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

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

In the spirit of those brave and selfless Georgia prisoners who stood up for their human rights last December, formerly incarcerated people from across the country convened their own first national meeting in Alabama last week. The next is scheduled for November in Los Angeles. They stand for the full restoration of civil and human rights, and the rollback of the nation's policy of mass incarceration.

First National Conference of Formerly Incarcerated Persons Convenes In Alabama

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

Many have declared that the real Freedom Movement of the 21st century will be a broad civic mobilization to confront the prison state and the policies of mass incarceration it inflicts upon the black, the brown and the poor. If so, the clearest sign that such a movement is truly underway is the awakening and self-organization of the formerly incarcerated.

Last week, The Ordinary Peoples Society of Alabama hosted the first national gathering of the Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted Peoples Movement. The three day meeting was attended by ex-prisoners from all 50 states and included formerly incarcerated leaders from dozens of groups from round the country, including co-conveners All of Us or None (CA), Women on the Rise Telling Her Story (NY), National Exhoodus Council (PA), A New Way of Life (CA), Direct Action for Rights and Equality (RI) and many more.

Many of these one-time prisoners had long ago seized control of their lives and destinies to found service and self-help organizations in their own cities. Up till now, much of their activism has been about providing counseling to former inmates and their families, helping them find jobs, health care, housing and a tenuous foothold from which to re-enter society. They have led local efforts to curb violence and drug use, to keep kids in school, as well as restorative justice initiatives designed to make the victims of crime whole and heal the wounds of their families and communities. Separately, the former prisoners and the organizations they founded have waged local, statewide and national campaigns to curb the vicious and pervasive discrimination against former prisoners in employment and housing and to fully restore their civil and human rights.

Participants at the meeting pointed out that 700,000 prisoners were released from state and federal custody every from 2005 to 2009, mostly into communities with few jobs, little health care, dim economic prospects, and not many educational opportunities. These lives cannot be rescued, they said, unless the communities they come from and return to are rescued as well.

In the end, more prisons are not the answer to crime,” Pastor. Kenneth Glasgow of Dothan Alabama, one of the event's principal organizers told Black Agenda Report. “Mass incarceration,” he emphasized, “locks long-term poverty in place for the communities many prisoners come from and return to. Our work changing individual lives has led us back here, back to Selma and Montgomery,” said Pastor Glasgow. “Just as we've changed ourselves, we are going to challenge America, to change America, and to roll back this prison state.”

The meeting of the Formerly Incarcerated Persons Movement was funded in part by the good people of the Drug Policy Alliance. It was conducted in the spirit of the Peoples Movement Assemblies, which are a spin off of the U.S. and World Social Forum Movements. Participants in the meeting left with commitments to begin the political education and organization of the formerly incarcerated, their families and their communities across the country as part of their ongoing self-help agenda.

That is how mass movements for real change grow. The next national gathering of the formerly incarcerated will take place in Los Angeles this November. You can contact the national Movement of Formerly Incarcerated Persons on the web at, or through links on our web site,

For Black Agenda Report, I'm, Bruce Dixon.

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

Direct download: 20110309_bd_formerly_incarcerated.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:26am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR editor and columnist Jared A. Ball

Monopolies get over like fat rats no matter what the overall state of the economy – because they control the entire process. Competition is a farce, and the music industry is no different. “This is the kind of rivalry the powerful like. Coke and Pepsi, Democrats and Republicans, it assures success in the illusion of choice.”


The Music Industry Reloads: It’s Not Dead Because We Didn’t Kill It!

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR editor and columnist Jared A. Ball

The music industry won’t just die a slow natural death.”

Look around and you will find no shortage of people describing what they call “the death of the music industry.” Music sales are down and, therefore, the industry is done. On the political Left this is a great thing occurring as the result of homogenized music not appealing to audiences who along with artists are increasingly using the internet to revolutionize music distribution which offers more opportunity for communities to determine artist popularity. On the political Right this is the obvious result of street corner bootleggers and internet pirates terrorizing innocent artists and the legitimate business practices of record labels. But the fatal flaw in either analysis is that they’re nearly exclusively focused on sales, which ignores the social nature of profit or, in this case, the benefit derived from controlling popularity. Besides, the music industry won’t just die a slow natural death. We have to kill it.

A drop in overall sales says nothing about who owns what is sold or made popular through dominant media outlets. It also says nothing of how much money is still generated by those sales or who gets all of it. Sound familiar? Think Obama and austerity or Wisconsin and union worker cutbacks. Maybe an even better analogy is the 31 NFL owners who tell 2500 players that getting 50% of generated revenues is fair. That’s why they can afford a lockout. Sales can drop and they will be fine since they get most of what is sold. The music industry is the same, in fact, it is worse considering the benefits accumulated by the owners go far beyond money. Besides, if the industry were truly in such shambles and the risks were so great why are so many of the wealthiest individuals, private equity groups, conglomerates and banks all fighting so hard for their share of it?

Sales can drop and they will be fine since they get most of what is sold.”

The music industry is fine financially. In fact, digital sales are improving and some now claim that those sales and other merchandising are “more than offsetting” declines in CD sales. Plus, plenty of folks appear to be happily buying in and swapping jobs and all making tons of cash while maintaining absolute control over popularity. This week it was Doug Morris, the super CEO music executive, who jumped from the number one music label in the world, Universal Music Group (UMG), to take a turn running number two, Sony Music Entertainment (SME). He isn’t alone. In fact, it is being said that this means a bitter “rivalry… for artists and executives” between the two music industry giants. And sure it is. This is the kind of rivalry the powerful like. Coke and Pepsi, Democrats and Republicans, it assures success in the illusion of choice. And in each case, even when sales or votes are off, the top executives make plenty of financial and social capital.

How bad can it be? Sony routinely has 60-80% of the most popular songs on radio each week and it is said that Doug Morris will now make $10 million a year. And for even the number three of the Big 3, Warner Music Group, its top executives Edgar Bronfman, Jr. and Lyor Cohen made a combined $83 million between 2005 and 2010 even as their company lost more than $400 million.

And its not just these individuals. They are the executive fronts for so many interlocked individual, corporate and banking entities precisely because of the financial, but even more so that social capital, that cultural control offers. And now, predictably, sales are going back up and so did Universal Music’s revenues go up two percent in 2010. And remember, that only represents six percent of their parent company Vivendi’s total holdings. Vivendi’s revenues went up six percent by itself in 2010 to roughly $40 billion. And better still, with Universal artists like Lil’ Wayne and Nicki Minaj on the radio 10,000 times a week who has to worry about hearing from Lah Tere or Skipp Coon? That also means no more Public Enemy or Bob Marley either. And that is, for them, priceless.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Jared Ball. Online visit

Dr. Jared A. Ball can be reached via email at:

Direct download: 20110309_jb_MusicIndustry.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:48am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

President Obama’s “admiration fest” with Republicans is in high gear, especially in the education arena. The administration’s mass charterization policies “represent an even bigger danger to public education” than George Bush’s private school vouchers. “The charter school racket is the perfect Trojan Horse for corporate domination of the classroom, at public expense.”


Obama Celebrates “Common Ground” with GOP on Education

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The president proudly proclaimed that he has no ‘ideological’ differences with the Bushes over education.”

If there is any arena outside of waging aggressive war where the Obama administration shows itself to be in near-perfect continuity with its Republican predecessor, it is in education. President Obama last week staged a mutual admiration fest with George Bush’s brother, Jeb, at Miami’s Central High School, where Obama celebrated the “common ground” he shares with Republicans on educational policy. The president proudly proclaimed that he has no “ideological” differences with the Bushes over education. That is an understatement. In fact, Obama has taken George Bush’s No Child Left Behind program as a starting point to launch his own so-called “Race to the Top,” an all-out assault on teachers unions and the very nature of public schooling in the United States that advances the corporatization of American classrooms in ways that Republicans never could.

Obama is counting on Republican support for reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, as well he should, since George Bush’s program opened the door to Obama’s efforts to break teachers unions and create a national system of charter schools. The differences between George Bush’s educational policies and Barack Obama’s are in emphasis, not intent. In a practical sense, Obama’s policies represent an even bigger danger to public education.

Because he is a Democrat, the leadership of the two national teachers unions pretend Obama is a friend.”

In the slick, sly way of the corporate Democrat, Obama avoids the worst rhetorical excesses of his Republican partners in the anti-public education project. You won’t hear Obama’s Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, calling the nation’s largest teachers union a “terrorist organization,” as Bush education chief Rod Paige did back in February of 2004. Instead, Arne Duncan travels around with arch-reactionary Newt Gingrich and Obama’s Black pit-bull Al Sharpton on a Three Stooges tour promoting their common agenda for non-union charter schools run by private companies. Obama fires teachers en mass, in numbers beyond George Bush’s wildest dreams, while making hypocritical noises of support for the profession. And because he is a Democrat, the leadership of the two national teachers unions pretend Obama is a friend, or at least the lesser of two evils, when in reality he is the greater threat.

Under George Bush, the Republicans were ideologically wedded to providing public money for private school vouchers. Charter schools were their second choice for weakening public education. But corporate Democrats like Obama saw that charterization was a much more politically acceptable way to privatize many more schools in a much shorter period of time, while maintaining the veneer of public education. Most importantly, charter schools are the best vehicles for handing control of education over to private corporations while the public continues to pay all the costs. Hedge funds and all kinds of speculators and hustlers have discovered that charter schools are a no-risk, potentially high-profit proposition – that is, no risk to themselves. The charter school racket is the perfect Trojan Horse for corporate domination of the classroom, at public expense, opening up a new, wholly subsidized educational “market” valued at hundreds of billions of dollars a year, in which the public pays and the private parties profit. And that's why Obama is a greater danger to public education than the Bush brothers ever were.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at


Direct download: 20110309_gf_ObamaCharters.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:41am EDT