"The black church must get back into the business of developing character, leadership, and entrepreneurial principles in poor people."

With the compelling image of a runner in the back of the pack who must run faster in order to win, author Baker reminds us that African Americans were not blessed with the same starting point as European Americans and did not really enter the race at all until 1965 with the passing of the Voter Rights Act. African Americans now face many deficits that he carefully delineates; but that does not mean, he states, they should quit trying to access their rights. American history was against them, through the years of slavery, Reconstruction, and the Jim Crow era. Baker traces many such ills, even relatively recent ones like President Reagan’s War on Drugs, which demonized at-risk, ghetto-isolated blacks. Baker regards black churches as the only hope for the marginalized. Such institutions, he believes, have the resources to train and prepare individuals for productive work and well-organized family life.

Baker, retired from the US Army and now affiliated with United Methodism as a preacher and activist, developed a program—And Step, Incorporated—in 1995. Helpful documentation for that program is included in this strongly worded manual: forms for family budgeting, suggestions for a family mission statement, guidelines for business start-ups, sample employment applications, and more. One item Baker believes to be essential in the training process is “Mandatory Travel Education,” including visiting Shirley Plantation in Virginia, established in 1616, and an example of the use of African slave labor. The author expresses particular concern for the situation of black women who often manage to hold families together despite sexual exploitation often beginning in childhood. He quotes extensively from scripture in support of his proposals and has provided a useful bibliography. Those seriously interested in meaningful community action and the equality of all citizens would benefit from studying Baker’s well-considered ideas.

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