Tavis Smiley and Cornel West are on a mission to empower black America. The two men are crisscrossing the country on a seven-city tour promoting their latest book, “Covenant with Black America.” They’ll be in New York tonight. “A covenant is something we are making for ourselves as black people,” said Smiley. “We have to make a promise with ourselves that each of us individually and collectively is prepared to do what it takes to make black America better.” Smiley, host of the PBS nightly show “Tavis Smiley,” pointed to the citizens of New Orleans stranded after Hurricane Katrina as a watershed moment to see whom America needs to help. The tome is a collection of 10 essays written by experts on a variety of heady topics from education to health to criminal justice. The book offers observations and potential solutions to dilemmas afflicting impoverished blacks, Latinos and Native Americans. Smiley, 41, the author of eight books on race and class, hopes the “Covenant” becomes a platform for a new black nationalism.

“It is a guidebook,” said Smiley. “It is not a perfect document, but it’s a public document. It has information that can empower people. I believe that knowledge is power.”

Smiley and West, 52, a former Harvard scholar now at Princeton, will host a 7 p.m. town hall meeting at the Concord Baptist Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

Asked why would someone who is not a minority-group member pick up this book, West said: “If you have any interest in democracy, this book is indispensable. Like the legacy of Martin [Luther] King, the struggle for black freedom is a version of the struggle of democracy.



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