Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
Supreme Court Denies Hearing For Political Prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal

US Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Case of Mumia Abu Jamal

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

This is indeed the age when a black boy can become president of the United States. It's also the age when another black mother's son in that same United States can begin his third decade as a political prisoner. Furthermore, it's the age when prosecutors are permitted to deliberately exclude African Americans from jury pools to boost their conviction rates, while the US Supreme Court turns a blind eye to the practice.

The Supreme Court has just refused to hear the argument that Mumia Abu Jamal's conviction should be overturned because the Philadelphia prosecutors' office had a policy of arbitrarily, or to use the legal term, peremptorily removing African Americans from juries. The existence of this longstanding policy is beyond dispute, since recordings of the training sessions for new prosecutors have come to light in which supervisors instructed newbies to routinely violate professional ethics and the rights of accused persons to fair trials before a jury of their peers in precisely this manner. Despite the clear and straightforward evidence of this unconstitutional practice in the Philadelphia prosecutors' office, or perhaps because the evidence is so clear and incontrovertible, the Supreme Court will not allow Jamal's attorneys to make their case in open court. Prosecutorial ethics and the Constitution are one thing, it seems, while politics are quite another.

This is the clearest proof anyone could want that former Black Panther and working journalist Mumia Abu Jamal is indeed a political prisoner. His conviction, his death sentence and his continued incarceration have never been anchored in the purported evidence offered at his trial, and they are, as the Supreme Court has shown once again, quite independent of the law and the Constitution. That's not legal. That's political.

No reasonable or fair minded person believes that contradictory and coerced testimony, long since recanted are a proper basis for decades of imprisonment, let alone the death penalty.

Less than a week ago, an outraged black federal judge threw out the conviction of a white Republican senator on grounds that prosecutors lied and withheld evidence. If the same standard were applied to Mumia Abu Jamal's prosecutors and trial judge, he would have been free long ago. But again, facts and law matter little in the cases of political prisoners.

Europeans, despite their own problems and their own bloodstained history, possess the necessary distance from white America to discern this easily. That's why they have streets and municipal holidays named after Mumia Abu Jamal in France, and why people in a dozen other countries in Africa and Asia know more about his case than many Americans, including many African Americans.

We may have a black president. But we also have black political prisoners, whose incarceration has nothing to do with the crimes of which they were accused and convicted. Some things change more slowly than others.

Those who want to learn more about the case of political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal should visit on the web. That's Mumia Abu Jamal's online commentaries are available at, again that's

For Black Agenda Report, I'm Bruce Dixon.

Category:general -- posted at: 11:51am EDT

A Glen Ford interview with Nellie Hester-Bailey, executive director, Harlem Tenants Council

The financial crisis has at least temporarily stalled the ethnic cleansing of Harlem by predatory developers and the investment banksters that back them. However, the gentrifiers’ champion, billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg, seeks to win another term in office in order to finish the racial and class makeover of Harlem and other non-white communities. He is abetted by a host of “supine” Black office-holders ever eager to displace their own people.

Direct download: 20090407_gf_nellie_baliey_interview.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:03am EDT

Public Broadband Census Must Expose Digital Redlining and the Digital Divide

A BA Radio Commentary by Bruce Dixon

In the 21st century, cheap, fast and ubiquitous internet access is already as vital to local economic development as paved streets and roads were in the centuries before. Communities where broadband is scarce and expensive will continue to miss out on education and government services. They will be medically underserved. Fewer new businesses will be started in those areas and fewer existing business will move there. Communities where internet access is slow, expensive and hard to get, in the 21st century will be economic backwaters where growth in jobs, wages and wealth will be slower than everywhere else.

President Obama promised that ending the digital redlining of poor and minority communities, and ensuring the availability of cheap, fast broadband internet to the rural, small town and big city neighborhoods inhabited by minorities and the poor would be among his administration's first and highest priorities. The obvious first step in keeping that promise is a reliable, accurate and public broadband census which will reveal just where broadband is scarce, expensive or unavailable, along with the routes, locations and capacities of all existing and planned fiber optic and other lines.

The obvious problem with that first step is that cable and phone companies don't want a broadband census. They are fighting it tooth and nail, and since they're also among the biggest TV, news and radio gatekeepers, they are able to keep discussion of it out of the news. These greedy, self-interested corporations created the digital divide for their own profitability and they have no desire to see it go away. The market-driven business models of cable and telecom corporations have been remarkably consistent since the nineteenth century. They focus on creating artificial scarcities, delivering premium service to lucrative upscale markets and avoiding low-cost universal service wherever possible. After a tidal wave of public outrage built over decades buying laws that protected telephone monopolies, allowing them to deny and preventing others from selling phone service to millions, universal service to small towns, rural areas, the poor and senior citizens was forced upon them by government action in the first half of the twentieth century. The corporate brand names and communications technologies have been transformed, but neither the underlying business models nor the corporate greed and scorn for the public good have changed one iota.

Since a broadband census will reveal the extent of digital redlining, price fixing and other abuses, the cable and phone companies are resisting it on many fronts. On one hand, they are lobbying the federal government to redefine excluded and underserved communities out of existence. On another, they are insisting that a private contractor, Connected Nation, on whose board execs from Verizon, Comcast, AT&T and other digital redliners sit, ought to conduct the broadband mapping, and that all the useful data gathered should be their private property, not disclosed to the public. This is worse than a joke.

Broadband mapping must be done by a public body, accountable to the public, with all processes and data exposed to public scrutiny. The telecom corporations can't be trusted to choose the digital destines of our communities. They're the ones who gave us the digital divide in the first place. The FCC will be accepting public comments on the broadband mapping process till April 17, and there is much more information available on the current state of the digital divide and the solutions at hand in a new report called “Wired Less; Disconnected In Urban America.” You can find “Wired Less: Disconnected in Urban America at the web site of Free Press,, that's

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon.

Direct download: 20090407_bd_digital_divide.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:37am EDT

How Black Democrats Evolve Backward in the Age of Obama

How Black Democrats Evolve Backward in the Age of Obama

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by Bruce Dixon

Back in 2005 or 2006 a meeting of the House Democratic Caucus – that's all the Democrats in the House of Representatives, was underway. The topic at hand was approval of the latest Bush war budget for Iran and Afghanistan. Georgia's venerable John Lewis, a man who laid his life and limb on the line innumerable times during the 1950s and 60s in the Freedom Movement against white supremacy in the South rose to speak. Rep. Lewis reached beyond his fellow Democrats, anchoring himself in the permanent moral and political truths espoused by his former colleagues in the Freedom Movement, people like Kwame Toure, and Dr. Martin Luther King.

Not another dollar... not one more dollar... not one more life,” he reportedly intoned, explaining why he could not, would not vote to fund the wars. The assembled Democrats fell silent in the face of Lewis's potent message of moral outrage, and the caucus adjourned soon afterward.

Nobody knows what happened in the interim but when the House Democrats met again a day or two later the honorable representative from Georgia sang a very different tune. This John Lewis seemed grounded no longer in the historic movements for justice at home and peace abroad, and no longer responsible to his own overwhelmingly black and antiwar Atlanta constituency.

This Lewis seemed invested soley in his status as a Congressman ­among pro-war House Democrats. He felt himself moving, he told them, toward their position, and in a surreal churchy kind of call-and-response he seemed to invite their encouragement, which they willingly gave. “Cmon over, c'mon over, John!” cried several, and Lewis did just that, eventually voting to continue to fund the war.

For Rep. Lewis, the institutional gravities of Congress and the corporate-sponsored Democratic party were stronger than the living will of his constituents and the memory of the Freedom Movement combined. So the question for Black America now is, if a black congressman near the end of his career with a safe seat and the historical stature of a John Lewis could not speak and would not vote for truth against power in the Bush era, what can we expect from elected black Democrats now that a black face is in the White House? Will any, ever find the backbone to stand up when a black president bombs an innocent country, when a black president co-signs for Wall Street parasites or Pentagon predators, when the first black president continues to send military aid to more than 50 out of 54 nations on the African continent? African American commentators seem reluctant to ask or answer this question.

But corporate America and the right wing know the answer very well indeed. The reprehensible David Horowitz wrote in the Wall Street Journal on the occasion of Obama's inauguration that

'When President Obama commits this nation to war against the Islamic terrorists, as he already has in Afghanistan, he will take millions of previously alienated and disaffected Americans with him, and they will support our troops in a way that most of his party has refused to support them until now. When another liberal, Bill Clinton went to war from the air, there was no anti-war movement in the streets or in his party’s ranks to oppose him.'

The answer is that black Democrats and elected leaders will lose and are already losing their willingness to speak truth to power. At best, many wlll sit down and shut up. The least principled will become cheerleaders for what they once opposed. Black politicians, and black politics in the age of Obama are de-evolving and becoming less connected to the permanent interests of African American people in the age of Obama. For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon.

Direct download: 20090407_bd_blackpolitics_obama.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:26am EDT