Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from an African American point of view.

Rev. Edward Pinkney Sentenced: Whirlpool and White Racism Imprison Another Black Leader

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

In Benton Harbor, the Whirlpool Corporation was always ‘Massa’ – Rev. Pinkney’s nemesis.”

In sentencing Rev. Edward Pinkney to between two and a half and ten years in prison, the State of Michigan has shown that the Old Jim Crow and the New Jim Crow are the same damn thing – bitter fruit of the white supremacist tree. An all-white jury, presided over by a white judge, under the malevolent guidance of a white prosecutor, based on evidence gathered by a white sheriff, found the Benton Harbor, Michigan, activist guilty of five elections-related felonies. It was the same white power structure that, back in 2007, convinced another all white jury to convict Rev. Pinkney of five counts of elections fraud, resulting in five years probation. A year later, when Pinkney, in a newspaper interview, quoted the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy to the effect that those who had persecuted him would be judged by the hand of God, he was sent to prison – the first American known to have been incarcerated for quoting the Bible.

This may seem like an Old Jim Crow story, about a preacher from a small, mostly Black town who wanted only to help his people through the voting process, but is set upon by backward whites determined to maintain their monopoly on political power. And, it is true; Old Man Jim Crow is alive and well on the banks of Lake Michigan. But it is the New Jim Crow, the Mass Black Incarceration State, that has snatched 66 year-old Rev. Pinkney away to what could become life in prison. The judge and prosecutor said that Pinkney’s 12 past and present felony convictions make him a career criminal, even though each count stems from an elections process. The Old Jim Crow would have unapologetically sent Pinkney to the chain gang for being an uppity Black man, but the New Jim Crow simply piled on a bunch of felonies to put him away as a serial criminal, allowing the system to claim that race had nothing to do with it.

The corporate rulers have Black allies.”

Rev. Pinkney’s life stretches between the old and new structures of Black oppression, one layered on top of the other. But, in Benton Harbor, the Whirlpool Corporation was always ‘Massa’ – Rev. Pinkney’s nemesis. His convictions in 2007 and this year were both rooted in election petitions Pinkney circulated to recall officials considered stooges of Whirlpool, whose world headquarters is located in Benton Harbor, and which has tried to turn the desperately poor, 94 percent Black town into an enclave of luxury and recreation for the rich.

The citizens of Benton Harbor and every other Black city and town in Michigan were effectively disenfranchised, so that appointed emergency financial managers could protect the interests of Whirlpool and the rest of the corporate class. But still, Rev. Pinkney kept circulating those recall petitions that ultimately led to his imprisonment.

Pinkney was once president of the local NAACP chapter, but was ousted when Whirlpool bought off the organization’s state leadership. In the New Jim Crow configuration, the corporate rulers have Black allies – the same ones that collaborate with the police and the mass Black incarceration regime. Their hold on Black America must also be broken, as part of the struggle to destroy white corporate rule – root and branch – and to free all political prisoners, including Rev. Edward Pinkney.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to, and be sure to sign up for email notifications of our new issues, each Wednesday.


BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20141217_gf_PinkneySentenced.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:03 PM

When the System Provides No Remedies to Torture, You Must Overthrow It

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

“Remedies are precisely what the United States refuses to offer to Black people.”

Over the past four months, the world has come to know the name of Ferguson and rendered its own verdict on the U.S. criminal justice system. In addition to protests in nearly two hundred American cities since the non-indictment of the cop that killed Michael Brown, demonstrations were staged in solidarity with U.S. Blacks in at least eight cities in Canada as well as Japan, England, Scotland and Norway. Last week, a United Nations committee registered its objections to U.S. treatment of Blacks. The UN Committee Against Torture’s latest report largely focused on the Obama administration’s failure to punish the torture of detainees in places like Guantanamo Bay and CIA interrogation sites around the world, but it also warned Washington that its policing policies in Black America are not in compliance with international treaties against torture.

The committee’s findings are a great embarrassment to the planet’s sole superpower, which justifies its military adventures around the world by virtue of its claims to moral exceptionalism. Based on two days of testimony by U.S. human rights activists, last month, in Geneva, Switzerland, the committee concluded that solitary confinement, as practiced in the United States, constitutes torture, that some conditions in U.S. prisons also fit the definition of torture, and that when police target African Americans on the street for abuse, beatings, tasering and death by gunfire, they are guilty of torture.

Moreover, if the United States does not provide remedies and compensation for the victims of torture at the hands of its cops and prison guards, then the nation is in violation of its international treaty obligations – which is legally the same thing as violating U.S. law. Not only does the U.S. fail to provide either remedies or compensation for those it tortures, U.S. law does not even define what torture is, or set any standard to measure it. Which shows conclusively that no American government has ever seriously considered doing away with torture – certainly, not torture of Black people.

“Root and Branch”

The UN Committee was clearly quite impressed with the delegation of young activists from Chicago who testified under the banner, We Charge Genocide. The Committee included much of the group’s requests in its report, including investigation of police torture by outside institutions, prosecution of police who torture, and reparations for those who survive police torture in Chicago.

The UN Committee is most concerned that countries establish remedies to torture, in all its deadly forms. But remedies are precisely what the United States refuses to offer to Black people. No punishment for the cops, no compensation for their millions of victims, and no fundamental change in a system born in slavery and genocide. Under those circumstances, there is only one remedy: the overthrow of the system, itself, and the destruction – root and branch – of the Mass Black Incarceration State, which must be the goal of this new movement-in-the-making that still has no name, other than “Ferguson.”

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to, and sign up for email notifications of our new issues, each Wednesday.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at
Direct download: 20142103_gf_TortureUN.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:48 PM

Bottomless Cynicism and Contempt For Immigrant Communities: Obama's Long-Awaited “Executive Action” on Immigration

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Back when President Obama was candidate Obama, he promised the immigrant community, in his own words “a road to citizenship”. But although he swept into office with majorities in both houses of the 111th Congress, the new president and his party ignored this and many more of their promises to what the Democratic party likes to call its “base voters,” the poor and working poor, the black, the brown, the young, the old, promises on the minimum wage, promises to make it easier for workers to unionize, promises to end the war on drugs, to rein in banksters and oil companies, promises to relieve underwater homeowners, to curtailing nuclear weapons and much more.

Instead of delivering his promised “road to citizenship” the president immediately began using his executive powers to do the precise opposite of what he promised, deporting 2 million immigrants, on the flimsiest of pretexts, shattering hundreds of thousands of families.

After two years of not delivering, the president and his party lost their majority in the House. That time, not this one, was the moment for executive action on immigration, preceded by a profound presidential apology for not doing what the president is asking Republicans to do now, namely passing an immigration bill.

It's a measure of the abject subservience of Latino Democrats that they dare not call the president on his current “executive action” on immigration.

But the fact is, President Obama's announced action is a naked attempt to disarm the immigrant movement by arbitrarily dividing communities into legitimate and illegitimate immigrants. It will defer deportation of up to roughly a third of the undocumented, the parents of US citizens, provided they pass background checks and have lived here 5 years already. And being an executive action instead of the legislation the president and his party could have passed in 2009-2010 when they had the majority, it's open to interference by the Congress and totally contingent on the election of another Democrat to the White House in 2016, because after all with only the two capitalist parties, where can immigrants go?

The president's so-called “bold executive action” does nothing to address the US 40 Years War war on drugs, which continues to sprout anonymous mass graves throughout Mexico and Central America. It even contains provisions which will make it easier for employers to recruit hi-tech temps from overseas and deport them when their jobs are over, forcing US hi-tech workers to compete with them in a race for the bottom.

The president's lauded executive action on immigration then, is not a victory for immigrant communities, it's not a concession which their movement has wrung from the powers that be. It's old bone with rotten meat flung to immigrant communities, an expression of the bottomless cynicism and contempt the Democratic president and his party, have for Democratic voters and their communities.

For Black Agenda Radio I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at, and be sure to subscribe to our free weekly email updates at That's

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. He lives and works in Marietta GA and is a member of the state committee of the GA Green Party. Contact him via this site's contact page, or directly via email at bruce.dixon(at)
Direct download: 20141126_bd_immigration_exec_action.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:12 PM

War on the Down-Low: Obama’s Afghan Lies

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

“President Obama never had any intention of withdrawing from Afghanistan.”

It should come as no surprise that President Obama has secretly extended the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan. Empires do not retreat unless they are defeated. This is especially true of U.S. imperialism, which, like no other empire in history, seeks to bring the entire planet under its control. That’s why the United States maintains 900 military bases in 130 countries. It’s why Washington is methodically subverting international law, which it views as an impediment to its goal of global domination. And, that’s why President Obama never had any intention of withdrawing from Afghanistan, the longest war in American history.

Barack Obama is no different than any other U.S. imperial leader – except that he is a more accomplished liar than most. He spoke with forked tongue back in May, when he promised that, after the end of this year, U.S. troops would have no combat role in Afghanistan, aside from hunting down the all but nonexistent forces of Al Qaida in that country and training Afghan government forces. Actually, all Obama really planned to do was a paper-change, reclassifying the 10,000 U.S. troops as “non-combatants” on paper, while continuing to deploy them against the Taliban. He tried to play the same trick in Iraq, but the Iraqis insisted that he pack up all his soldiers and go home, in 2011, as President George Bush had previously agreed.

Obama was determined to stay in Afghanistan, by hook or crook, until at least the year 2024. It was, after all, very much his personal war. In his presidential campaign, Obama characterized Afghanistan as the “right” war – as opposed to the “dumb” war in Iraq. He dramatically increased drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and “surged” 30,000 new troops into battle. He never planned an exit, but was compelled to pretend otherwise in the face of mounting public opposition to the war. If Obama had remained true to his word, at the end of this year U.S. troops would find themselves on the sidelines of the war against the Taliban, and watching America’s NATO allies booking flights back to Europe.

The Would-Be Eternal Empire

Rather than accept a phasing out of the U.S. role in the war, which is a kind of defeat, Obama turned the actual defeat of Iraqi forces at the hands of the Islamic State into an excuse to re-enter Iraq and to renege on the phase-out of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The Islamic jihadists’ victories in Iraq and Syria, hundreds of miles away, provided the excuse for Obama to reboot the U.S. air and land war in Afghanistan. However, it was still necessary to keep the news from the American public until after the November elections.

Obama can now probably coast to the end of his term with a full combat role in Afghanistan, with confidence that his successor will also fight tooth and nail to keep that hopeless war going. Obama is also determined to continue waging a shadow war against Syria, despite the fact that his proxy Free Syrian Army is all but non-existent. Retreat is tantamount to defeat and, since war is all that U.S. imperialism is good at, defeat – even in a far-off place – can mean the end of the empire.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to And, while you’re there, sign up for email notifications of our new issues, each Wednesday.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at
Direct download: 20141126_gf_AfghanWar.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:27 PM

If “The Economy is Recovering” Why Is There a Surge in Homeless Children?

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

For the last three elections now, 2010, 2012 and 2015, corporate media and corporate politicians have ceaselessly assured us that “the economy” whatever that is, is “back on track”, wherever that is.

Despite what corporate media and politicians tell us, the positive indicators of soaring stock market valuations, rising real estate prices and the rigged unemployment figures that don't count the jailed, the recently released from jails and prisons, and those who've given up on finding work or those working part time who desperately want full time hours real life for most real people hasn't got any better since 2008 or 2009.

Last week an extraordinary and shameful study emerged from the National Center on Family Homelessness confirmed it by demonstrating that almost 2.5 million children in the US were homeless at some point during 2013. That's one child in every thirty, in what we're accustomed to thinking of as the richest nation on earth. In the most recent months for which statistics exist, the rate of homelessness among children is spiking, increased 8% nationally from 2012 to 2013, and by 10% or more in 13 states and the District of Columbia. In 2006 one in 50 children were homeless. In 2010 it was one in 45. Now, in the age of Obama, the 2013 number is 1 in 30.

The causes of homelessness among children are not your comforting stereotypes of drug use and mental illness. These are “comforting” because they encourage us to blame the drug-addicted, and pity the mentally ill, and our comfort keeps us from questioning the capitalist system which declares that we must have poverty in the midst of plenty, or wondering why we ourselves are no more than a month or two from homelessness.

America's shameful surge in homeless children is caused by the fact that wages are NOT rising, low income housing is NOT being built, and the stock of available housing is being demolished or cannibalized by gentrifying speculators. Speculators can't make money off stable neighborhoods, so the poorest have to leave wherever they are to make room for something else.

In California, the nation's most populous state 34% of households are paying more than half their annual income for rent, and while the state's minimum wage is $8 an hour, a 2 bedroom apartment at a third of annual income would require tripling the minimum wage to $25.78 an hour. The issue then, is poverty.

Millions of children are not suffering because their parents have suddenly become addicted, or neglectful or lazy or stupid. Their parents, many of whom are working as hard as they can, are simply not able to afford a roof over their heads. This is just capitalism. It may be a scandal, but it's no surprise.

This happens to be just the way that “the economy” works when it's “back on track.” It's time to tear up those tracks.

For Black Agenda Radio I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at, and subscribe to our free weekly email updates at That's

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. He lives and works in Marietta GA and can be reached via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)
Direct download: 20141119_bd_homelessness.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:43 PM

Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton & the Arkansas Two Step


Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton & the Arkansas Two Step

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Back in September, Bill Clinton speaking at a dinner for corporate “philanthropists” seemed to publicly question the effectiveness of charter schools. What should we make of this?

The evidence is long in that the push for charter schools, driven by market fundamentalists has failed to improve the quality of education for most students. Still, the push to privatize is universally embraced by corporate media and the elected politicians of both parties, pretty much like imperial wars, gentrification and bailing out Wall Street banksters. Elite agreement on privatizing public education is so well established that Mitt Romney expressed agreement with President Obama's policies in that regard in their first 2012 presidential debate.

So does Bill Clinton's second thoughts on charter schools offer hope to emabattled communities and teachers in Chicago, Philly and hundreds of other cities? I wouldn't bet on it.

Remember back in 1992 when Arkansas governor Slick Willie Clinton ran for president? His surrogates and spokespeople told everybody who'd listen this was the chance for something they called the Peace Dividend. The recent fall of the Soviet Union, they said meant that a Democrat in the White House would be able to divert some of the vast sums that had gone to the Pentagon into housing, education, mass transit, jobs for youth, getting off fossil fuels, high speed intercity rail. After 12 years of Reagan and Bush it was a message people were more than ready to hear. They didn't call Bill Clinton “The Man From Hope” for nothing.

Of course once elected, the Clintons immediately “discovered” that “all the money was gone” because Reagan and Bush supposedly spent it all plus a lot more so there wouldn't be any peace divided, any extra to spend on those things at all. It was a deliberate transparent bait and switch, a classic Arkansas Two Step.

“There's a lot of Wall Street campaign cash, behind the push for charter schools, and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is not about to see all of it go Republican”

The Clintons and Democratic party leaders knew perfectly well they were never going to spend that money on mass transit, housing, education, jobs for youth, getting off fossil fuels and high speed intercity rail, but they also knew exactly what the Democratic faithful, that party's base vote and the activists who move that base vote needed to hear to get the job done.

It was a lesson the Obama campaign learned from the Clintons. Candidate Barack Obama's surrogates explicitly promised he would tackle mass incarceration and a host of other ills, if only we would shut up, line up and vote. And here we are.

There's a lot of Wall Street campaign cash, behind the push for charter schools, and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is not about to see all of it go Republican. Hillary, Bill and now Chelsea are a package, as Doug Henwood puts it, a dynasty in the making. No matter which one you choose you get all three. They used to call Bill Clinton the “I feel your pain” president, because of his real political talent for convincing people of just that.

The music for 2016 is already playing. Democrats need ground troops, motivated union members and others to staff their voter registration drives and door to door campaigns. Democrats need to pretend to be a party of the people for at least a few paragraphs every couple years. That's the dance. And chances are that Bill Clinton's misgivings on charter schools, or whatever else are just another chorus of the old Arkansas Two Step.

For Black Agenda Radio I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at, and subscribe to our free weekly email updates at That's

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. He lives and works in Marietta GA and can be reached via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)
Direct download: 20141119_bd_arkansas2step.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:30 PM

Ferguson Struggle Has Already Altered Black Politics


Ferguson Struggle Has Already Altered Black Politics

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

“They have rejected the counsel of the local and national Black Misleadership Class.”

After Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon notified the National Guard that he might be calling on their services any day now and declared a state of emergency in anticipation of massive demonstrations, he appointed a 16 member commission to study the underlying social and economic causes of Black discontent in Ferguson. At some other time and place, this development might have been highly newsworthy, and some might even think it a hopeful sign for race relations. The press would pour over the biographies of the nine Black and seven white appointees, and speculate about what the governor meant when he said the commission was “empowered.” Empowered to do what – change the economic and social conditions in Black America? But the governor’s commission is irrelevant because the people of Ferguson are organizing to empower themselves, and that might be the beginning of the best news of the 21st century for Black America.

Whatever happens after the grand jury announces it decision on whether to indict the cop that killed Michael Brown, the people of Ferguson have already altered the political landscape. They have rejected the counsel of the local and national Black Misleadership Class, who specialize in diverting and suppressing any movement that threatens their patrons among the rich and powerful. They have seen through the con game run by the so-called Black power brokers, whose job is to head off any possibility of a rejuvenated Black mass movement. The fact that protests in a small town outside of St. Louis have put local, state and national security forces on high alert is testament to the failure of the Black Misleadership Class to contain the growing movement. And, if Al Sharpton and his local Missouri counterparts cannot keep the Black masses under control, then the appointees to Gov. Nixon’s Ferguson study commission have been rendered redundant before they begin.

“Great Leap Forward”

The people now know that the power is in the streets – a lesson that many had all but forgotten over the past forty years, a period in which the underlying social and economic conditions of Black life have scarcely improved in comparison with whites. This period saw the nation devolve into a Black Mass Incarceration State as methodically vicious and relentlessly racist as any regime in history. The Black Misleadership Class sought not only to divert Black people’s attention away from the massive imprisonment of Black youth and the rapid militarization of the police, they actively abetted the Mass Black Incarceration State, funding it in Congress and collaborating in the arrest of millions on the streets of nominally Black-run cities.

The leadership of the new movement that will grow out of Ferguson is not yet known, because it must be born in struggle. But we do know that the accommodationist preachers, corporate lawyers and professional Democratic Party politicians that have neutralized Black politics for the past four decades no longer hold sway among the grassroots. And that, alone, is a great leap forward. We can say with certainty that Michael Brown did not die in vain. His legacy is growing by the day.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to, and while you’re there, sign up for free email notifications of our new issues, each Wednesday.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at
Direct download: 20141119_gf_FergusonPanel.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:51 PM

#AfterFerguson: It's Organizing 104 – The Workshop

#AfterFerguson: Organizing 104 – The Workshop

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Flanked by a pair of the state's top black cops, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon proclaimed in a blustering Tuesday press conference that state and local authorities, and National Guard troops were more than prepared to curtail and punish what they fully expect to be public demonstrations of grief and outrage when the St. Louis County grand jury officially refuses to indict killer cop Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown later this month. Violence, the governor declared, “will not be tolerated.” except of course official violence against civilians and citizens.

Local residents and grassroots activists expressed their disappointment with their local officials, and have been planning and training for civil disobedience. Concerned individuals and activists in dozens of cities and towns across the nation plan to hit the streets the day after the grand jury decision is reached.

Black Agenda Reports is running a series of instructional primers directed at activists who want to be organizers. Activists are people who just show up, but life changing and society-changing movements are put together quite intentionally by people we call organizers.

Organizing 101 instructed would be organizers to ALWAYS collect the names, phone numbers and email addresses, the essential digits of those who turn out for any meeting, flash mob or demonstration of any kind. This is especially necessary if you used broadcast or social media tp publicize your event, because corporate social media don't allow you to recontact anyone outside their proprietary platforms.

Organizing 102 stressed the absolute necessity of emailing and calling everybody whose digits you collected back within a week or ten days, because new friends you don't recontact will find other things to do. Life is like that.

In Organizing 103 we briefed you in the use of the volunteer card, a tried and true method of singling out the most enthusiastic of your new contacts so they can be enlisted in the callbacks, the evaluation of past activities and the planning of new ones. The volunteer card is the first step in identifying the next layer of organizers and leaders for your movement.

Today's assignment, should you choose to accept it, is Organizing 104.

Organizing 104 will be a laboratory or workshop, and it will take place in your town or city the day after the St. Louis County grand jury verdict is issued. Your Organizing 104 assignment is to use leafletting, social media, personal networks or whatever you've got to assemble a crowd in a public place in YOUR city or town the day after the grand jury verdict is announced, and carry out the procedures outlined in Organizing 101, 102 and 103.

Greet everybody, and pass a sign in sheet to get all the names, phone numbers and email addresses of those in attendance as described in Organizing 101.

Identify the most enthusiastic and capable among the crowd and have them fill out volunteer cards, as explained at length in Organizing 103. Call this group of your new contacts back within the first 2 or 3 days.

And within a week or ten days, call back each and every person who showed up to thank them for participating and invite them to a meeting to evaluate the event or discuss future ones, as described in Organizing 102.

These are essential steps to real time, real world movement building. Successful organizers are all about the digits and the follow-up. So go back and review Organizing 101, 102 and 103 at, get ready to mobilize on the day #AfterFerguson.

This is Bruce Dixon for Black Agenda Radio. Find us on the web at, and subscribe to our free weekly email updates That's

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. He lives and works in Marietta GA where he serves on the state committee of the GA Green Party. Reach him via this site's contact page, or via email at
Direct download: 20141112_bd_organizng104_afterferguson.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:37 PM

Organizing 103: The Volunteer Card

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

It's not a movement unless it's organized, and it might never happen unless YOU organize it.

Here's the part 3 of Black Agenda Report's ongoing series of organizing primers. It's Organizing 103... the volunteer card.

In Organizing 101 we counseled those who call meetings, flash mobs, demonstrations and gatherings of all kinds to always, always always pass a written sign-in list and gather the essential direct digits of participants, their names, phone numbers and email addresses. This is especially important if social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or broadcast radio were used in your initial outreach, since none of these corporate “social media” platforms allow you to recontact anybody except through them, and you wanna be the organizer, not them.

In the second installment, Organizing 102, we stressed that every single somebody whose name and digits you collect must, must, must be personally recontacted by phone within a week, and recontacted regularly at least every other week or you risk losing them. New friends you fail to talk to do not remain your friends for long, they may conclude that either they, or you or your cause, are just not serious enough to bother with.

So Organizing 103, today's byte is about identifying and following up the most energetic, the most engaged, the most enthusiastic of your new contacts at meetings, flash mobs, leafleting or other encounters. These are the people, if you spot and engage them promptly and properly whose participation will enable your organizing project to advance to the next level. You're looking for people who will take a piece of ownership, of leadership of your cause, your project, the hands who'll help make that next round of follow-up calls, the heads who'll assist in evaluating what went right and wrong at your last event, and who will help plan the next one. Your job as an organizer is to identify these individuals on the fly at the same time you're doing your meeting, demonstration, courthouse or other leafleting, and collecting the individual digits of those on the spot.

Which of them are the most enthusiastic and ably committed to your proposition? The most obvious of these will approach YOU, asking what else can they do, telling how excited they are and wanting to know what they can do to further the cause. Some others express their enthusiasm but require you to ask them. Do it. Your job as the organizer is to lock down the commitment of those most willing to help. You do this with an instrument we call THE VOLUNTEER CARD.

A freely downloadable example of a VOLUNTEER CARD can be found with the online version of this commentary at Black Agenda Report dot com.

To be maximally effective, the topmost line of your volunteer card must contain a very explicit commitment to help out, something like “YES, I want to help end mass incarceration, or YES, I want to send so-and-so to City Hall, or YES, I want to stop the evictions, privatization of the water, the schools, the atmosphere or whatever. This way the person filling the thing out understands she is making a commitment to help DO something.

Beneath that the volunteer card contains the standard digits, and additionally what the best times to call might be, and asks for some extra relevant yes/no or checkoff options that all the prospective volunteer to tell you how her talents can be matched up with the tasks at hand. Thank the person, collect the volunteer card, and now it is on you the organizer to organize. You must promptly recontact the and activate the volunteer, optimally within 2 or 3 days, with a constructive conversation inviting them into your planning, your outreach and callback efforts, your evaluation or whatever you've got. These volunteers are your next wave of activists and leaders.

Fail to identify them, fail to recontact and engage them, and you fail to be an organizer.

This is Bruce Dixon for Black Agenda Report. This was organizing 103, be sure to download and adapt our volunteer card for your own purposes, and subscribe to Black Agenda Report's free weekly email updates at That's

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. He lives and works in Marietta GA, where he is a member of the state commitee of the GA Green Party. He can be reached via this site's contact page or by email at bruce.dixon(at)
Direct download: 20141005_bd_organizing103.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:17 PM

Rev. Pinkney Convicted, Threatened with Life in Prison

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

“Prosecutor Mike Sepic is calling for a life prison.”

Rev. Edward Pinkney, the 66-year-old community activist who has battled for decades on behalf of the mostly Black population of Benton Harbor, Michigan, was this week convicted on five counts of forging the dates of some signatures on a petition to recall the town’s mayor. The Berrien County jury was all-white. So was the judge and the prosecutor. Each of the felony counts carries a maximum five year sentence, but prosecutor Mike Sepic is calling for a life prison term on the grounds that Rev. Pinkney “has at least three prior felony convictions” – all of them stemming from his nonviolent resistance to white supremacy and the rule of the rich.

Rev. Pinkney’s nemesis – the rich entity that rules in Berrien County – is Whirlpool, the giant corporation that once employed lots of Black people in low-wage positions at its Benton Harbor headquarters, but now wants them gone, so that the land on which the town sits on the shores of Lake Michigan can be put to more luxurious and profitable uses. In better times, a park was set aside for community use. But, what Whirlpool giveth, Whirlpool taketh away. The park was privatized and then turned into a golf course where Whirlpool can entertain its executives and visiting operatives of the ruling class. Whirlpool’s money buys local politicians, like the city commissioners that Rev. Pinkney and others sought to recall, back in 2007, a campaign that led to Pinkney’s conviction on charges of “buying votes” – as if a poor Black preacher would try to compete with a multi-billion-dollar corporation in the game of vote-buying. As the legal battle wore on, Rev. Pinkney was sentenced to a year in state prison for the “crime” of quoting the Bible. A white judge claimed that, in Rev. Pinkney’s mouth, the holy scripture becomes a lethal threat. This is how a Black man-of-the-cloth earns a felony record in southeast Michigan.

Back in May, Rev. Pinkney was trying to recall the current mayor, James Hightower – who he calls a flunky of Whirlpool – when a county SWAT team surrounded his house, to arrest the Reverend on new charges.

“Whirlpool’s money buys local politicians, like the city commissioners that Rev. Pinkney and others sought to recall.”

The white corporate fathers’ vendetta against voting rights advocates like Pinkney seems like overkill, since the people of Benton Harbor and more than half the Black population of Michigan have been effectively disenfranchised by an Emergency Manager law that covers every majority Black city in the state. The people can vote for a mayor and city council, but a state appointee holds all the power, and his job is to turn over public assets to private corporations. But, even when the rich effectively hold total power, they still feel it necessary to crush those who question their right to rule – especially if the questioners are Black. Rev. Pinkney calls it a “class war.” In the United States, that has always also meant a race war, in which the full weight of the racist capitalist state is brought to bear. The state piles on multiple unjust felony convictions so that a Bible-quoting community leader is made to appear to be a criminal, deserving of life in prison.

But felony counts are like boxing rounds. Rev. Pinkney is still on his feet, fist in the air. Right on, Reverend.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to, and sign up for free email notification of our new issues, each Wednesday.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at
Direct download: 20141005_gf_PinkneyConvicted.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:59 PM