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

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

In the immediate aftermath of Dr. Martin Luther King’s murder, myths were made and paradigms altered. To revisit the week of King's assassination is to take a personal stride across a chasm, from one epoch to the other. This crack in time opened for the author when he was an 18-year-old soldier.

 

A Crack in Time: April 1968

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The Black clergy of Columbus, Georgia, like their brethren in most cities of the South, had collectively shut their doors to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the early Sixties.”

On Thursday, April 4, 1968, I was a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, which was deployed in a field exercise in the woods of the sprawling army reservation at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Large tents in the division headquarters section, where my platoon acted as security, were filled with officers studying maps of Washington, DC, in preparation for a hypothetical occupation of the nation’s capital. That evening, we learned that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had been assassinated in Memphis. We all knew what that meant. There was little doubt that our unit – which was 60 percent Black at the infantry level – would soon be going somewhere to impose order on other outraged Black people. The next day, Friday, we packed up our gear and moved back to barracks.

But, inexplicably, the commanding general failed to confine the troops to the post. Lots of us, myself included, took advantage of the oversight and left Fort Bragg. On Sunday morning, April 7, I was hundreds of miles away, in Columbus, Georgia, where my father was a very popular radio disc jockey. On that Sunday morning, scores of the area’s Black preachers were lined up outside the radio station, waiting their turn at the microphone. Each one affirmed how he had been a staunch supporter of Dr. King and his work – and every one of them was lying.

The truth was that the Black clergy of Columbus, Georgia, like their brethren in most cities of the South, had collectively shut their doors to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the early Sixties when Dr. King was urgently seeking a suitable southern city in which to deploy his direct action strategy. As a Baptist preacher, King needed an invitation from another preacher to set up shop. Columbus, Georgia was at the top of his list. But the local Black clergy formed a solid wall of opposition to King’s coming to town, for fear of upsetting their accommodation with the local white power structure. Dr. King wound up in the much smaller town of Albany, Georgia, where one preacher had sent him an invitation, in 1962.

We had only one mission in Washington: to prevent the white troops from doing harm to Black civilians.”

But there they were, the assembled men of GAWD, three days after King’s murder, inventing, right there on the spot, the myth of the Black church as Dr. King’s stalwart soldiers in the army of social change in the South – when the truth was, for the most part, diametrically the opposite.

Monday morning, I was back at Fort Bragg. The fires had been raging all weekend in a hundred cities – although not Columbus, Georgia. I and other stragglers caught up with our unit in Washington, DC, where the officers already knew the street layout from their map studies out in the field just days before. The brothers of the 82nd Airborne Division considered that we had only one mission in Washington: to prevent the white troops from doing harm to Black civilians. There would be no repeat of the white New Jersey National Guard's lynch mob behavior in occupying Newark, New Jersey, a year earlier.

In Vietnam, Long Binh jail was filling up with Black soldiers and would explode in August with great loss of life. In a few years, mass Black incarceration would become national policy in the United States – payback for the Black Freedom Movement in all its manifestations.

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: 20110406_gf_King1968.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:05am EDT

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

When Black radio was cleansed of news, ideas, controversy and every other socially redeeming quality, the mixtape filled the vacuum. But now, the corporate counter-attack is in full swing, driving the independent mixtape into the nether regions of legality. “This is about managing communication and assuring that only sanctioned forms of music can be exchanged legally and that only these handful of companies benefit from the sale of that sanctioned art.”

 

Of Dr. King, Mixtapes and Imperial Crackdowns

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

King prefigured the state of radio today and what has now become an abusive relationship with Black America.”

In 1967 when Dr. King once spoke of the importance of radio to the Black community, he spoke to a condition that is largely the same today. He said to those gathered at the conference of the National Association of Television and Radio Announcers that, “For better or for worse, you are opinion-makers in the community. It is important that you remain aware of the power that is potential in your vocation. The masses are almost totally dependent on radio as their means of relating to the society at large. They do not read newspapers. Television speaks not to their needs but to that of middle-class America.”

Not only did King prefigure the state of radio today and what has now become an abusive relationship with Black America he also unknowingly described the state of a lesser-known aspect of Black communication which also today remains fixed in an abusive state; the rap music mixtape. In the years immediately following the April 4, 1968 assassination of Dr. King there was an increasing corporate takeover and shift in radio away from its ability to perform the movement-supportive function it held for King and others. Radio was stripped of its capacity to offer news or music and more specifically – ideas – that were not sanctioned by corporate elites. As hip-hop emerged in the early 1970s as part of a cultural response to the devolution of King’s movement it was shunned by all forms of radio, white and Black, which assured that in its infancy and freedom that it would also go unsanctioned.

Having no other outlet, the mixtape emerged to give rap music and the DJ a much needed communicative device.Cassette recordings of DJ mixes disseminated throughout the hip-hop underground helped evolve the burgeoning, if still colonized, “hip-hop nation.” The mixtape became hip-hop’s first mass medium and its “national” method of communication. Even as hip-hop and rap became commercialized, colonized, and began to pierce the mainstream, the mixtape remained, and still remains, essential to the promotion of artists and a free space for unsanctioned art and politics to exist. But they also remain illegal in their tendency to ignore copyright laws and, therefore, suffer the same militarized assaults as other so-called “contraband” even when trafficked by white men.

The mixtape remains essential to the promotion of artists and a free space for unsanctioned art and politics to exist.”

As a recent story in the Washington {D.C.} City Paper begins, “On the evening of Nov. 23, Jeremy Beaver woke up with a shotgun in his face.” Beaver’s crime? Selling mixtape CDs out of his Listen Vision Studios. The article goes on to describe the militarized raid, a three hour “siege,” conducted by police all working at the behest of the music industry’s corporate lobbyists the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). In short, the RIAA claims that bootlegging and piracy are destroying their business and that of their clients who are, of course, the leading record labels, not the actual artists themselves. So the RIAA pressures Congress who in turn pressure law enforcement andvoila, more criminalization of Black communication and cultural exchange. Again, even when the perpetrator is white and male it is the very idea of subverting structures put in place to limit the communicative abilities of the most oppressed that demands, as the article explains, that of a “vice squad moved through with a precision that comes from raiding drug houses and brothels.”

Now, we have previously explained the lie in those RIAA claims of loss. The record labels are doing fine, making plenty of money and finding no shortage of applicants seeking the eight-figure salaries to run them. And their parent companies are doing even better. No, this is about managing communication and assuring that only sanctioned forms of music can be exchanged legally and that only these handful of companies benefit from the sale of that sanctioned art. It is also a fine way of protecting against the unsanctioned distribution of unsanctioned ideas.

Dr. King was right about many things. He was right to connect the impact of media to the survival of social movements and he was right to connect the struggle of Black America to those of the rest of the so-called Third World. And this is why we would be right, as we witness today further imperial aggression in those parts of the world, to recognize even these assaults on mixtapes as part of that same war at home.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Jared Ball. Online visit us at BlackAgendaReport.com.

Dr. Jared A. Ball can be reached online at IMixWhatILike.com.

Direct download: 20110406_jb_KingMixtapes.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:56am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

There is nothing left of Obama, except the “moderate Republicrat corporate lawyer” that he has always been. He refuses to fight in the people’s interest, because he is not interested in the people – only in his foolish dream of a grand alliance with the GOP in service of Wall Street. But the GOP feels triumphant, and isn’t playing his games. “Obama has already sacrificed trillions in social spending trying to split the budget difference with Republicans who persist in seeking total victory.

 

The Obama Disaster, at Home and Abroad

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Shutdown – a real battle and test of wills over people's programs – is better than Obama’s slick and slimy style of calibrated surrender.”

When you predict disaster, it’s no fun being right. Since long before Barack Obama was elected president, we at Black Agenda Report have said that this center-right corporate politician is a War Democrat whose foreign policy objectives – if not his rhetoric – are no different than George Bush’s. With Obama’s expansion of Bush’s wars and his opening up of a new, North African front, in Libya, we have been proved catastrophically right – right, to the point of tears.

When we said that Obama was a tool of the Wall Street bankers that backed his candidacy to the hilt, and that he would repay them with trillions in return, we were right – more right than even we imagined. We said that Obama was obsessed with trying to forge a grand alliance with the Republicans, and would wage an internal war against Black people’s interests and the left wing of the Democratic Party to do it. All that has come to pass. When the GOP took control of the U.S. House last November, we said it marked the “End of the Age of Obama,” and that the “best outcome that could result…is that the Republicans overreach and, in their white nationalist triumphalism, make it impossible for President Obama and congressional Democrats to reach an accommodation” with them. The GOP isover-reaching, while Obama has already sacrificed trillions in social spending trying to split the budget difference with Republicans who persist in seeking total victory. Obama has nothing to argue about with the GOP, having himself placed the entire Democratic social welfare legacy on the chopping block for the sake of deficit reduction. As we said back in November, gridlock – shutdown – a real battle and test of wills over people's programs, is better than Obama’s slick and slimy style of calibrated surrender.

How can Obama represent us, when he compromises with people who are trying to beat our brains out.”

The Obama disaster has forced those of us on the Black Left to organize around solid principles and to look at the political actors in our own communities with a much colder and unforgiving eye. So we now have the Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations, that brooks no compromise with Obamite imperialism and servitude to Wall Street. We have allied ourselves with others on the Left, who are holding a major anti-war mobilization in New York City on April 9, and in San Francisco on April 10. Last week, the first Black-led anti-Obama demonstration in Harlem took place, outside a gentrified restaurant where Obama was hosting a $30,000 a plate dinner.

Nellie Bailey, of Harlem Fightback Against Wars at Home and Abroad, challenged hundreds of protesters to “seize the moral high ground that has slipped away under the false illusion that Barack Obama represents the interests of working class people, much less working class Black people.”

Professor of Africana Studies, Bill Sales, asked, “How can Obama represent us, when he compromises with people who are trying to beat our brains out.” Obama, said Sales, “is a moderate Republicrat corporate lawyer. Don't drink the Kool-Aid.”

Charles Barron, a New York City Councilman, said the “last straw” for him was when Obama called up the president of South Africa demanding that former Haitian President Aristide be prevented from returning to his homeland. In a debate three years ago, Councilman Barron told me that he supported Obama, despite misgivings, because he wanted “to give a brother a shot.” Well, Obama has proven he ain't no brother. He has shot his wad, and Black America will be a healthier place when he is gone.

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: 20110406_gf_ObamaWars.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:16am EDT