Lean roadmap declares that “enough is enough”. It is easier for the average person to remediate and mitigate defects in their Caribbean homeland than to try and fix America. It is akin to “jumping from the frying pan to the fire”.

This message must be enunciated, more stridently.

It is time for more empowerments in the Caribbean! It is time for us to build a better society. The strategies, tactics and implementations proposed in the book Go Lean…Caribbean are conceivable, believable and achievable. We can do these! We can be better; yes, we can!

Everyone in the Caribbean is hereby urged to lean-in for this Go Lean roadmap.  🙂

Download the book Go Lean … Caribbean Now!

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