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Black Americans are in trouble, and BET Tonight host Tavis Smiley thinks he knows how to help. In his new book, How to Make Black America Better, Smiley compiles a group of essays from leading African-American figures, including Harvard University scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., author Ilyanla Vanzant, attorney-to-the-stars Johnnie Cochran, and Victoria’s Secret-model-cum-Mad TV-actress Tyra Banks. I can see where Smiley was going; he wanted to reach all segments of the population. But you know you’re in trouble when you start looking to supermodels for guidance. For those teenagers who look up to her, Banks offers this bit of wisdom through poetry: “Love each other/Support each other/Uplift each other/Stop ‘player hating’ each other/Can’t we all justwell, you know…” No, we don’t know, Tyra. Fortunately, other contributors provide clearer and more intelligible ideas. Rep. Maxine Waters writes, “Success in our pursuit of justice is absolutely dependent on the belief that we can and will make it happen. It is in our hands. It is in our power.” Psychologist Na’im Akbar adds, “We must unapologetically create a learning environment that empowers us to be as effective as other communities in the world. We must get away from the imposed analysis that suggests that such an objective is ‘anti-anyone’ or inflates into fantasy the facts of who we are.” Smiley himself will no doubt provide even more advice when he speaks at 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 26, at the US Department of Agriculture’s Jefferson Auditorium, 14th & Independence Ave. SW. $13. For reservations call (202) 357-3030. (Maori Karmael Holmes)