Reviewed by Lynne d Johnson
Tavis Smiley, syndicated radio and BET talk-show host, is committed to making the world a better place. This is his mission. His first book, Doing What`s Right : How to Fight for What You Believe - And Make a Difference was a hardcover guide to fighting the good fight. Now, the book is out in paperback along with the new release of Smiley`s follow-up effort, How to Make Black America Better: Leading African Americans Speak Out.
Doing What's Right addresses everyday social advocacy. Smiley uses anecdotal details from his own life to instruct readers on how to get involved and become advocates for social change that will directly affect them. The book closes with a case study of Smiley and Tom Joyner's own experience taking on CompUSA in 1999 for failing to advertise in the African-American community although black folks spent an estimated $1.3 billion on computers and computer-related equipment that year.
The way Smiley relates the story makes you think that you too can take on a messed-up major corporation and feel empowered, regardless of whether you win in the end.
In How To Make Black America Better, Smiley focuses on the black community. He starts by posing 10 challenges to the reader, beginning with the call to ’think black’ 100 percent of the time.
The middle section of the book lets leading African Americans offer their opinions on how best to improve black America. The statements run the gamut from spirituality, to the digital age, to hip hop. Susan L. Taylor, editorial director of Essence magazine, starts off the conversation with an essay, ’Each Other's Keeper,’ that conveys a spiritual message about the first Americans and Africans in this country.
Other essayists include Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., bestselling author E. Lynn Harris, supermodel Tyra Banks, the inspirational speaker and writer Iyanla Vanzant, Net pro Darien C. Dash, and noted children's advocate Marian Wright Edelman.
The grand finale is a selection of excerpts and highlights from ’Advocacy in the Next Millennium: New Paradigms for Progress," a national symposium Smiley organized in Los Angeles on the eve of the 1999 Democratic National Convention. Included are diverse commentators such as Les Brown, Farai Chideya, Rev. Al Sharpton, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Nikki Giovanni, and Cornel West.
Smiley's effort with these two books deserves accolades. His clear cut, no-nonsense approach to presenting the matters at hand rescues them from the usual gaggle of social theory, political agendas, and academic rhetoric. Hopefully, African American readers of all professional backgrounds, education levels and political affiliations will grasp the point, understand the messages, and turn words into action.
Tavis Smiley - The "Been in the Storm Too Long" Interview (July 2010) http://aalbc.com/reviews/tavis_smiley.html