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

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by editor and columnist Jared Ball

The admittedly thrown-together film Black Power Mixtape provides some rare footage of the period, but is otherwise a lightweight. “Other than professor Robin Kelley’s short but powerful comments, the only interviewees representing today’s generation are the slightly more left-than-normal musicians like Talib Kweli, Questlove and Erykah Badu.”

 

The Black Power Mixtape Remix of Black Power

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by editor and columnist Jared Ball

Those carrying on the ideological and programmatic work of the Black Power Movement seemingly do not exist.”

It would be difficult to argue that the filmmakers of the recently-released documentary Black Power Mixtape did not intend the irony that came with some concluding comments from singer Erykah Badu. Her point was that Black people had to document and tell their own stories or disappear. That these comments came at the end of a Swedish film about Black Power, a film that both inspires and frightens a Black radical sensibility, made those comments stand out even among the many powerful statements made by those captured in the film. The fact that in 2011 Black people still struggle to tell their own story and, most importantly, to tell the story of the Black radical tradition encumbers this Black Power Mixtape documentary in ways the filmmakers are perhaps ill-prepared to realize.

The film comes at a time when, says Dr. Quito Swan – author of Black Power in Bermuda (2009) – we are in a moment of heightened “commercialization of Black Power” which often “includes a ‘sanitizing’ of revolutionary, anti-capitalist elements of Black Power while alternatively linking the Movement to ‘master narratives’ of ‘Black progress.’ The Black Power Movement (BPM) has in some spaces been softened to a definition more akin to that of Richard Nixon’s than of Stokely Carmichael and in others it has been entombed as ancient history museum artifact as was the case a couple of years ago at the Smithsonian. The message is clear; while the Black Power Movement was too big then and too iconic today to be ignored, it must only be viewed as a relic of history not as a programmatic guide for improving the world today. Praise the movement in its time only. The ideas, strategies and tactics that once challenged the world and inspired millions are of no use in 2011 despite the fact that every single solitary thing those women and men fought to eradicate is still here and worse than ever.

Those carrying on the ideological and programmatic work of the Black Power Movement seemingly do not exist.”

This is essentially the shortcoming of the film. Even the term “mixtape,” while probably inadvertent, is inappropriately applied. In an email communication with one of the film’s promoters I was told that this term was selected because the filmmakers, while working on a project about 1970s soul music, stumbled upon all of this Black Power footage and that the documentary features contemporary Black American musicians. But the mixtape, in the context of Black American history, has a specific relationship, origin and application – unlike any other – that is also lost in this discussion. The mixtape emerged as what is often described as the Black Power era came to an end. It was rap music’s original mass medium and served during its emergence in the 1970s as it does today as a site of anti-colonial music and journalistic content, a liberated mass medium for still-oppressed communities to express themselves. It is also a contested site in that it today suffers higher degrees of corporate co-optation where major companies use mixtapes to surreptitiously adorn themselves in the robes of the legitimating underground while actually promoting their own musical property.

The value of Black Power Mixtape, particularly in its rare footage of many of the era’s brightest leaders, is far outweighed by what has to be considered the film’s light or lazy research. For instance, why are there no contemporary interviews in the film with the political heirs of the Black Power Movement? The contemporary interviews with Angela Davis focus on her historical role as a Black Power era icon but say little of her current work or the relevance of her analysis in 1975 to 2011. Kwame Ture is similarly left in 1968 despite having lived another 30 years and leaving any number of admirers and members of his organization – still in existence – the All African People’s Revolutionary Party, none of whom are interviewed in the film. In fact, other than professor Robin Kelley’s short but powerful comments, the only interviewees representing today’s generation are the slightly more left-than-normal musicians like Talib Kweli, Questlove and Erykah Badu. Those carrying on the ideological and programmatic work of the Black Power Movement seemingly do not exist.

In the film a young Stokely Carmichael says that the assassination of Dr. King was the state’s “declaration of war against us.” But the question remains, even after a film about Black Power, “who called off that war and when?” The film, in its absence of attention to those still doing Black Power and those still incarcerated for having done Black Power, answers emphatically, that Black Power isn’t here now and apparently isn’t necessary.

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: 20111005_jb_blackpower_mixtape.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:26am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

A new report shows the Obama administration has been just as protective as its Republican predecessor of bank robo-signing: forging the signatures of millions of homeowners in order to foreclose their homes. “Theft and fraud were standard practice on Wall Street, and both the Bush and Obama administrations knew it, and protected the criminals.” Obama didn't just “inherit” Bush's entanglement with Wall Street robo-gangsters. He joined the criminal enterprise.

 

Obama and Bush Administrations Complicit With Bankers’ in Massive Foreclosure Scheme

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The robo-signers kept stealing as a matter of routine, while the Obama administration pretended it was on the side of the people.”

Both the Bush and the Obama administrations are complicit in the gargantuan and ongoing corporate conspiracy to unlawfully foreclose on the homes of millions of Americans. The U.S. government, through its quasi-private housing corporation Fannie Mae and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which is supposed to oversee the millions of mortgages guaranteed by Fannie Mae, collaborated in the so-called “robo-signing” scheme that has allowed banks to repossess homes without proof they own the mortgages to the houses.

That’s the scenario that emerges from a new report by the Inspector General of the Federal Housing Agency. It is an indictment of the clear complicity of two administrations – one Republican, the other Democratic – in the total abrogation of the rule of law as it pertains to Wall Street. The report shows that the Bush administration was made aware, back in 2003 that banks were engaged in wholesale fraud and theft of properties of American homeowners. The housing bubble had not yet burst, but the banks were gobbling up properties, especially defaulted sub-prime mortgages that had been targeted at Blacks and Latinos. But, because of the banks own practices of bundling mortgages into securities and then immediately passing them on to suckers down the line, the banks did not have clear title to the properties. They sold them anyway by forging signatures by the millions. Theft and fraud were standard practice on Wall Street, and both the Bush and Obama administrations knew it, and protected the bankster criminals. Law firms did much of the criminal dirty work. At least one legal outfit in Florida processed 75,000 robo-signed signatures a year for Fannie Mae.

It is an indictment of the clear complicity of two administrations – one Republican, the other Democratic – in the total abrogation of the rule of law as it pertains to Wall Street.”

The Bush administration was alerted to these activities eight years ago, but did nothing. And, after Fannie Mae becamebankrupt and was absorbed into the federal government in 2008, the Obama administration continued to protect the Wall Street conspirators. The robo-signers kept stealing as a matter of routine, while the Obama administration pretended it was on the side of the people by launching what it promised would be a $50 billion Home Affordable Modification Program. It was all a sham. Relatively few homeowners were saved. The reason was that the Obama administration’s priority was the same as the Bush administration’s had been: to smooth the process by which the banks could clear up foreclosures and pass the bad paper on to the federal government, putting the people’s bank account deeper and deeper in the red.

The robo-signers kept signing, and they are still at it, with the full protection of the Obama administration. The Inspector General of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, who issued the damning reports, says the agency still claims to be deciding what to do about the robo-signers, eight years later. The agency issued a statement that it would do something by September of 2012 - just before the presidential election.

To apologize for President Obama by claiming that he “inherited” the housing mess from George Bush is like saying that Al Capone inherited his criminal enterprises from previous gangsters. Obama is just as much a conspirator with Wall Street as Bush, and he has signaled he intends to keep the mega-crime going right up till Election Day. He's a gangster, pure and simple.

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

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

Direct download: 20111005_gf_FannieMaeRoboSign.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:18am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The New York City Police Department's secret “mapping” of Muslim neighborhoods looks very much like the prelude to a siege. African Americans, whose neighborhoods are also treated as “hot spots,” in NYPD parlance, know the drill. And, since an estimated 35 percent of U.S. Muslims are African American, these zones of hyper-surveillance overlap.

 

The NYPD's Muslim Dragnet That May Become A Siege

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The districts that the NYPD is mapping to surveil, contain and control Muslims overlap with the already existing Black zones of the city.”

In the 1998 Denzel Washington movie “The Siege,” the United States responds to a series of terrorist attacks with a presidential declaration of martial law and the military occupation of Muslim-populated parts of Brooklyn. Recently published reports show that the real-life occupiers of Brooklyn, the New York City Police Department, have, since 9/11, been engaged in the kind of deep and wide intelligence gathering that would logically precede just such an urban siege.

The reports reveal that the NYPD’s 500-officer counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism unit – the biggest such force in the nation outside of the FBI – operates a Demographic Unit that is busily “mapping” areas of the city where Muslims live and congregate. What are they trying to learn? Everything. For what purpose? Clearly, the answer isn’t too different than Denzel’s Hollywood version.

Civil liberties lawyers are in federal court, trying to get a judge to allow them to find out if the New York police are violating a 25-year-old court order that puts limits on police political surveillance. At present, there is no oversight whatsoever of the NYPD’s political police. But, through the diligence of the Associated Press and the the site NYPD Confidential, we have learned the Department’s Demographic Unit is intensely surveying locations in the city and nearby New Jersey and Connecticut where Muslims “socialize, shop and pray.” On a “map” of the white community, such places would simply be called churches and synagogues, stores and malls, and recreation sites. But when Muslims are being mapped, the term is “hot spots” – and all that conveys. Hot spots are to be suppressed, snuffed out, eradicated – placed under siege.

In hot spots, no one is considered innocent, and every investigation begins with a criminal or terroristic assumption. Black America has always lived in hot spots, places of hyper-surveillance where a police officer’s perception of “furtive movements” on a public street is grounds for stop-and-frisk – a police obsession that insults the humanity of 600,000 mostly Black and Latino New Yorkers every year – and where whole communities have been “Black-lined” as instant free-fire zones.

Hot spots are to be suppressed, snuffed out, eradicated – placed under siege.”

So, African Americans understand the meaning of “hot spots.” The new districts that the NYPD is mapping to surveil, contain and control Muslims overlap with the already existing Black zones of the city. An estimated 35 percent of Muslims in the United States are African Americans. They make up a huge proportion of the Muslims the FBI’s agent provocateurs have entrapped in alleged terrorist plots that were wholly manufactured by the American state. Ensnaring a Black Muslim is a kind of “two-fer” for the FBI and its not-so-junior partner, the NYPD: two national security enemies in one.

The NYPD maintains a list of countries, or nationalities, that they call “ancestries of interest.” An Associated Press reporter asked President Obama's assistant attorney general for civil rights, Thomas Perez, if the administration considered Black American Muslims to be an “ancestry of interest.” Perez wouldn't respond. But we know the answer. The U.S. national security state is a direct descendant of the slave-holding state. We are the original “ancestry of interest” - the people of the “hot spots.”

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

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

Direct download: 20111005_gf_MuslimHotSpots.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:08am EDT