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

White privilege, the legacy of 500 years of European military and economic suppression of the rest of the planet, is manifest even in movements that purport to be transformational, like Occupy Wall Street. Beneath the politics of economic reordering lie notions that the “new” and overwhelmingly white movement somehow supersedes the centuries-old aspirations of Europe’s primary victims.

 

Decolonizing Our Occupations

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by editor and columnist Jared Ball

Radical voices from the world’s majority are simply not welcomed even in spaces that each previously occupied.”

In two different settings and for two different reasons both the All Peoples Revolutionary Front and The Cornel West Theory made similar statements in response to this international moment of occupations. The APRF, from their perspective in San Diego and CWT from theirs, this week in Amsterdam, both spoke to still powerful blind spots which often prevent real coalition building. In each instance Black and Brown voices pierced a few White bubbles to at least momentarily address an important reality – the experiences and history of the world’s majority is often suppressed beneath the organized whims of a much smaller and Whiter minority.

As their show this week in Amsterdam was wrapping up Cornel West Theory front man Tim Hicks took a minute to vibe directly with the crowd. He wanted an audience new to his band’s music to know just how hard it is for such an unorthodox hip-hop group to be heard. Their beats are dope concoctions of traditional Black-laced samples and bass lines with White drumming and guitar riffs. Their fiercesome foursome of Black female and male lead vocalists deliver powerfully out-of-the-ordinary political lyrics whose content speaks as often and more easily to Frantz Fanon or Assata Shakur than the band’s actual namesake. And all of this creates a delightfully complicated problem for genre-based thinkers and corporate playlist arrangers. So Hicks took to the mic and thanked the crowd at the Live On The Low weekly hip-hop spotlight at the Winston Hotel and then let them know that despite endorsements from leading intellectuals like Cornel West, rap legends like Chuck D, and world renown soul sisters like Erykah Badu, groups like his still have to struggle to reach an audience.

They speak to longer struggles still incomplete that cannot be forgotten or marginalized by these more recent and mostly White uprisings.”

And from San Diego All Peoples Revolutionary Front representatives had taken to the mic more than a week ago to remind the current and mostly White occupiers that theirs is late and not necessarily conscious of its own complicity in the previous occupation of the world’s majority. "Our minds have been occupied by colonialism," said one speaker. And the group’s previously published open letter to the occupation calls attention to the very “colonizing language” of these occupations, with calls like “taking back our country,” with which many First Nations people simply cannot unify. Other speakers reminded of the imperial process that decimated existing communities, nations, identities and created new ones in permanent and hostile distinction from the West, from the White. Their calls for self-determination and an appropriate concept of "occupation" differ importantly from but remain in basic solidarity with those of the mainstream occupations. But they speak to longer struggles still incomplete that cannot be forgotten or marginalized by these more recent and mostly White uprisings. The differences are important and, as Greg Tate wrote recently, speak to the fact that this country remains more segregated by race than class.

And what each speak to in their own space and way is that radical voices from the world’s majority are simply not welcomed even in spaces that each previously occupied. White corporate dominance over hip-hop has largely wiped out space for group’s like the Cornel West Theory, just as now White liberal dominance over social unrest continues to limit space for other world majority radical voices from being heard. And if you continue to doubt that this latter point is an issue, just look at last week’s aired panel from the Nation magazine in all its Whiteness and ask if those in the occupy movement who are worried about corporate co-optation need to look more carefully at the liberal takeover currently being carried out.

We all have indeed been occupied by colonialism and hip-hop and the occupation movement are no different. I am glad though that in their own ways each occupation suffered these small interventions. May many more soon come.

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

Dr. Jared A. Ball is an associate professor of communication studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD. He is also the author of I Mix What I Like! A Mixtape Manifesto (AK Press, 2011) and can be found online at IMIXWHATILIKE.ORG.

Direct download: 20111130_jb_Occupations.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:35am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

White corporate media have invested huge sums of money and decades of propaganda spreading the lie that Black independent, grassroots politics is dead. But, in Newark, New Jersey, the People's Organization for Progress (POP) “gives the lie to those that claim pulling one’s neighbors together for the mundane tasks of community building is passé, a relic of another time.”

 

Black Grassroots Politics is Served Daily in Newark

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

We desperately need fifty, a hundred, a thousand People’s Organizations for Progress if Black America is to survive the ruin of capitalism.”

No matter what you’ve heard from people who have never been in favor of true social transformation, grassroots, independent Black activist politics is not an idea whose time has come and gone. The techniques of years gone by still work, and can be made even more effective with the help of new technologies. But first, it is necessary to understand that there is no “killer app” to jump-start a movement, no genius application that allows would-be activists to leapfrog over the hard labor of organizing. There is nothing more difficult to move than people, and nothing more high maintenance than ordinary human beings struggling against a System that they fear as much as they detest.

Therefore, it is truly a wonderment when everyday, mostly Black people from a mid-sized city manage to create an organization for social justice and sustain it for almost 30 years, scrupulously avoiding the corrupting influence of corporate sponsors, and all the while maintaining a disciplined distance from local politicians – including the ones they like. It is a minor miracle when these local activists, numbering hundreds of dues-paying members, manage to expand their organization to cities across their state.

Those grassroots miracle-workers are People Organized for Progress, POP for short, created in Newark, New Jersey in 1983 and currently led by Larry Hamm. The People’s Organization for Progress is the best example of grassroots Black activism that I have observed in decades – and that is saying a great deal. POP gives the lie to those that claim pulling one’s neighbors together for the mundane tasks of community building is passé, a relic of another time. Especially since the unfolding economic crisis has already set Black people back 30 years. What becomes clear in the face of the current catastrophe is that we desperately need fifty, a hundred, a thousand People’s Organizations for Progress if Black America is to survive the ruin of capitalism.

December 6, POP will mark day 164 of their protests with a march, rally and teach-in to celebrate the 56thanniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.”

The People's Organization for Progress understands that, too, which is why they embarked on a courageous project, back in June. If the Black people of Montgomery, Alabama, could boycott the segregated busses for 381 days, back in 1955, then POP could surely sustain daily demonstrations for at least that long. The men and women of POP reasoned that, through their example of daily protest at two of the busiest intersections of the city, they could rally not just their own members, but community groups, churches, and unions in Newark, and throughout the state of New Jersey, and in New York and Philadelphia. And they have. As of last week,110 organizations have endorsed POP's Daily People's Campaign for Jobs, Peace, Equality and Justice, and many of these groups are manning the picket lines with them.

Next Tuesday, December 6, POP will mark day 164 of their protests with a march, rally and teach-in to celebrate the 56th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. If you want to join with grassroots, everyday Black folks on their own mission to liberate Newark and the world, then contact POP, the People's Organization for Progress, at area code 973.801.0001. That's 973.801.0001. They'll be there, every day, until day 381. Because these people are serious about building a movement.

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: 20111130_gf_POP.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:26am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The best thing for the U.S. any movement that truly wants an end to U.S. wars, would be to bring back the draft. “The all-volunteer military has made it far easier for the United States to wage unjust and illegal wars, because the vast majority of the population has no direct stake in keeping the peace.” A new study shows the disconnect between Americans and their military is deeper than ever. “This vast experiential chasm between the general population and the U.S. military has reached an all time high during the same decade that has seen ‘the longest period of sustained conflict in the nation’s history.’”

 

The Absence of a Draft Makes Americans Feel Immune to War

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The Pentagon will wage as many wars as the American public will bear.”

In January of 2003, during the countdown to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, I used the pages of The Black Commentator to call for reinstitution of the draft. The article was titled “No Draft, No Peace,” and our readers were very unhappy with me. So, I expect that Black Agenda Report readers will also be unhappy, because I am once again calling for a return to the draft.

The reasoning is the same as in 2003: that the all-volunteer military, created in 1973, has made it far easier for the United States to wage unjust and illegal wars, because the vast majority of the population has no direct stake in keeping the peace. Or, as we put it nine years ago: “In the 30 years since the last young American was drafted, the U.S. has constructed a volunteer military machine that is disconnected from the life of the nation, a foreign legion-like force to which whole sectors of the population have only the most tenuous ties or…none at all.”

It’s now almost 40 years since the end of the draft, and a new study shows the distance between those families that send sons and daughters into the military, and those that do not, has never been greater. Asurvey by the Pew Research Center finds that “just one-half of one percent of American adults has served on active duty at any given time.” That means on any day of the week, only one out of every 200 Americans of either sex is in military uniform. Among young adults, only 39 percent have an immediate family member of any age who has served in the military. And, as the survey notes, this vast experiential chasm between the general population and the U.S. military has reached an all time high during the same decade that has seen “the longest period of sustained conflict in the nation’s history.”

In other words, the United States has been engaged in a decade of constant warfare on multiple fronts, while the military has made do with a smaller proportion of the population that at any time since World War Two.

The last thing the U.S. military wants is a return to the draft, because they know that selective service would instantly shrink their options for war.”

Back in 2003, readers argued heatedly that a draft would encourage U.S. militarists to concoct even more expansive war plans, because they would have access to more manpower. But, in this age of drones, smart bombs and million-dollar per man armies it is not manpower concerns, but domestic politics, that dictates how many wars the generals can fight. The Pentagon will wage as many wars as the American public will bear. At present, the U.S. is busy killing people in four large theaters of war and many smaller ones, yet the Pentagon shows no sign of having a full plate. Indeed, the last thing the U.S. military wants is a return to the draft, because they know that selective service would instantly shrink their options for war, because more people would oppose them.

As it stands, there is every reason to believe that the American public will accept an infinity of wars, as long as most families enjoy complete immunity from having loved ones killed or wounded in battle. For all political purposes, the U.S. military is a foreign legion, made up of people whose lives do not directly touch most of their fellow citizens.

And that’s why we don’t have an anti-war movement – because too few people have even theoretical “skin in the game.” The last decade has shown that a United States without a draft is the most militaristic and dangerous of all.

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

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

Direct download: 20111130_gf_NeedDraft.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:20am EDT