Excerpted from "Keeping the Faith" by Tavis Smiley with permission of Doubleday.

The concept of Black love is how this book came to be. Yes, so many of the stories are about overcoming and succeeding against the odds. But the real and true theme underlying the book is Black love.

I came up with the idea of putting together this book after I was fired from Black Entertainment Television (BET). Prior to being fired, I thought I knew something about Black love. But after I lost my job, the outpouring of Black love shown to me, from California to the Carolinas, was phenomenal. It was Black love that lifted me during the darkest moment of my professional career. It was Black love that lifted me out of my despair. I discovered that, outside of God's love, nothing is more powerful.

One of the greatest challenges we face as Black people is whether or not we can take the notion of Black love and use it proactively, as opposed to reactively. Black love is a powerful force. The Black community has a way of coming together and rescuing each other and lifting each other up when someone has been attacked, undermined, or otherwise disenfranchised. But the challenge for us as African Americans is to act proactively with regard to the important issues in our community. If we could harness this notion of Black love and demonstrate it on the front end of our life experiences, as opposed to the back end of our struggles, we would become an awesome force to be reckoned with.

Using Black love, we could eradicate Black-on-Black crime, Black nihilism, and Black powerlessness, all of which exist in our communities because of a lack of self-love. We could even strengthen Black male-female relationships.

For me, what was so uplifting and rewarding about my discovery of the genuine meaning of Black love was the relationship between one's "value" and love. Value, I learned, is not what you think of yourself, but rather what other people think of you. The outpouring of Black love that was shown to me across this country after I was fired from BET made a clear statement about my value to African Americans-who I was, what I was about, and the way that Black America perceived me. I learned that my real value wasn't what BET thought of me or even what I thought of myself. It had more to do with what other Black folks thought of me. I didn't realize the powerful force of Black love that I became the beneficiary of. I was completely overwhelmed.

Of course, I knew that people watched my show, that they would buy my books, and that they would come to hear me if I was speaking somewhere. So I was aware that I had some followers. But when I got fired, it became clear to me that Black people saw me as someone they cared about, someone who tried to represent their best interests, someone who was genuinely concerned about the plight of Black America. Their immediate response was "We're not going to stand for this." That's what I love about being Black: when our backs are to the wall, we come together as a people. When one of us is targeted unfairly or unduly, we go to bat for one another.

Consider the reelection of Marion Barry as mayor of Washington, D.C. Here was a man who had been caught on videotape smoking crack and trying to bed a woman who was not his wife, attempting to run for another term as mayor of a major U.S. city. And he won! Many said the reason he won was that Black folks were crazy-how dare they vote Marion Barry back into office. The more sophisticated, however, realized that Black folk in the D.C. area saw the government create an elaborate sting operation to nail Marion Barry-and use their taxpayer dollars to pay for it. And they suspected he was nailed because he is Black. So their vote became their voice and they reelected Marion Barry.

Black love is Black citizens reelecting Marion Barry as mayor of Washington, D.C., when he didn't necessarily deserve their votes. Black love is Black people cheering and rejoicing the day that O.J. Simpson was found not guilty, even though O.J. hadn't done much of anything for Black people. Black love, in its essence, is the awesome capacity and the uncanny ability to love someone in spite of themselves-in spite of their shortcomings, in spite of their mistakes, in spite of their lapses in judgment, in spite of their deserting their community and not giving back to it once they leave. Black love is forgiving.

When I say that Black people have a tremendous capacity for loving others in spite of, I'm not just talking about their ability to love their own, but also the ability to love others in spite of. One can make the case, given the historical relationship between Blacks and whites in America, that Black people love white people in spite of all the things that have been done to us. Think about how Black folks had to love America, in spite of the fact we were considered three-fifths of a person, when we fought alongside whites in the Civil War to help America resolve the issue of slavery, even though many of the soldiers were enslaved themselves. We fought in both world wars as well as the Vietnam War; sometimes we came home missing leg and limb, only to be treated like second-class citizens. Yet we learned to love this country in spite of this. To this day, we are still, through amendment, through protests, through boycotts, and through the ballot, trying to make America live up to her truest ideals. We love this country, we love our people, in spite of and not because of. That's what Black love is.

Although so many Black folks in America detest the programming offered by BET, they have shown their love and support for founder Bob Johnson because he was the only one out there attempting to bring certain issues about Black people to the forefront through the use of mainstream media. So they loved him in spite of and not because of.

When your back is to the wall, there is nothing like the power of Black love to pull you through. And that's why I believe that beyond God's love, Black love is the most powerful force in the universe.

The fact that we can love under such dire circumstances--in spite of and not because of--is, I believe, what makes us special. For all the torture, pain, and disenfranchisement that we have had to endure--when we are racially profiled, when we can't get a home loan, when we are the victims of insurance redlining and predatory lending, when we are the last hired and first fired, when circumstances are created to make it more difficult for us to get into college in order to receive a quality education--Black people find a way to love this place called America. That's what Black love is. Other races might have said, "To hell with all this confusion and pain and heartache." We kept right on loving, trying to make America a better nation.

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