Conversations on relationships with Hill Harper at Barnes and Noble

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Despite the wet evening, eager readers gathered at the Barnes & Noble in Encino last week to hear the insights of New York Times best-selling author Hill Harper. His recent title, The Conversation: How Black Men and Women Can Build Loving, Trusting Relationships, delves into what he sees as deep seated issues among men and women in the African-American community with regards to relationships and openly discusses them in his book.

After brief introductions, Harper began talking about the origins of the book. The events that took place and the observations he noticed that inspired him to write a book for adults. “The Conversation –my first book for adults- the genesis of this book came about when I was having a dinner party. I had a group of men and women and most of them were single,” shared Harper.


The conversation during the dinner party turned to dating and relationships. What perplexed Harper during the course of the conversation was that both groups – men and women — were essentially saying the same things.

“If one group is saying they can’t find a woman they want to settle down with and the other group is saying there aren’t any good men out there, how are we going to solve this problem with all the young people that I deal with through my  foundation?” Harper asked, directing the same question to the audience.

Trying to connect the dots between the deterioration of relationships in his community and the current number of kids who are raised in single-family homes, Harper did some research to identify common trends. What he found instead was really disturbing.

“In 1966 84% of black children were being raised in two parent households. Fast forward to 2006 that number was dropped to 31%. So in 40 years there’s been a huge decline. Now some people may say that’s the sign of the times, people aren’t getting married as much these days. But if you cross reference that with other groups, 2006 69% of Latin American kids being raised by 2 parent households, 94% white children…It’s a huge difference. So what’s going on? What’s going on with us that 70% of Black Professional women are single? What’s going on that really, when we even have children we don’t stay together?” asked Harper.

This set of observations not only established the premise for the book but it also created certain challenges Harper would have to overcome for this project to succeed.

“Could I write a relationship book that still hits all the pop culture issues that normal relationship books hit on but maybe take it a step deeper? Ask questions that may have not been asked in other relationship books. I also wanted to write a book about relationships for men and women,” shared Harper.

The charismatic actor/author continued to say that a majority of relationship books that are written are geared towards women. Harper intentionally structured the book so that both men and women can utilize its content that could actually lead to a conversation.

The Conversation refers to 3 levels of communication:

1) with the Self. Taking an honest look looking in the mirror.

2) with your Partner. Coming together and communicating openly with them.

3) with your community, family and the nuclear.

“To solve these relationship problem we need to really have open and honest conversations on all three levels,” said Harper.

Another reoccurring theme that is threaded through the book is the idea of partnership. Harper states that people in general have to move away from the idea of viewing your significant other as “a good or bad boyfriend” or “is she good or bad girlfriend.” People need to adjust their perceptions and view their significant others as “is he a good life partner” or “can I build a life with her.” The concept of achieving higher goals by working together is the core foundation of his book.

Although Harper’s book is geared towards the African American community, his astute insight of what it takes to create and maintain a successful relationship can reach to just about anyone.

“I do not in any way claim that I am an expert in relationships. I am a single person on a journey trying to figure it out for myself. Lets go on this journey together and let’s figure it out,” Harper emphasized  honestly.

*Manifest Your Destiny Foundation, a non-profit youth organization established by Ivy League actor Hill Harper, is dedicated to empowering, encouraging, and inspiring underserved youth to succeed.

Atina Hartunian’s articles have appeared in the North Valley Community News, The Armenian Reporter, The Pasadena Weekly, as well as current urban development for She is also a website content manager and freelance writer:

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

  • Lisa H.

    Great article!

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