Practical Virtues: Everyday Values and Devotions for African-American Families


As pastor of a church of more than fifteen thousand congregants, a former congressman, and president of one of the country's most respected black colleges, the Reverend Floyd Flake is frequently sought after by those in need of guidance. Now, with Practical Virtues, he and his wife, A.M.E. co-pastor Elaine McCollins Flake, have gathered their favorite stories, letters, hymns, narratives, and poems into a single, indispensable collection and paired them with spiritual exercises ...

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As pastor of a church of more than fifteen thousand congregants, a former congressman, and president of one of the country's most respected black colleges, the Reverend Floyd Flake is frequently sought after by those in need of guidance. Now, with Practical Virtues, he and his wife, A.M.E. co-pastor Elaine McCollins Flake, have gathered their favorite stories, letters, hymns, narratives, and poems into a single, indispensable collection and paired them with spiritual exercises for the soul.

Beautifully designed, with each of the twelve chapters devoted to a single virtue — Courage, Diligence, Faith, Forbearance, Forgiveness, Honesty, Love, Loyalty, Prudence, Responsibility, Service, and Trustworthiness — Practical Virtues is a heartfelt, inspiring gift the Flakes have given to all African American families.

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Editorial Reviews

Daily News
“An expansive anthology of words to guide souls to a place of inner strength.”
Bishop T.D. Jakes
“Practical Virtues will inspire, inform, and ignite those who read it.”
“An inspiring collection.”
USA Today on The Way of the Bootstrapper
“I was certainly inspired.”
Chicago Defender on The Way of the Bootstrapper
“Tremendously written.”
Black Issues Book Review on The Way of the Bootstrapper
“Motivational and spiritual.”
Congresswoman Maxine Waters on The Way of the Bootstrapper
“[An] enlightening and spiritual experience.”
William J. Bennett
“Read his words and lessons. Study them carefully...[and] take the next step by incorporating them into your everyday life.”
Dallas Morning News
“A powerful collection.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Well written...rings with sincerity....Families will find this book helpful.”
Publishers Weekly
In a treasure trove of African-American spirituality, Revs. Floyd Flake and Elaine McCollins Flake offer Practical Virtues: Everyday Values and Devotions for African American Families. While the title might suggest another simplistic niche devotional with bite-sized expressions of spiritual wisdom, the book actually offers an incomparably rich selection of historical writings by, for and about African-Americans. Here we find snippets from the memoir of Rosa Parks, the speeches of Sojourner Truth, the poetry of Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks and the socio-political writings of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois. (Polar opposites in their approaches a century ago, Washington and DuBois actually seem at home appearing cheek-by-jowl in this collection.) The writings are organized around spiritual virtues such as courage, diligence, faith, honesty, love, loyalty and service. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Husband and wife pastors of a church of 15,000 in Jamaica, Queens (New York City), the Flakes are both heavily involved in the practical challenges of daily living. Their book brings together an array of short narratives, poems, speeches, accounts, hymns, biblical quotes, and stories that relate to African American experiences. Each entry is coupled with thoughtful and applicable questions. This is an everyday book of inspiration and exaltation, broken into chapters each devoted to one of 12 virtues: courage, diligence, faith, forbearance, forgiveness, honesty, love, loyalty, prudence, responsibility, service, and trustworthiness. These virtues are set forth as "a way of life" applicable to everyone. Floyd Flake (Nine Action Steps to Achieving Your Dreams) grew up in poverty but graduated from college and later became a congressman, president of a multimillion-dollar corporation, and president of Wilberforce University. This collection of readings and exercises will inspire others and is particularly recommended for libraries in African American communities.-George Westerlund, formerly with Providence P.L., Palmyra, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060090609
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/14/2003
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 5.62 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.29 (d)

Meet the Author

Rev. Dr. Floyd Flake is the senior pastor of the more than 15,000-member Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York in Jamaica, Queens, and is also the president of Wilberforce Univeristy in Ohio. Flake is also the founder of the Allen Christian School, which he established with his wife, Rev. Elaine Flake. From 1986-1997, Flake served in the U.S. Congress, and is currently a commissioner on the President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education and a member of the NYC 2012 Olympic Committee. A native of Houston, Texas, Dr. Flake holds a B.A. from Wilberforce University and a Doctor of Ministry Degree from the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, OH. Author of the best-selling The Way of the Bootstrapper: Nine Action Steps for Achieving Your Dreams (HarperSanFrancisco), Rev. Flake lives in Old Westbury, NY with his wife and four children.

Rev. Dr. Elaine Flake is the co-pastor of the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral with her husband, Rev. Floyd Flake. Born in Memphis, Reverend Elaine, as her church knows her, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Fisk University in Nashville, a Master of Arts in English from Boston University, and a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. She was also awarded a Doctor of Ministry degree from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. She has contributed articles to the book, Soul of My Sisters: Black Women Break Their Silence, and recently authored her own book, God in Her Midst: Preaching Healing to Hurting Women. Rev. Flake is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and hosts yearly ministry retreats that attact over 1000 women from across the country. She and her husband live in Old Westbury, NY and are the parents of four children.

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First Chapter

Practical Virtues
Everyday Values and Devotions for African American Families

Chapter One


A firmness of spirit and strength of the soul, Courage is the state of mind that enables you to face difficulty or danger with confidence in spite of fear.

Every day we live, we exercise courage. From the moment we wake in the morning to the minute we lie down to sleep at night, we must be courageous. Courage is a spirit within that compels us to face dangerous and difficult situations rather than withdrawing into ourselves. It is knowing that we are capable of achieving successes in spite of the odds against us. Courage is not the absence of fear; rather, it is acting or speaking despite our fear.

On Sunday mornings, when I stand before my congregation, it can be daunting to think that thousands of men, women, and children are listening to what I have to say. I know the power of words and I know that it is my responsibility to speak with integrity and conviction, so I must maintain confidence and composure when I deliver my sermons. It is not always easy to take controversial or nontraditional positions with sermon content, but I cannot allow fear to rule me. To the contrary, I must rule fear.

Our history as African Americans is marked by the necessity and determination to maintain courage in the midst of abuse and mistreatment, oppression and persecution. The words of Claude McKay echo in our souls: "If we must die, let it not be like hogs / Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot." Countless black men and women have demonstrated remarkable courage in the face of considerable obstacles.

From Harriet Tubman to Martin Luther King, Jr., our ancestors have stood in the face of injustice and boldly challenged the world to acknowledge its inadequacies and remedy its wrongs. We will never forget the courage of our past, for it is what shapes the prosperity of our present and offers hope for the future.

Of course, there is much more yet to be done, and there are many more obstacles to overcome. As a people, we have come far, but we have much farther to go. Courage is the legacy of our history. It is not a remnant of our past but a heritage that has been handed down to us. The bravery of our ancestors must inspire us to live courageously.

Although we cannot all be Harriet Tubmans or Martin Luther Kings in terms of notoriety or public acclaim, we can appropriate their dauntless spirits. The desire to make a difference in this world and to have a positive impact on the lives of others should motivate us to dream big dreams. And our faith in God should give us the courage to turn our dreams into realities, for often our own fear is the only thing preventing us from attaining greatness and success.

In times of fear or vacillation, I often recall the words God spoke to Joshua, commanding him to deliver the Israelites from the wilderness: "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest" (Joshua 1:9).

Like the Israelites, we live beneath God's watchful protection. We need never fear when we know that God is with us. Our faith gives us courage. As we are guided by God, we are further bolstered by the love of our friends and family members. We must not be ashamed to embrace the support of others.

Finally, we must release the power within us -- the power that fuels courage. Courage is a strength of the heart. As African Americans, we know too well that things are not always fair or just, but we cannot forever blame the world for our misfortunes. Success is not granted but earned; it is gained through taking positive action and not waiting for someone else to do for us what we can do for ourselves. We all have the ability to find happiness, but we must start the search with courage.

Frances E.W.Harper

The Book of Esther relates incidents in the lives of two queens, Esther and Vashti, both of whom are courageous in the face of oppression, but in strikingly different ways. While Esther's story is reported in more detail in the scriptures, I am especially drawn to the story of the Persian queen, Vashti, the lesser-sung heroine in the Book of Esther. As interpreted by Frances E. W. Harper in "Vashti," a poem published in 1857 in Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects, the queen is a model of both moral integrity and courage.


She leaned her head upon her hand
And heard the King's decree—
"My lords are feasting in my halls;
Bid Vashti come to me.

"I've shown the treasures of my house,
My costly jewels rare,
But with the glory of her eyes
No rubies can compare.

"Adorn'd and crown'd I'd have her come,
With all her queenly grace,
And, 'mid my lords and mighty men,
Unveil her lovely face.

"Each gem that sparkles in my crown,
Or glitters on my throne,
Grows poor and pale when she appears,
My beautiful, my own!"

All waiting stood the chamberlains
To hear the Queen's reply.
They saw her cheek grow deathly pale,
But light flash'd to her eye:

"Go, tell the King," she proudly said,
"That I am Persia's Queen,
And by his crowds of merry men
I never will be seen.

"I'll take the crown from off my head
And tread it 'neath my feet,
Before their rude and careless gaze
My shrinking eyes shall meet.

"A queen unveil'd before the crowd!—
Upon each lip my name!—
Why, Persia's women all would blush
And weep for Vashti's shame!

"Go back!" she cried, and waved her hand,
And grief was in her eye:
"Go, tell the King," she sadly said,
"That I would rather die."

Practical Virtues
Everyday Values and Devotions for African American Families
. Copyright © by Floyd Flake. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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