Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.

peniel joseph hucksterBy BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

 

Dr. Peniel Joseph Peddles Slick Marketing Constructs As “Black History”

By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

...branding is not history, branding is not policy. Branding is the manipulation of images, words and symbols to call up real and imagined memories that evoke a particular emotional response from an audience.”

The job of historians in the service of democracy should be to explain and clarify historical trends for ordinary people, to help us better understand where we are, where we came from, and where we're headed. But not all historians serve democracy. As long as there have been intellectuals a great many have made their careers spinning fables which obscure more than they reveal, histories that reinforce rather than challenge illegitimate power, ill-gotten wealth, and undeserved privilege.

Dr. Peniel Joseph is a young and highly acclaimed scholar. He's the author of Dark Days, Bright Nights, From Black Power to Barack Obama. But Dr. Joseph is no peoples' historian. In a recent appearanceon Dr. Jared Ball's Jazz & Justice show on WPFW-FM in Washington, Joseph declared one of the main threads of his most recent book was explaining the campaigns and career of Barack Obama as part of what he called the “radically transformative” outcome of the Black Power movement, which he traces through Malcolm X, Kwame Toure, the former Stokely Carmichael, and the 1980s electoral campaigns of Jesse Jackson and Chicago's Harold Washington.

Actually, for black politicians campaigning inside the black community, trying to brand your campaign as the fulfillment of the Freedom and Black Power movements is pretty standard stuff. The Obama campaign managed the neat trick of turning itself into two separate brands, one fungible inside the black community and another outside it as the multiracial apostle of “there is no black America, there is no white America.” When you went to Obama's campaign web site you were greeted with a gorgeous fuzzy photo of Barack, Michelle and the kids with the slogan underneath “Join the Movement.

When black historians accidentally confuse branding with history, they are fools...”

But branding is not history, branding is not policy. Branding is the manipulation of images, words and symbols to call up real and imagined memories that evoke a particular emotional response from an audience. Branding is the tool of marketers who sell us everything from new cars and prescription meds to lifestyles, whatever those are. When blackchanginesshistorians accidentally confuse branding with history, they are fools. When they do so deliberately they are charlatans and mercenaries. Advertising Age, the flagship magazine of the marketing industry doesn't have to fool anybody. It gave the 2008 Obama presidential campaign its 2008 Brand of the Year Award.

Dr. Joseph himself said that a nuanced view of Barack Obama's place relative to the Black Power movement would necessitate examining his policy positions, issue by issue. But when the show's host used the word “imperialism” to describe the actual policies to which Barack Obama subscribes, Dr. Joseph pronounced it a “totalizing” term, called it “sloganeering” which he said puts an end to any useful dialog. So in Dr. Joseph's world we can prattle on about the “radical transformations” of democracy engineered by the Black Power movement which resulted in the Obama presidency. But with fleets in every ocean and hundreds of military bases scattered across every continent, we can't talk about empire. What's wrong with that picture, huh?

When Dr. Joseph awards Barack Obama status as a direct descendant of the Freedom and Black Power movements, which were fundamentally pro economic justice and anti-imperialist he abandons the clarifying role of peoples historian for a comfy seat in the establishment chorus. Dr. Joseph is reselling black people somebody else's marketed image, somebody else's brand name screed as our history. Dr. Joseph is the fake Wizard of Oz telling us to pay no attention to that wealthy handful of corporations behind that curtain.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and based in Atlanta. He can be reached at bruce,dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

 

Direct download: 20100328_bd_no_peoples-historian.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 2:12am EDT

rikersA Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Degradation of captives is central to the culture of the American criminal justice system. The City of New York spares no expense to allow jail guards to routinely violate inmates’ rights and court orders through illegal strip searches – a “pattern and practice” that has cost taxpayers at least $81 million.
 
NYC Spends Tens of Millions to Illegally Humiliate Prisoners
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Guards at Rikers Island jail continued their practice of blanket strip searches in brazen violation of the court’s specific orders.”
Way back in 1986, a federal judge ruled that it was illegal for guards at New York City’s super-jail on Rikers Island to strip search peoplearrested on misdemeanor charges, like marijuana smoking, subway fare-beating, or shoplifting. That was 24 years ago, but the city’s Department of Corrections never stopped the routine strip searches, even after a series of successful law suits wound up costing the taxpayers a total of $81 million in damages.
The original court decision found that subjecting prisoners held on minor charges to automatic strip searches violated their 4thAmendment Constitutional rights against illegal search and seizure. But New York City jail officials apparently believed that court rulings were meant for inmates to obey, not themselves. The Corrections Department violated the order for 15 years, until a class action suit by former inmates forced the city to pay $43 million in damages, in 2001. Still, they kept on strip searching everyone, as if the suit never happened.
The next year, in 2002, the city settled another strip search suit, costing the taxpayers $5 million. This time, the city promised to replace strip searches with a piece of equipment called a Body Orifice Security Scanner. Prisoners would disrobe, put on a gown, and sit in a specially-built chair that would allow guards to electronically look into the inmates’ body cavities for drugs, weapons or other hidden contraband. New York City bought 50,000 gowns for the inmates to wear as they
sat in the chair. The judge thought the issue was settled.
Jailers strip search inmates to humiliate them – not for security purposes.”
But the guards at Rikers Island jail continued their practice of blanket strip searches for five more years in brazen violation of the court’s specific orders. By 2007, Rikers Island inmates had won yet another class action suit – this one for $33 million. Jail authorities had illegally strip searched 150,000 inmates, and hadn’t even used all the 50,000 gowns that had been purchased to comply with the judge’s order, most of which were still sitting in a warehouse.
In the ensuing investigation, practically every Corrections Department guard and official questioned swore to have never even seen anyone strip searched at Rikers Island – a sprawling facility through which about 130,000 inmates pass every year, more than the prison populations o35 states. Finally, the city admitted to having carried out a “pattern and practice” of illegal strip searches – nearly a quarter-century after a court ordered them to stop the practice, and at a cumulative cost of $81 million.
The moral of this sordid little tale, is that jailers strip search inmates to humiliate them – not for security purposes.Even when there are technical means available to find contraband, jailers prefer to degrade and dehumanize their prisoners. And city governments are willing to pay out tens of millions of dollars in damages to immunize lawless jailers from punishment, just as cities routinely fork over millions in damages for police officers that abuse, maim and kill citizens. Police and prison lawlessness is institutionalized in the United States. Covering it up is a big-budget item. For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted atGlen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com. 

Direct download: 20100331_gf_StripSearches.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 1:50am EDT

By BAR columnist Jared A. Ball, Ph.D.

Culture is the expression of collective personhood. The culture of Africa's descendants in the U.S. has been demonized, belittled and viewed as a threat ever since the days when slavemasters banned use of the drum. With the wholesale gentrification of urban America, a new wave of cultural ethnic cleansing is underway, as inner city entertainment venues are being closed, and owners of remaining night spots collude to squeeze original artists with substantial and established audiences out of commercial viability. Like coffee, some are too black, too strong.

Washington, D.C. : A Case Example of Cultural Genocide

by Jared A. Ball, Ph.D.

Bands are literally told to leave their congas at home in order to re-form themselves as jazz or R&B bands, and the famed “pocket,” go-go’s equivalent to hip-hop’s “break beat” is said to now be off limits...”

Fuck all the corny laptop DJs that killed the realness.” I found this comment from Washington, DC-based DJ EuRok about DJs adopting new digital music technology as opposed to the traditional vinyl record to be quite relevant far beyond its immediate focus of the closing of DJ Hut, the long-time mainstay of DJ and hip-hop culture in the city. Perhaps it hit harder considering that only a couple of weeks earlier one of DC’s more prominent Go-Go music sound men told me that “go-go as a culture is going to die.” In each case, the impact of gentrification and new technologies were seen by those who would know to be having a nasty impact that goes well beyond the ravages of uprooted community. To the extent that DC represents a national trend and all that is related to issues of gentrifying communities in what has even been likened to an international return to the European model of cities for the wealthy and suburbs for the rest, the nation’s capital also exemplifies the impact on culture of colonial relocation and land-grabbing.

Of course, the cultural expression of Black people has long been a battleground of theft and appropriation. And, as all uninterrupted processes, it continues today. In this case, the long history of “racial cleansing” in the United States has a style and impact that is equally modern in its creeping and slick demeanor. For instance, Washington, D.C. has been targeted as one of Clear Channel’s “Branded Cities” or the plan for complete corporate advertising emersion where “Brandscaping” turns communal spaces into “controlled environment[s]” where “brands [are] to be experienced” and unavoidably interwoven into people’s daily lives. This is the live version of what some lament as the creeping shift of sleeker, more convenient and accessible DJ digital technology which encompasses the closing of record stores which, as all public spheres, mean so much more than a place to purchase albums. It also includes the policy of cleansing the city of its most recognizable cultural expression. Go-Go, with its live musicianship, polyrhythmic, conga-based funk has, according to sound man Greg McNeils, been all-but banned from the city proper. Bands are literally told to leave their congas at home in order to re-form themselves as jazz or R&B bands, and the famed “pocket,” go-go’s equivalent to hip-hop’s “break beat” is said to now be off limits. And similar to EuRok’s dismay at the shift to digital formats McNeils describes a similar trend where street vendors and small store operators are being forced out of business which in turn hurts the underground distribution of go-go mixtapes, or PA taped recordings of live performances, which have been the mass medium network of distribution for those without access to radio.

And he is not alone , cats have been seeing this. Oddisee, of the crew Diamond District, recounts how “mom and pop stores {are} replaced by Couture,” and Head-Roc, the “Mayor of DC Hip-Hop,” who himself has lyrically tackled the issue of gentrification, has recently launched a campaign to expose the vicious network of venue operators who continue to deny local Black artists space to perform and who assure that those who do are held in a state of Electric Purgatory or debt peonage as they must cover their own promotional costs or perceived lack of audience draw.

'“cultural genocide,...includes all policies aimed at destroying the specific characteristics by which a target group is defined, or defines itself, thereby forcing them to become something else....”'

And all of this is also slickly hidden beneath DC’s tightly-controlled media environment which is quite right-wing in general and specifically managed to assure that none of this music is heard on the city’s sanctioned radio. Just this past week, as is the case every week, the dominant “urban” radio stations had all their top ten songs, as measured by times played, or spins, selected by one of three corporations, two of whom, Sony Music’s CEO Howard Stringer and Warner Music’s CEO Edgar Bronfman, share an incestuous board of director interlock.

But the issue really is the impact of this nation’s brand of colonialism and how it manifests the “cultural genocide,” as defined by the United Nations who explain it as “the imposition of [an] alien national pattern…” which “includes all policies aimed at destroying the specific characteristics by which a target group is defined, or defines itself, thereby forcing them to become something else.” This includes assaults on the target population’s “books… language… religious works… destruction or dispersion of objects of… artistic… value” and so on. Shifts in technology which force cultural reformations, that also further limitations of the public sphere, that impose alien cultural forms or, in this case, bastardized corporate versions of the cultural expression, that disappear underground communicative traditions, and again force a removal of the drum all relate to the physical forced removal of colonized populations. And as the nation’s capitol, as goes DC, so goes the Black nation.

For Black Agenda Radio I’m Jared Ball. Online visit www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

Dr. Jared A. Ball is assistant professor of Communications Studies at Baltimore's Morgan State University, host of WPFW's Jazz & Justice, which airs every Monday at 1PM EST, a co-founder of CBC Monitor, and among much else, one of the minds behind VoxUnion.Com.

 

Category:politics -- posted at: 3:30pm EDT

immigrantion protestA Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Tens of thousands of mainly Latino demonstrators demanded immediate action on immigration reform from President Obama, last weekend. But Obama supports a “bipartisan” bill that would vastly increase raids and arrests. Unfortunately, “as with every other issue, when Barack Obama stands for an expanded police state, most of the American Left sits down and shuts up."

 
Immigrants Should Be Careful What They Wish For From Obama
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
On the immigration front, Obama’s practice is little different from that of the Bush administration.”
Tens of thousands of immigrants and their supporters gathered in Washington this past weekend to beseech President Obama to move this year on immigration reform. It’s doubtful they will get their wish, but supporters of meaningful change in U.S. immigration policies ought to be careful what they wish for. This president is no more interested in real reform in U.S. immigration policy than in genuine reform of the health care system.He is joined at the hip with those corporate forces that would condemn immigrants – especially those who are not white – to a world of shadows and perpetual insecurity, always at the mercy of some kind of cop.
Obama was cheered by thousands of demonstrators when his image appeared on giant screens on the Capitol Mall. “I’ve always pledged to be your partner,” said Obama, “and that’s a commitment that I reaffirm today.” But Obama’s commitments to common people are rhetorical and transient, while his ties to the economic and political elite are permanent. On the immigration front, Obama’s practice is little different from that of the Bush administration.
His administration continues Bush’s policy of deputizing local police agencies to enforce immigration laws, a formula for racial profiling and police abuse on a massive scale. The infamous 287(g) program was passed into law in 1996, in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing. The perpetrator of the Oklahoma City attack was a white, right-wing terrorist, but the law allowed the federal government to turn local law enforcement loose on mostly non-white immigrants. In many localities, the program has the effect of putting people who appear to be “foreign looking” at the mercy of every racist with a badge. President Obama could bring the local police immigration enforcement programs to a virtual halt, administratively, without consulting Congress, but he has not – which shows his true intentions.
This president is no more interested in real reform in U.S. immigration policy than in genuine reform of the health care system.”
Obama is on record in support of a U.S. Senate immigration bill co-sponsored by New York Democrat Charles Schumer and South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham. Under their legislation, it is generally agreed that immigration authority raids will increase, resulting in huge growth of immigrant detention centers, which already incarcerate 350,000 people per year – the fastest growing sector of the American Prison Gulag. The bill would require a national ID card – something even George Bush found repugnant, and that progressives have long opposed. But, as with every other issue, when Barack Obama stands for an expanded police state, most of the American Left sits down and shuts up.
The Schumer/Graham/Obama bill would ensure that U.S. corporations get all the low wage immigrant workers they want through programs in which guest workers would have little leverage to improve their working conditions. And, of course, the Obama administration has no intention of altering their beloved “free trade” policies that have destabilized the peasant and working classes of Mexico and Central America, fueling the human flow northward.
Jesse Jackson, Cornel West and the heads of the NAACP and the National Urban League spoke in solidarity with immigrants – which is as it should be. But there can be no triumph for immigrant civil rights in a police state, or in a world where inequality is the biggest U.S. export.
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
 

 

Direct download: 20100324_gf_Immigration.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 6:34am EDT

team tavisby BAR editor and columnist Jared A. Ball, Ph.D.

Event Meister extraordinaire Tavis Smiley gathered his hand-picked Black All Stars for a “Black Agenda” conference, in Chicago, over the weekend. The usual suspects were in attendance, shining and rhyming luminously and voluminously. President Obama’s stock had fallen, but “blind adherence” to the Democratic Party still reigned near-supreme.

Tavis Smiley’s Annual Black “Radical” All-Star Game
by BAR editor and columnist Jared A. Ball, Ph.D.
For every Louis Farrakhan ‘testicular fortitude’ there was a Michael Eric Dyson ‘ovarian audaciousness.’”
This week the already blood soaked, broken and dead carcass of a murdered Black radicalism was further kicked around, then adorned, by Tavis Smiley and all those gathered at his annual Black political All-Star Game. And it truly was an all-star gathering where everyone came to play on the big stage. It had all the political ally-oops, 360 degree word play, dazzling no-look Biblical references and behind the back, through the legs, ankle-breaking alliterations. Cornell West looked spry prancing around the roundtable cheerleading and for every Louis Farrakhan “testicular fortitude” there was a Michael Eric Dyson “ovarian audaciousness.” And all but one of the attendees brought flashy Blacker-than-thou critiques of the president, all in love, of course, as was the theme Smiley laid down literally with a so-labeled centerpiece placed dramatically mid roundtable. But this truly was conservatism draped in radicalism. None advocated breaks with the established political parties, none adopted a tradition of radical intra-racial socialized economics and none called for mass protest or civil disobedience. It was post-election criticism, calls for conservative individualized self-help and obedience to the established political order.
Smiley was clear that he wanted his guests to answer for the absence of an overt support of a Black agenda by the president. So now, and only after his election, Jesse Jackson wonders why it is only a Black agenda that Obama ignores, and Farrakhan says Obama was “selected not elected” and lords over the “White House” for “white people,” and Dyson boldly proclaims Obama to be “Pharaoh… not Moses…” or even Dr. King. Dyson went on to say that he has known Obama the longest and supported him first as the political “Jackie Robinson” who might not be the best but is best suited to be first. This should, of course, be seen as an admission of political ineptitude and the fact that neither Dyson nor anyone else who appreciated that comparison brought up the impact of Robinson on the death of the Negro Leagues or use of him by the state to speak against more radical Black leaders like Paul Robeson, means that the real power of that analogy went without discussion.
None advocated breaks with the established political parties, none adopted a tradition of radical intra-racial socialized economics and none called for mass protest or civil disobedience.”
And other juicy contradictions were all over the place. Like when the sole youth representative, Raven Curling, asked about the absence of mass protests, and Jackson agreed we should not abandon such tactics, Smiley would later say that he and his roundtable of leaders couldn’t make such calls and that actions should be “individual.” The economic equivalent of the individual as power came from Author Tom Burrell who was first to shift blame of Black poverty to Black spending habits with that favorite myth of Black buying power. This sophomoric economic analysis was championed again by Julianne Malveaux and by Louis Farrakhan who took the myth to even greater contradictory heights. The minister, with calls of “do for self,” suggested separately that America was declining and, therefore, was both “for sale,” and leading toward a time when the U.S. dollar would be “worthless.” Following this “logic” we should use a mythological $1 trillion in buying power to purchase equally mythological wealth-building assets from a declining country whose currency is soon to be worthless. With confusion like this it is little wonder why there is so much to lament in the condition of Black America.
There was little more clarity in the arena of electoral politics. Ron Walters twice called for a “Black Party” but confusingly only as a bloc within the Democratic Party. This kind of blind adherence to the Democrats was further displayed when in response to audience member Phil Huckleberry of the Illinois Green Party, who said that his party was the only party with a real Black agenda, all-star panelist Angela Blackwell actually agreed but only that “green jobs” and a “green economy,” not alternative political party development, were part of a Black agenda. It is this kind of confused analysis that led roundtable participant and Civil Rights veteran Dorothy Tillman to say that Black “political empowerment” is as “diminished” today as she has ever seen it and that this is a result of the ascendancy of president Obama. But it is also true that Obama’s ascendancy and that of the gathered all-stars is also the result of a previous murder of Black radicalism.
For Black Agenda Radio I’m Jared Ball. Online go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.
Dr. Ball can be contacted at freemixradio@gmail.com.
 

 

Direct download: 20100324_JB_TavisAllStars.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 6:29am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen FordACORN in NOLA
The armory of the Left, such as it was, has been greatly diminished with the demise of ACORN, the nationwide grassroots organization. It couldn’t have come at a worse time, “with Black and progressive forces at their weakest state in at least two generations.”

R.I.P ACORN: The Revolution Will Not Be Subsidized
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
There no longer exists a mass grassroots organization with the numerical forces or political will to directly confront rampaging capital and its servants in government.”
The loss of the grassroots social change organization ACORN is a huge setback to the cause of economic and racial justice in the United States. Born in the Seventies from roots in civil rights, welfare rights and workers rights organizing, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now once boasted membership of 400,000 families in chapters across the country.
This week ACORN, or what was left of it, announced that it would fully dissolve itself by April 1. Most of the group’s 20 chapters had already disbanded, in order to reorganize under different names. New York ACORN has become New York Communities for Change. California ACORN now goes by, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. And ACORN Housing became Housing Centers of America. Some ACORN activists say they are not disbanding, but simply re-branding.
No matter what it's called, the demise of the national operation is as complete as it was sudden. ACORN was brought low by what began as a political sting operation in which two right-wing operatives posing as a pimp and a prostitute tricked local ACORN staffers into appearing to give advice on hiding ill-gotten income. Republicans seized on the footage, and previous problems with the organization’s voter registration activities, to nail ACORN to the cross. Congress was easily stampeded into passing a bill to withdraw all federal funding to ACORN affiliates that assisted low-income Americans on housing and other matters – work that had earned ACORN $54 million over the years.
The legislation was, in fact, an unconstitutional “bill of attainder” – that is, special legislation designed specifically to harm a political opponent. A federal judge agreed, and issued an injunction prohibiting Congress from cutting off ACORN funds, now or in the future. But the damage was done. A cascade of private contributors withdrew their support, sending ACORN into a death spiral.
ACORN was the rock on which resistance to predatory lending stood.”
Now, with Black and progressive forces at their weakest state in at least two generations, there no longer exists a mass grassroots organization with the numerical forces or political will to directly confront rampaging capital and its servants in government. ACORN has passed into the realm of nostalgia.
For decades, ACORN was the rock on which resistance to predatory lending stood. No organization came close to ACORN in documenting and organizing against financial sector housing policies that finally came crashing down on minority neighborhoods nationwide, destroying generations of Black wealth. In recent years, it fought an ultimately unsuccessful battle for a living wage in New Orleans, the poorest big city in the United States, and provided the troops for a momentous fight against Wal-Mart in Chicago. ACORN, it seemed, was everywhere in the struggle.
And now it's gone. There are many lessons to be learned from the practice of an organization that has been at the forefront of struggle for 40 years. One is, don't depend on Democratic politicians in a pinch. They are mostly worthless. And two, don't build your house on federal funding, because the revolution will definitely not be subsidized.
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20100324_gf_ACORN.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 6:18am EDT

the multiracial sheepby Jared A. Ball, Ph.D.

A government and society that is ever ready to restrict the freedoms of Black folks now offers “freedom” from Blackness. This census and social “opt-out” for the progeny of interracial couples allows them to hope to be considered “as something entirely separate, different and apart from” what Curtis Mayfield called the “dark deep well.” The Black “baggage” can be left behind.

 

 

The Multiracial Sheep IS the White Supremacist Fox

by Jared A. Ball, Ph.D.

More people born to interracial couples are happily accepting the racial placebo of ‘multiracial’ and multiple racial choices as official census categorization.”

Let’s be very clear from the outset.  Multiracial categorization is an aggressive defense of white supremacy.  Multiracial census categorization, particularly in the era of what some are calling the first Black and multiracial president, is, pun-intended, the bulked up steroid-induced version of the old sports aphorism that “the best defense is a good offense.”  By aggressively encouraging younger generations to identify officially as multiracial the national desire to disappear worsening racial divides gets further juice by offering folks a chance to both adopt the illusion of the “post-racial” and to seemingly categorize themselves away from, if not out of, oppression. The beautiful dialectic traditionally developed in this country’s form of white supremacy was its built-in inability to be white and forced inclusion into Black which has made Black America, if even to a fault, among the most diverse, open and accepting communities in the world.  It also increased the potential that that community would become more threatening to white domination which has led to the centuries-long development of neocolonial-styled light-skin privilege as a mechanism of siphoning off some of the more willing participants in an escape from blackness. 

This continues and now in the form of official racial category.  No longer, as a recent USA Today story suggests, will younger people be forced or even encouraged to see themselves as light-skinned extensions of Curtis Mayfield’s “dark deep well,” but as something entirely separate, different and apart from.  Younger generations are being encouraged in far greater percentages to accept forms of, what some academics call, hyperdescent, or degrees of identity up the so-called racial caste scale.

Black America is, if even to a fault, among the most diverse, open and accepting communities in the world.”

As we have previously described, there is a general delusion happening where the material conditions of Black people are worseningwhile assumptions of progress among Black people are increasing.  Similarly, we have also recently discussed, that there is right now are-inscription of America’s racial slavery caste system forcibly locking Black Americans into permanent recessions and entombment at the bottom rungs of the nation’s social or colonial pyramid.  So it seems equally alarming that more people born to interracial couples are happily accepting the racial placebo of “multiracial” and multiple racial choices as official census categorization. 

As the 2010 census is disseminated nationally this month it brings with it all the old baggage of the enterprise, that is, it is used to mask gross inequality in distribution of national wealth, the locked-down gerrymandered political districts designed to assure that this fraudulent “two-party” system remains safely intact, and the sweeping under the rug of stolen prisoners who when caught up in an equally unjust system of mass incarceration are disappeared into distant regions and used to bolster the economic and electoral strength of their captors communities while not, of course, being able themselves to access any of the benefit they help to create by their incarceration.

National offerings of mobility in racial category, combined with a president whose multiracial background is used more to blunt discussions of racial inequality than to make them known and addressed, will further allow white supremacy to go unchecked and, therefore, to become more invisible and ultimately powerful.  Self-identification is, of course, personal and ultimately up to the individual.  But racial categorization is decidedly political and, therefore, means a responsibility that goes beyond any one person’s private choice.  The history and current structure of race in this country and its impact materially on Black people who don’t have the immaterial option to be categorized out of their blackness nor the material option of avoiding that category’s real-life meaning in this society demands that we who are offered the devil’s hand up reject it and remain happily categorized with the those in our families whoare our family and who are not able to escape the ravages of being fixed to the racial floor.

For Black Agenda Radio I’m Jared Ball. Online go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com

Direct download: 20100317_JB_Multicultural.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 10:32pm EDT

Congressional Black CaucusA Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The advent of America's first Black president has resulted in Black congresspeople voting for wars that their constituents overwhelmingly oppose, which could lead to the conclusion that Obama is “a morally corrupting influence on some Black lawmakers.” More than half the Congressional Black Caucus sided with Obama – and war – last week. Three-fourths of all House Democrats did the same. George Bush should be green with envy.

 

 

Half of Black Caucus Votes for More Afghan War

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

“When Obama surges in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Black lawmakers who purport to be for peace, retreat.”

Slightly less than half of the Congressional Black Caucus, 46 percent, broke with the Obama administration last week to vote for a bill to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year. Given that the nation’s first Black president has made the Afghanistan/Pakistan theater of war his own – depicting the ever-expanding aggression as a “good war” – getting 18 Black votes for peace was probably as much as could have been expected. Black Democrats certainly behaved with more decency and sanity than Democrats as a whole, three out of four of whom voted with their war mongering commander-in-chief. Some progressive lawmakers felt it was a victory simply to have been permitted to hold a three-hour debate on the merits of war and peace, at this time of global imperial offensive, and disarray on the Left.

Nevertheless, the Black Caucus’s near-even split on Obama’s wars reveals the gross perversion of African American politics as it is filtered through a Democratic Party lurching steadily rightward under the weight of corporate money and the guidance of a president who is, if anything, more militarily aggressive in the region than his predecessor, George Bush. When Obama surges in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Black lawmakers who purport to be for peace, retreat.

The 18 Caucus members that voted “Yes” for withdrawal from Afghanistan reflect the overwhelming sentiments of a people that polls have for generations shown to be the most pro-peace demographic group in the nation. That 19 members of the Congressional Black Caucus would support U.S. wars against poor people half a world away, is evidence of deep moral and political corruption among the Black leadership class. (See breakdown of CBC vote, below.)

“The Black Caucus’s near-even split on Obama’s wars reveals the gross perversion of African American politics as it is filtered through a Democratic Party lurching steadily rightward.”

We are shocked that reliably progressive congresspersons like Gwen Moore, of Milwaukee, and Bobby Scott, of Virginia, cast their votes for war, as did a number of other Caucus members who, if Obama were not the president, would surely have been counted on the side of peace. Obama’s very presence in the White House can be viewed as a morally corrupting influence on some Black lawmakers, leading them to give a “pass” to policies they would otherwise oppose.

We note that Congressman John Conyers, the Dean of the Black Caucus and usually a dependable progressive, failed to vote, as did Artur Davis, the most right-wing Caucus member, who aspires to be a senator from Alabama.

We have not singled out for praise any of the 18 members that voted “Yes” for withdrawal from Afghanistan. They were doing their moral duty and expressing the political sentiments of their constituents; therefore, no accolades are in order. There is no significant war constituency in Black America – even the advent of a Black president cannot change that fact.

The peace constituency is obligated to turn out this Saturday, in Washington and San Francisco and other locations in between, to register our outrage at America’s wars – which are now Obama’s wars. That outrage should also extend to the three out of four Democrats and half of the Black Caucus members that cast their votes for mass murder of our fellow human beings, last week. For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Breakdown of Congressional Black Caucus vote on HR 248, a bill to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by end of 2010:

 

Yes (18)

Yvette Clarke (NY)
William Clay (MO)

Emanuel Cleaver (MO)
Danny Davis (IL)

Donna Edwards (MD)
Keith Ellison (MN)

Alcee Hastings (FL)
Jesse Jackson (IL)

Sheila Jackson Lee (TX)
Johnson, E. B. (TX)
Barbara Lee (CA)
John Lewis (GA)

Donald Payne (NJ)
Charles Rangel (NY)
Laura Richardson (CA)

Edolphus Towns (NY)
Maxine Waters (CA)
Diane Watson (CA)

 

No (19)

Sanford Bishop (GA)

Corrine Brown (FL)
G.K. Butterfield (NC)

Andre Carson (IN)

Elijah Cummings (MD)

Chaka Fattah (PA)

Marcia Fudge (OH)
Al Green (TX)

Hank Johnson (GA)
Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (MI)
Kendrick Meek (FL)

Gregory Meeks (NY)

Gwen Moore (WI)

Bobby Rush (IL)

David Scott (GA)
Bobby Scott (VA)

Bennie Thompson (MS)

Melvin Watt (NC)

 

Not Voting (2)

John Conyers (MI)

Artur Davis (AL)

Direct download: 20100317_gf_AntiWarVote.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 9:43pm EDT

The Insanity of the African American Racial ‘Critique’ of Cuba

Cuban boysA Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
The 60 signatories to a letter denouncing racism in Cuba seem to consider themselves extensions of Barack Obama's State Department. The logic of their action, as articulated by Dr. Ron Walters, is to encourage the United States to “make the Black condition in Cuba 'part of any negotiations on the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba.'” Then maybe the Cubans can negotiate with the U.S. on behalf of African Americans.
 
 
The Insanity of the African American Racial ‘Critique’ of Cuba
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Glen Ford and poet, playwright and activist Amiri Baraka will be part of a program to welcome a visiting delegation of the Federation of Cuban Women at the Harlem State Office Building in New York City, Mar 10. Details below.
They have allowed themselves to become tools of U.S. foreign policy, in the age of Obama.”
Late last year, a group of 60 prominent African Americans circulated a letter denouncing racism in, of all places, Cuba. I say, of all places, because almost any other country on the planet would be a better target than Cuba for a scathing and very public racial critique by African Americans. The letter claims that Cuba treats its Black population with “callous disregard.”
It is true that lines of color continue to exist in Cuba 50 years after Fidel Castro proclaimed the triumph of the revolution. Cuba had once been described as the most racist country in Latin America, a Spanish slave colony later subjected to 60 years of U.S. occupation and domination. It would be idiotic to think that such deep layers of racial oppression could be easily peeled away, or made to disappear by decree. But Cuba has made miraculous progress, helped in great measure by the fact that so many of its most racist citizens moved to Miami.Cuba’s solidarity with African liberation is unequaled among nations, both militarily and in support of African civil society. Cuba has offered its life-saving medical services to people of all nations, including the United States. And Cuba has been a haven, a home in exile, for Black American freedom fighters since the early days of the revolution.
So why would a celebrity list of Black Americans single out Cuba for special criticism? They have allowed themselves to become tools of U.S. foreign policy, in the age of Obama. The signatories include Dr. Ron Walters, a veteran activist and distinguished political scientist at the University of Maryland. In an article explaining his actions, Dr. Walters himself noted that there is only a one-year gap in life expectancy between Cuban whites and Blacks and mulattoes, and Cubans live slightly longer than the average for the United States. In the U.S., whites live more than six years longer than Blacks. Black Cubans live five years longer than African Americans. Dr. Walters also notes that Black and mulatto Cubans graduate at higher rates than white Cubans. These kinds of data are clear indications that the Cuban racial divide is far less pronounced than in the United States.
Black Cubans live five years longer than African Americans.”
The signatories cite figures that purport to show that people of African descent are more likely to be incarcerated than whites. But those same figures show a much lower rate of Black incarceration in Cuba than in the United States, and a far lower percentage of Blacks among Cuban political prisoners. Still, Dr. Walters wants to make the Black condition in Cuba “part of any negotiations on the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba.” In that statement, Walters is saying that the United States – of all nations – should negotiate with Cuba on the status of Cuba's Black citizens, before the U.S. lifts its illegal embargo and otherwise starts behaving like a civilized neighbor. I must assume that means the Cubans will have the same right to negotiate the treatment of Black Americans: an end to mass Black American incarceration, freedom for Black American political prisoners, a lowering of Black unemployment – and all the rest of our problems. But of course, Dr. Walters and the other signatories aren't suggesting that. They're just making themselves useful to the Empire, and saying to Hell with solidarity.
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go towww.BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
 
HARLEM Welcomes Cuba’s Visiting Delegation
THE FEDERATION OF CUBAN WOMEN
Wednesday March 10, 2010
6 To 9 PM
Harlem State Office Building/2nd Floor
163 West 125th Street
*Women in Cuba Today *Cuba’s Solidarity with Haiti
* US Embargo Against Cuba *Campaign to Free the Cuba Five
*Race in Cuba Today
Special presentation by US activists: In Defense of Cuba: Expose on the Politics behind Carlos Moore’s acrimonious campaign charging Cuba with government sanction racism: Glen Ford, Executive Editor, Black Agenda Report, poet, playwright and activist Amiri Baraka.
On Wednesday, March 10, 2010 Harlem will have a unique opportunity to share an evening of information and dialogue with the leadership of the Cuban Federation of Women (FMC). Maritzel Gonzalez, Foreign Relations Representative of FMC, North America Region and delegates Ana Violeta Castaneda and Yamila Gonzalez are in New York City to participate in the United Nations’ annual activities for International Women’s Day observed on March 8th.
Established in 1960 FMC’s membership is composed of 85.2% of all eligible Cuban women over 14 years of age. Its important achievements: women’s rights to higher education, paid maternity leave, childcare provisions, and free abortions and birth control. Cuba has the third highest proportion of female Members of Parliament in the world; over 70 percent of its health sector workers are women, including 64 percent of doctors; and its Family Code obliges men to share domestic duties and child care responsibilities equally with women.
Endorsements: Sankofa Law Firm, Harlem Anti-War Coalition, Cuba Solidarity NY, December 12th Movement, International Action Center, Working People’s Voice, Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report), Harlem Fight Back, Harlem Tenants Council, Carlito Rovira, (other endorsements forthcoming).
Photo ID required for entry into building. Travel information: 2 or 3 Train to 125th/A, C, D to 125th. Additional information: 647-812-5188
 
 

 

Direct download: 20100310_gf_CubaRace.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 1:05pm EDT

Love and Struggle: The On-Going Scandal of Political Imprisonment

free all political prisonersA Black Agenda Radio commentary by Jared Ball
From President Obama on down, powerful forces maintain that the Black Freedom Movement is not only over, but ended in complete success. Yet decades later, scores of veterans of that movement still languish in prison. If we won, how come our bravest are still behind bars? “Despite all the hope to the contrary, there has been no successful completion of a freedom movement in this country.”
 
Love and Struggle: The On-Going Scandal of Political Imprisonment
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Jared Ball
No civil or human rights movement can claim victory while its most ardent supporters remain imprisoned.”
Hi All. My parole was denied today after a 2 to 3 hour hearing and my case was referred to a 3-member panel to determine the size of my next 'hit' which may be outside the normal 3 year guideline. In other words they will probably set my future parole-hearing date at more than 3 years away. I thank all of you for the fine effort you made in trying to get me released and know that you did all that was humanly possible under the circumstances. Love, and Struggle, Sundiata.”
And so were the words last week of Sundiata Acoli, one-time computer programmer for NASA turned Black Panther Party freedom fighter, whose actions in support of a liberation struggle remain, after 36 years, defined as criminal. His statement of parole denial comes on the heals of the recent and similarly decided hearings of Jalil MuntaqimMumia Abu-JamalLeonard Peltier and Hugo Pinell and, like those, is the kind of myth-breaking state-sponsored response that deserves far more attention precisely because of what it means not only for the individuals who suffer the horrors of imprisonment but what it says about the state of broader civil and human rights struggles. The denial of parole to these and others and their particular status as political prisoners, that is, people who are incarcerated because of “their political views and/or actions,” is a stark reminder that, despite all the hope to the contrary, there has been no successful completion of a freedom movement in this country.
The prison-industrial-complex is the latest in an historically uninterrupted series of legal and political machinations designed to enforce white supremacy.”
For all the on-going discussions of Obama’s place in history, illusions of progress, or arguments over whether or not there is or should be ablack agenda, the incontrovertible fact imposed on us by the continued incarceration of political prisoners is that no civil or human rights movement can claim victory while its most ardent supporters remain imprisoned specifically for their involvement in those movements. Regardless of the particular accusation none would remain imprisoned if these movements had succeeded. Their actions would not then be seen as crimes. At worse, as once described by fellow political prisoner David Gilbert, any mistakes made by these women and men would be judged by the communities for whom they work not by those against whom they struggle. It is truly this standard that should be applied to all discussions of progress. Whenever we are confronted with the latest set of myths of improvement, even before we get to the data which demonstrates the lie of forward motion and improved material conditions, we should simply ask, “which of our dozens of political prisoners has been set free?”
And while at it, we might as well throw our support behind those working to expose and end a broader system of mass incarceration which, according to yet another recent study from the Critical Studies of Race and Ethnicity program at St. Catherine University in Minnesota, describes a prison-industrial-complex that, “is the latest in an historically uninterrupted series of legal and political machinations designed to enforce white supremacy with its economic and social benefits both in and with the law.” And more to our immediate concern over the political imprisonment of those seeking to make progressive change, this study addresses this system as a response to “movements for Abolition and Civil Rights” which “worked to end the institutions of slavery, lynching and legalized segregation,” but were met with “new and more indirect mechanisms” resulting in a “color-blind… de facto racism… where people of color, especially African Americans, are subject to unequal protection of the laws, excessive surveillance, extreme segregation and neo-slave labor via incarceration…”
If Obama were the real change represented by the culmination of a successful movement he would apply at least the same standard to political prisoners as he has seen fit for Bush and Cheney. If those two are not to be prosecuted for crimes against humanity because, as the president has said, he prefers “to look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” then why not avert his eyes from the past long enough to immediately release these political prisoners with reparations and apologies?
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Jared Ball. Online go towww.BlackAgendaReport.com.

Jared Ball can be contacted at freemixradio@voxunion.com. Read more about Dr. Ball HERE. 

Direct download: 20100310_jb_politicalprisoners.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 12:55pm EDT