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

Troy Davis will be laid to rest this weekend in a public ceremony at Jonesvill Baptist Church in Savannah. The public figures and civil rights honchos who gravitated to his case will have prominent front row seats. What they won't have is an answer to why their kind of movement did not save Troy Davis, or what it will take to save the Troy Davises who will come after this one.

On Saving The Next Troy Davises

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

From the standpoint of civil rights lawyers and activists, the case of Troy Davis had everything. It had an attractive and well spoken defendant, and an almost transparently false conviction without a murder weapon or any physical evidence. Most of the eyewitnesses recanted, declaring they had perjured themselves under threats from police and prosecutors.

In the tradition of political test cases dating back to the Scottsboro Boys eight decades ago, public prayers, letter writing campaigns, op-eds, demonstrations, meetings, celebrity endorsements and exhortations proceeded around the world while Davis's lawyers worked every available legal angle, managing to bring his case to the Supreme Court not once but twice. By last week, tens of thousands were in the streets declaring their opposition to the death penalty and nearly a million had signed petitions demanding a new trial for Troy Davis. Corporat e news outlets like MSNBC even devoted several hours of breathless “coverage” at the countdown to this legal lynching.

Davis went to his death praying for his accusers and executioners, and talking about the Troy Davises that came before and will come after him. The civil rights style mobilization around his case could not and did not save this Troy Davis, and it will not save the Troy Davises who will come after this one.

It's good that so many people marched and met and prayed and circulated and signed petitions to save Troy Davis. But until we build a movement that stands up for the human rights of ALL the imprisoned, ALL the convicted and formerly incarcerated, including those whose innocence, however you construe that word is not so obvious, and those who may in fact not even be innocent ---- until we stand up for their human rights to education, to jobs and justice including the right to vote, even when behind bars, to health care and a decent chance at life by radically shrinking and ultimately ending the institution of prison, the machinery that convcts the literally innocent will retain its legitimacy and roll on, doing what it has always done.

In other words, coming out to oppose the execution of an attractive, well spoken and clearly innocent person like Troy Davis is low-hanging fruit. It's great that so many people are willing to reach for it. But we will rarely be able to save even these until our movements take conscious, public and deliberate aim at chopping the whole rotten tree down, at de-legitimizing and ending the institution of prison as we know it.

The day we get a million signatures on a petition not just to save an innocent man's life, but to roll back the prison state ---- that will be the day we know we have a movement that can free the next wave of Troy Davises, the day we are close to welcoming them back to help heal and rebuild their own lives, our broken families and our devastated communities.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. He lives and works in Marietta GA, and can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20110928_bd_the_next_troy_davises.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:43pm EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Melissa Harris-Perry, the political scientist and columnist for The Nation, blames “white liberals” that hold Barack Obama to a “higher standard” for the president’s dwindling white support. Yet all the evidence indicates that Obama’s white support is evaporating most rapidly among ‘independents’ – the white ‘swing voters’ he caters to so slavishly – not reliably ‘liberal’ white Democrats. For some Black Obamites, preserving the icon in the White House is paramount, no matter what his crimes.

 

Obama Apologist Harris-Perry Says Support Prez Because He’s a “Competent” Black Man

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Clinton’s crew freed Wall Street predators from regulation, while Barack Obama rescued George Bush’s bank bailout and then put at least $14 trillion dollars into the accounts of finance capitalists around the world.”

Melissa Harris-Perry is one of the saddest examples of how the advent of a Black president has distorted the thinking of some of the most promising African American minds. She is a political scientist who has abandoned all the science of politics in order to build a higher Black Wall around Barack Obama, a war criminal with six simultaneous aggressions now running at full tilt, and the prime facilitator of the most massive transfer of wealth in human history. Writing from her roost at The Nation magazine, Prof. Harris-Perry flails about in search of a progressive position from which to defend the First Black President. There being none, she has to settle for saying that Obama is as competent as any white president – Damn it! – and it is white “liberals” that are bringing Obama down by “holding him to a to a higher standard” than his white predecessors – specifically, Bill Clinton.

Essentially, she contends that Clinton did do bad things to Black and poor Americans and to the cause of peace in the world. Obama’s record is, she maintains, “at the very least, comparable to that of President Clinton, who was enthusiastically re-elected.”

We could stop right there and agree with Prof. Harris-Perry that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are political peas in a pod, both center-right corporate Democrats at the service of the rich, who are eager to ravage welfare as we used to know it, or Social Security as we still have it. Both presidents specialize in opening the doors to the Republicans that they pretend to be opposing. And yes, Obama is every bit as competent at playing the corporate game as Bill Clinton ever was – much better, in fact. Clinton’s crew freed Wall Street predators from regulation, while Barack Obama rescued George Bush’s bank bailout and then put at least $14 trillion dollars into the accounts of finance capitalists around the world. You can’t top that for competence in the service of finance capital.

Both presidents specialize in opening the doors to the Republicans that they pretend to be opposing.”

Obama has increased the military budget with utmost competence, surpassing George Bush and putting Bill Clinton to shame in his service to the Pentagon. And, when it comes to mounting a frontal assault on the New Deal and the Great Society, nobody can touch Obama, who came into office with a promise on his lips to put all entitlements on the chopping block, and has succeeded in doing so. He is, without question, not just competent, but a most excellent destroyer of social safety nets.

Prof. Harris-Perry’s beef is that “liberals” do not recognize Obama’s competence. She says these liberals are to blame for Obama’s dramatic fall in white approval ratings. It is true that whites, who gave Obama more of their votes in 2008 than they did Democrat John Kerry in 2004, are threatening to abandon him in 2012. But all the evidence indicates that Obama’s white support is evaporating most rapidly among “independents” – the white “swing voters” he caters to so slavishly – not reliably “liberal” white Democrats. That’s why Obama and his crew dismiss liberals – including Harris-Perry’s left liberal colleagues at The Nation – as having no place else to go, and instead spend all their time wooing the political middle of white America. And that’s the same reason Black people get nothing but ostentatious contempt from the White House. The problem is not white liberal racism, but that too many white liberals and African Americans will stick with Obama no matter what he says or does, and will make themselves look ridiculous – and incompetent – in the process. Prof. Harris-Perry, for example.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

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

Direct download: 20110928_gf_HarrisPerryObama.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:40am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

It is the season of “occupations” – open-ended protests designed to “liberate” very finite bits of space that represent a larger world that has been alienated from humanity by the greedy grasp of a usurping class.” Three somewhat different occupations hope to “set off a chain of human reaction” that will wrest power from the denizens of Wall Street and their servants in Washington. Meanwhile, Newark, New Jersey, activists are busy occupying their own turf.

 

Occupations: Wall Street, Washington – and Newark

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The conditions that are inflicted on the people of Newark and every other American inner city have their source in those who rule from Washington in the service of Wall Street – the sites of those other occupations.”

Three “occupations” of significance are underway or about to begin in the United States. These people’s actions share overlapping themes of resistance to the oppression of the many by the few, and attempt to focus the minds of the many on very finite bits of space that represent a larger world that has been alienated from humanity by the greedy grasp of a usurping class. It is hoped that the symbolic liberation of those spaces, through physical occupation by the people, will set off a chain of human reaction culminating in a kind of Big Bang that gives birth to a new social universe.

Big Bangs have happened before; human progress depends on them, which is why people spend their entire lives trying to light the fuse.

The attempt to occupy ground on Manhattan’s Wall Street, the figurative and literal belly of the global finance capitalist beast, has been harassed and, increasingly, brutalized by police – as must occur if the protest is to crystallize into a narrative of struggle. The Wall Street protesters appear to be as they describe themselves, a “leaderless resistance” that is united against the “greed and corruption” of the “one percent” of the population that lords it over the rest of us. The protesters were, at least in the beginning, very young, very white, and transparently upscale in social background – just the kind of cohort in need of introduction to the blunt instruments underpinning the rule of the rich. The NYPD soon obliged them.

The protesters were, at least in the beginning, very young, very white, and transparently upscale in social background.”

On October 6, a coalition of organizations with many veteran leaders will descend on Freedom Square in Washington, DC, for an open-ended, non-violent occupation of federal space. Drawn from social and economic justice, environmental and peace groups, the activists say they “will demand changes that shift power away from concentrated corporate capital and free us to create solutions that lead to a just and sustainable future.”

In Newark, New Jersey, the People’s Organization for Progress, or P.O.P., has launched a different kind of occupation, claiming public space at two busy intersections of the city for daily demonstrations that they plan to continue for 381 days, the duration of the 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott. P.O.P. is, in my estimation, the most effective grassroots, Black-based outfit in the country, with hundreds of dues paying members and many more active associates. The demands of their “People’s Daily Action for Peace, Jobs, Equality and Justice” are as comprehensive as those of a national organization – as they must be, since the conditions that are inflicted on the people of Newark and every other American inner city have their source in those who rule from Washington in the service of Wall Street – the sites of those other occupations.

The activists in Newark are intent on occupying public space in their own city, for more than a year or as long as necessary. That is the most profound kind of occupation: a non-stop mobilization of people embedded in their own communities, yet consciously connected to the larger world. A struggle in which there will be no change of venue, until all the people’s venues are liberated.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

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

Direct download: 20110928_gf_Occupations.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:38am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by editor and columnist Jared Ball

The grotesque spectacle of Georgia’s final execution of Troy Davis may have been politically useful to the pretenders to the mantel of Black leadership, but in the end the misleadership class proved useless to Troy. “My last words would have been to spread out, break those ranks and let Sharpton, Barack and Jealous know, no more show time for you and the God you keep praising as all ‘capable’ when he can’t keep me from the poison.”

Troy Anthony Davis and Useless Leadership

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by editor and columnist Jared Ball

Amy Goodman used his death like CNN used Desert Storm.”

Not long after the 4-hour additional torture imposed on Davis by the Supreme Court, and after the final word came that Troy was dead, I got a phone call from an angry friend. He began by asking, “what is the value in electing or investing support for a leadership that cannot stop even this? What is the value in investing support behind these so-called ‘movements’ that benefit useless leadership more than the people they claim to be moving for?” And then he said, “Troy was definitely a better man than me.”

Word?” I asked. “That’s my word,” he said. He took a breath to calm himself and went on. “First of all, his last words were praise to his supporters and all those gathered around the world. Then he had words of encouragement for the family of the cop he didn’t kill. No way man. I would have been of no use.” That line struck me. “What do you mean, ‘no use’?” I asked. “Everyone knows he didn’t do it,” he went on. “Everyone knows it and yet they all use him while he dies in convenient fashion.” “Convenient fashion? That’s deep my man,” I said. “Did you watch the coverage on Democracy Now! last night?” he asked. “Every minute,” I said. “Then you know what I mean. The cop’s family got polite support from a man from whom they gained closure, the activists got praise from a man they were too soft to save, and Amy Goodman’s people got love for doing what they should have been doing for at least 10 years.”

You saw their coverage right?” “Yes,” I said. “Then you noticed how it is on the night Troy is killed that they gave more attention to his case than during the entire 20 years of his incarceration. And how often do they talk about the associated issues of mass Black imprisonment?” “Ok,” I said. But he went on, increasingly angered, “What you saw was spectacle. Amy Goodman used his death like CNN used Desert Storm, you heard her say, ‘and we are the only ones here covering the moment.’ Just like CNN she was locking up 10 more years of support from the Left as the major media.” “She didn’t do some good with coverage?” I asked, sounding like the people I usually refer to as soft. “Whatever good she did was useless to Troy and the rest of us. And look what she did the next day; went right back to her real top stories, Israel and Palestine and mainstream journalist book writers.”

Make them storm trooper cops need that gear they brought to the rally.”

But that wouldn’t have worked with me,” he went on. “Because I would have used my last words to tell them to go home, go back to the stories you prefer. I don’t want to become a fund-raiser for you. You didn’t tell my story enough or in ways to get your audience to get me out, I am about to die anyway, so to me, you are useless.” “In fact,” he said, with even more venom in his voice, “I would have told everyone gathered out front, everyone listening to whatever media was covering me, that they should go become a problem, the kind of problem that keeps me alive or gets me out. Make them storm trooper cops need that gear they brought to the rally. Tell them that I won’t be the only one to transition tonight. But don’t use me to add to your phony activist credentials. If indeed we are ‘all Troy Davis’ then we all should be prepared to die tonight.”

He noticed that my silent discomfort. He sensed my fear of my own politics. But he was angry and relentless. “My last words would have been to spread out, break those ranks and let Sharpton, Brock and Jealous know, no more show time for you and the God you keep praising as all ‘capable’ when he can’t keep me from the poison. Your God is useless. We don’t praise the same one, if we praise one at all. My God wouldn’t let me and mine suffer while others use that suffering to enrich and reposition themselves.” “I feel you,” I said. “And it was even more infuriating to listen to them apologize for Obama’s inability to inter…” I could not even finish the sentence.

Obama’s uselessness was so evident and emblematic” he interrupted. “A Black president, a Black attorney general, a Black supreme court justice, two Black men on the Georgia parole board, all the Black civil rights glitterati and still nothing could be done. It is final proof, if we still needed it, of the uselessness of what is called ‘leadership’.”

I agree but only wish I had the courage to say it myself.

For Black Agenda Radio I’m Jared Ball. On the web go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

Dr. Jared A. Ball is an associate professor of communication studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore and is the author of I Mix What I Like! A Mixtape Manifesto (AK Press). He can be found online at: IMIXWHATILIKE.COM.

Direct download: 20110928_jb_TroyDavis.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:34am EDT