1. Sugar of the Crop: My Journey to Find the Children of Slaves
by Sana Butler
Who even knew that any children of slaves were still alive? A debt of gratitude is owed to Sana Butler for compiling this bittersweet collection of revealing interviews with the offspring of folks freed by the Emancipation Proclamation well over a century ago. What makes this book special is how seamlessly the author contrasts her aging subjects’ fading recollections with her own expectations of them and her intimate reflections about being black and female in present-day America.
Consider her account of meeting 99 year-old Walter Scott at the Sulphur Spring Baptist Church, which begins: “Mr. Scott was waiting for me in the fellowship hall, sitting at the end of a collapsible picnic table covered with a checkered red-and-white plastic cloth, surrounded by women in white usher uniforms carrying grits and scrambled eggs in black iron skillets. One hand rested on top of his walking cane, the other held a black Bible in his lap.”
It’s such well-crafted descriptions which elevated Sugar of the Crop to the top of the list. Thanks to Sana Butler, a bounty of priceless pearls of wisdom and whimsy have been preserved for posterity via this seminal contribution to the nation’s folklore.
2. Step Out on Nothing: How Faith and Family Helped Me Conquer Life’s Challenges by Byron Pitts
Earlier this year, Byron Pitts became the heir apparent to Ed Bradley’s coveted spot on 60 Minutes when he was named a contributing correspondent to the long-running, television newsmagazine. While many might have deemed Mr. Pitts’ ascension to the plum position a natural outgrowth of his Emmy-winning work covering such major stories for CBS as the 9/11 Attacks, Hurricane Katrina and the Afghan War, the truth is that this talented reporter had to overcome a host of seemingly-insurmountable childhood challenges en route to turning himself into a great success story.
Pitts humbly recounts these admirable achievements in Step Out on Nothing: How Faith and Family Helped Me Conquer Life’s Challenges. The moving memoir proves to be as inspiring as it is sincere, with the potential to serve as a source of motivation for any individual who dares to dream big in the face of overwhelming learning disabilities. Bravo to Byron Pitts for having the guts to go public with such an intimate testimonial to the power of passion and persistence, especially when one has faith in God and strategic help along the way from some loving role models.
3. Between Good and Ghetto: African-American Girls and Inner-City Violence by Nikki Jones
The recent murder of an African-American honors student brutally beaten
to death right outside of his Chicago high school by a mob of fellow teenagers failed to generate as much outrage as one would expect. We’ve become so blasé about violence in this country that such attacks are taken in stride and nobody notices that the fastest-growing sector of the prison population are black females
Fortunately, Professor Nikki Jones has dedicated her career to understanding and reversing the alarming phenomenon, and the fruit of those labors has yielded this revealing treatise. The author’s research led her to the conclusion that, “It is that the battle for respect, dignity, and positive life chances is not one these girls should have to fight on their own.” A sobering discourse on the growing problem of social inequality which must be addressed before our rapidly decaying, urban infrastructure turns the prospect of the fall of American Civilization into a culturally-irreversible fait accompli.
4. Accountable: Making America as Good as Its Promise by Tavis Smiley
In 2008, Tavis Smiley took a lot of heat over his reluctance to rubber-
stamp Barack Obama’s candidacy simply on the basis of its symbolism as opposed to demanding to know exactly what the victory would mean for black America. Tavis’ hesitancy ostensibly came from a reasonable expectancy that Obama would have to deliver on his campaign promises, for his historic win to be of palpable value to the masses of black folks who had turned out in record numbers to support him at a rate of 93%.
Now that Barack Obama has proven a disappointment as President, many might look more favorably on Mr. Smiley’s effort to hold him accountable to his most loyal constituency. Each chapter of the book delineates Obama’s campaign promises in terms of such areas in dire need of attention as health care, education, justice, the economy, and so forth. It also includes checklists to enable the reader to assess whether or not the administration is delivering.
A compelling exercise in truth in advertising designed to keep Obama’s feet to the fire.