Tavis Smiley's Book, "Keeping the Faith"

The third crisis I experienced was a family crisis; I underwent a very painful divorce. This situation was again a crucial occasion in which the sustaining power of Black love was manifested in a mighty and powerful way. I had invested a tremendous amount of time and material resources in my relationship and partnership only to find myself one day having fallen flat on my face. Two things became very clear to me. The first was that I saw myself as I am--a cracked vessel. But the second and more significant thing revealed to me was that I could bounce back. In spite of my faults, foibles, shortcomings, and defects, I was still deeply loved by others. And so, Black love became the impetus that allowed me to bounce back, rather than remain down and out. In all three of the aforementioned crises, the power of Black love was the fundamental factor that allowed me to preserve my sanity and dignity.

I believe there is a real challenge for Black people in general and for Black leaders in particular today. We are currently experiencing a crisis in Black leadership in America, in part because we simply do not have enough Black leaders who have a profound love for Black people. We need the kind of Black love that allows us to criticize as well as embrace, to empower as well as to correct, to listen as well as to speak, and in the end, to ennoble as well as be ennobled by the people. I also believe this to be true for many among our Black professional class. Many have become so isolated and so insulated and so intoxicated with the material toys of the world that they have lost sight of the love that made them who they are and that brought them to where they are. I also believe that we are losing the ability to pass that profound love on to our young people.

The major crisis of our younger generation, in addition to the decrepit educational system, inadequate health care, unavailable child-care, and lack of jobs that provide a living wage, is that many young people have not been loved deeply enough. The major responsibility lies with the older generation. We must bequeath and transmit a genuine love to the younger generation in order to ensure that they will not feel rootless, isolated, unloved, untouched, and simply unattended to.

In the end, I believe that the power of Black love is one of the most precious themes and most significant issues in the history of Black people, past, present, and future. It is Black love, like Black history, that unites these three dimensions of time.


I am the only child of the union of Isaiah and Hannah Robinson. My father spent all his life working for meager wages in rural North Carolina. His highest annual salary was $8,500. We grew up in a small, dilapidated house with no bathroom or running water. It was not until I was a senior in high school that we got a telephone. (The first person I called was the woman who has now been my wife for twenty years.) I never felt ashamed of our living conditions; I always had the feeling of being loved, and the sense that my parents were doing the best they could. I never knew I was poor. The fact is, I was not poor; I was very rich in love. The riches that I accumulated during my childhood are the foundation for my adult perspective on life.

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