Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from an African American point of view.

At the same time that the Grammy Awards hononred Etta James and Whitney Houston, it did away with most of their award categories, 31 in all. Most of the stricken awards were for Latin jazz and other Latin music, four R&B categories, zydeco, Hawaiian and Native American music. A large group of artists protested outside the award ceremony last weekend, and pledge to continue fighting for the restoration of recognition to to their music, to our music. When we surrender this power to greedy corporations, we are complicit in cultural genocide.

The Grammy Awards, Corporate Greed and Cultural Genocide

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

Most of the musical categories eliminated by the Grammies this year were Latin, black and nonwhite...”

For tens of thousands of years longer than humans have been reading and writing, since way, way before our ancestors began saving seeds and planting them, humans have made music. It's one of many things that make us human.

But so are racism, hypocrisy and in the current era, vampire capitalism. It's hard to see anything but hypocritical racism and greed in the decision of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences – the body that gives out the Grammys --- in their elimination of more than thirty musical categories, including Latin jazz and 3 other Latin music categories, 4 R&B categories, zydeco and Native American music, one Gospel, one Rap and one World Music category.

The award ceremony led off with a prayer for Whitney Houston. But four of Houston's six Grammies are in categories that the Grammies no longer notice. The late Etta James was hailed as well, at the same time the categories for two of her Grammies were done away with. So the real message was that the next wave of Whitney Houstons won't be nearly as welcome. Most of the musical categories eliminated by the Grammies this year were Latin, black and nonwhite.

Why do they only cut this music?” asked multiple Grammy award winner Carlos Santana, who protested outside the awards ceremony with many other musicians. “I think they're racist. You can't eliminate black gospel music or Hawaiian music or American Indian music or Latin jazz music because all this represents what the United States is, a social experiment.” Other award recipients who have publicly spoken and written demanding the organization to restore the stricken categories are Herbie Hancock, Eddie Palmieri, Paul Simon Bill Cosby, Esperanza Spalding, Bonnie Raitt, Stanley Clarke, David Amram, Pete Escovedo, Oscar Hernandez and Larry Harlow.

A number of artists filed suit against the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, demanding the minutes of meetings at which the elimination of these awards were discussed. Although they were dues paying members of long standing who recruited and contributed labor to its outreach programs, the academy denied access to these records through the courts on the grounds that they were “a foreign corporation established in Delaware” and so not subject to the transparency laws applicable to domestic non-profits.

The truth is that elimination of these categories is a kind of cultural genocide, a fencing off and enclosure of artistic space where many kinds of great music will be less able to connect with their audiences. In an era when a tiny number of major recording companies monopolize access to radio airplay and most concert venues, one more award, more or less, doesn't mean much to Alicia Keys or Beyonce. But a Grammy, or even a Grammy nomination, for a struggling independent artist can be the difference between being able to make a living at her music, or having to give it up and do something else to survive.

You can find more information, and sign the petition to restore the stricken categories at www.grammywatch.org. That'swww.grammywatch.org. The decisions of what music to study and play and listen and dance to are decisions that audiences and artists should make. They are much too important to be reserved for greedy and racist recording industry executives. Letting them make that decision for us IS cultural genocide.

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

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and based in Marietta GA, where he is a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party and a principal in a technology consulting firm. Contact him at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20120215_bd_grammys_cultural_genocide.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:33 PM

A Black Agenda Report commentary by Glen Ford

The United States resisted signing the international treaty against genocide until 1988 – because it was guilty of the crime, and not necessarily finished. Mass Black incarceration, in both its past and present forms, provides much evidence of U.S. genocidal intent. The bodies have been piling up for forty years – although mainly warehoused, rather than deceased. “The criminalization of genocide was intended to be much more than a kind of legal epitaph for the dead; it was designed, like all laws, to prevent the crime.”

 

Mass Black Incarceration: Damn Right, We Charge Genocide

A Black Agenda Report commentary by Glen Ford

Guilt of genocide does not require that the great bulk of the victims be physically wiped out.”

It is well known that the United States is the unchallenged leader in mass incarceration, and that nearly half of the 2.4 million inmates of the American Gulag are Black. Many in the Black Freedom Movement have long contended that mass Black incarceration, as practiced in the United States, fits the legal definition of genocide. Others, because of fear or denial, insist on absolving the United States of the ultimate and ongoing crime of genocide. This is not a semantic question. The charge of genocide differs in international law from war crimes and crimes against peace, in that genocide can occur when a country is technically at peace with the rest of the world.

It is no longer seriously disputed that Native Americans are victims of deliberate, genocidal policies of successive U.S. governments. The proof is in the raw results: millions of dead Indians. But guilt of genocide does not require that the great bulk of the victims be physically wiped out. Otherwise, the charge of genocide would be nothing more a post-mortem, like an autopsy report. The criminalization of genocide, which only began in 1946, was intended to be much more than a kind of legal epitaph for the dead; it was designed, like all laws, to prevent the crime.

For that reason, the four categories of criminal acts cited in the 1951 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide include, not just the physical killing of members of “national, ethnical, racial or religious” groups, but also the infliction of serious harm to members of the group; imposition of conditions of life that are calculated to bring about destruction of the group, in whole or in part, or measures intended to prevent births among the group. It is also genocide to transfer children of the group to another group, as happened to Native Americans and natives of Australia.

Genocide can occur when a country is technically at peace with the rest of the world.”

As in most systems of law, it is the intention to cause harm that is key. In the United States, the criminal justice system established in the post-Civil War South was designed to put Black people back into a kind of bondage. That is the lesson of the recently broadcast PBS documentary “Slavery By Another Name,” which points out that African Americans made up 90 percent of the inmates in some southern states. And it is Michelle Alexander’s position, in her book The New Jim Crow, that modern mass Black incarceration, beginning around 1970, is calculated to create a caste of Black people with no rights, and to stigmatize Blacks as a group as criminals.

At New York’s Riverside Church, this Saturday, revolutionary communist activist Carl Dix will argue that "Stop-and-frisk and other policing policies” that enmesh Blacks in the criminal justice system amount to “a slow genocide which could easily accelerate into fast genocide.”

Even a Being from another planet would conclude that Carl Dix is right. ET would quickly learn that one out of every eight incarcerated persons in the world is African American – about 12 percent of the inmates on Planet Earth – although Black Americans make up less than six tenths of one percent of the global population. ET would recognize that such numbers can only mean that a genocide is in progress, that African Americans have been singled out for some horrible fate by the U.S. government. We cannot sit and wait for the post-mortem. We charge genocide, now!

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: 20120215_gf_MassIncarceration.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:52 AM

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

In refusing to even consider nationalizing the mining industry, South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, has all but repudiated its most solemn (and fundamentally socialist) document: the Freedom Charter. Created and endorsed by a people’s movement in 1955, the Charter calls for national ownership of minerals, but the ANC government vows that will never happen. Under nominal Black rule, the “ANC has transformed itself into a handmaiden of multinational capital.”

 

South Africa Buries Its Freedom Charter

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

South African President Jacob Zuma closed the book on the Freedom Charter’s promise to nationalize the mining industry.”

In 1955, the African National Congress of South Africa sent 50,000 activists into communities around the country to ask the people what kind of freedom they wanted. The result was the ANC’s Freedom Charter, a blueprint for the non-racial South Africa that would finally arrive, two generations later, at the cost of many thousands of lives.

Two key provisions of the Freedom Charter were especially troubling to multinational corporations. The first declared that “The land shall be shared by those who work it,” meaning redistribution of farmland. The other proclaimed: “The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and the monopoly industry shall be transferred to the people as a whole.” The Freedom Charter, which sprang directly from the aspirations of South Africans, and was endorsed by nearly 3,000 delegates at a Congress of the People, was a socialist document.

Through the long night of white rule, the words of the Freedom Charter shouted to the world that South Africa’s revolution would be a thoroughgoing break – not just with racial apartheid, but with systems of exploitation of man by man. The South African people and nation “as a whole” would reclaim their resources.

This monthSouth African President Jacob Zuma closed the book on the Freedom Charter’s promise to nationalize the mining industry, which is own by multinational corporations. “We’re very clear,” said Zuma. Nationalization “is not our policy. It cannot be.”

The African National Congress has assigned itself the task of chief protector of corporate rule over South Africa’s mineral wealth.”

Zuma left no doubt as to his position, in order not to upset world “markets” – meaning, the international networks of rich, mainly white men who have effectively ruled South Africa both before and since Nelson Mandela won the first multi-racial elections, in 1994. President Zuma’s underlings and advisors were even more adamant that the corporate mine owners’ property rights were sacrosanct. His Minister of Minerals Resource, Susan Shabangu, declared last year, “there will be no nationalization in my lifetime.” That was at the height of demonstrations organized by the ANC’s Youth Wing, and supported by the nation’s unionized workers, demanding the ruling party honor the letter and spirit of the Freedom Charter. Instead,the African National Congress has assigned itself the task of chief protector of corporate rule over South Africa’s mineral wealth – apparently, in perpetuity.

The same goes for the Freedom Charter’s promise of land to the Black farmworkers. When Nelson Mandela came to power, whites owned nearly 90 percent of the arable land. Since then, only seven percent of farmland has been redistributed, and much of that is not being worked because Black farmers lack money and equipment. The ANC government, which takes its land reform cues from the World Bank, thinks it may be able to redistribute 30 percent of the land by the year 2025 – but, at this rate, even that modest goal is doubtful.

The ANC has transformed itself into a handmaiden of multinational capital. Its program of Black capitalism has served only to graft a corrupt Black political class onto the already existing structures of corporate rule. The Freedom Charter is a dead letter. Instead, Nelson Mandela's face, it was recently announced, will appear on every banknote of the new South African currency – cosmetic consolation for a revolution betrayed.

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: 20120215_gf_SouthAfricaMines.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:33 AM