Wed, 8 May 2013
From Race Men to Debased Men, Obama at Morehouse, Arne Duncan at Morgan State
A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
A good friend in Atlanta observed that when President Bush used to visit, his inbox would be flooded with alerts and notices about vigils, picket lines and demonstrations. But when the current president comes to town, there's nothing.
President Obama will punctuate the commencement at Atlanta's Morehouse College next week. The only ripple that's made news is whether some preacher who criticized the president for not making enough black appointments to elite high offices should be allowed to set foot on campus that weekend. Commencement week, Morehouse officials solemnly say, is about the graduates, not politics.
At Morgan State University, another historically black institution of higher learning in Baltimore, Obama's basketball buddy and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is scheduled to deliver the commencement address. There's not much publicly visible dissent behind that either, despite the fact that President Obama's Race To The Top program has closed and privatized more public schools than any other president in US history, and Arne Duncan chucks that spear. Baltimore is reportedly closing 32 schools in the near future while building only 15 new ones. One wonders whether Baltimore and Morgan State would be protesting if the same destructive policies were forced upon them by a white president without the soothing presence of a compliant black political elite as intermediaries.
There's no shortage of of pressing issues at Morgan State, Maryland state delegate Jill P. Carter informed Black Agenda Report. The school is suing the state of Maryland and its Democrat governor, charging that the state's historically black colleges and universities have been chronically underfunded. According to Carter, HBCUs across the country are watching and waiting to file similar suits if this one succeeds.
“There's no shortage of bright, successful HBCU alumni who could deliver powerful, inspiring commencement address,” said Carter. “It's too bad Morgan State didn't go there instead.”
Delegate Carter has a point. It is too bad. What it's not is the least bit surprising.
The leaders of Morgan State University, of Morehouse College and many similar institutions are not really leaders at all, not the way the old style “race men” and women supposed themselves to be once upon a time, standing up and lifting up all our people. They are followers, members of a black misleadership class which values conformity, silence and careers over courageous advocacy and struggle, and prizes individual enrichment over investment in a community's collective wealth and power.
The race men have become debased men, unable even to stand up for the interests of their own institutions, let alone for public education, or against gentrification, or the interests of African Americans as a whole. Commencement addresses for them are not about inspiring the graduates about to go forth into the world and accomplish things about which their elders can only dream. They're about genuflecting to power and repeating the stale old narratives that validate and justify our class of elite black misleaders.
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 member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.
Wed, 8 May 2013
Defend Assata, Defend Ourselves: The Black Is Black Coalition Rallies in Harlem
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford
“Obama is serving notice that those who share Assata’s ideology – as understood by the FBI – are subject to eradication as well.”
In doubling the bounty on former Black Liberation Army member Assata Shakur’s head, the Obama administration is announcing that Black radicals are candidates for his Kill List. The message is as unmistakable and dramatic as the billboards that have been erected in Newark, New Jersey, and elsewhere screaming for the exiled freedom fighter’s blood.
One does not wind up on the FBI’s Most Wanted list based on the number of murders committed or millions of dollars stolen. The Most Wanted list is among the nation’s most political documents, in which individuals are meant to personify the scope and type of offenses that the U.S. government considers most in need of stamping out. The list is a kind of propaganda, a symbolic display of what the state considers dangerous behavior.
President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, the two Black men who are most responsible for making Assata Shakur the face of domestic terror in the United States, are fully conversant in the language of symbolism. They are publicly defining the Black liberation movement – or what’s left of it, or those who might attempt to revive it – as a priority domestic target for repression. Shakur, a 65-year old grandmother who has not left Cuba for the past 29 years, poses no physical danger to the American state. She represents a political threat, through her “ideology,” as brazenly stated by the FBI. The Bureau has marked Shakur for priority assassination on the basis of, in the FBI’s words, her “anti-U.S. government speeches espousing the Black Liberation Army message.” “Terrorism” is somehow inherent in the message of Black liberation. Advocacy of Black liberation, is the threat. The reward of $2 million is meant to silence Assata Shakur’s political speech, and remove her as a symbol of resistance to the U.S government.
“The Bureau has marked Shakur for priority assassination.”
For the National Security State, “terror” is a powerful word, with vast legal ramifications. The Obama administration is informing Americans and Cubans that Assata is as much fair game for assassination by drone as the late Anwar al-Awlaki. Barack Obama and Eric Holder are serving notice that those who share Assata’s ideology – as understood by the FBI – are subject to eradication as well, because it is an ideology of terror. And they are telling those who give “substantial support” to Assata that they are subject to detention by the U.S. military without trial or charge, for the duration of the war against “terror.”
The Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations will hold a demonstration on Thursday, May 9, from 5 to 7pm, in front of the Harlem State Office Building in New York City, to give substantial and unwavering support to the safety and freedom of Assata Shakur; Freedom for Sundiata Acoli and Sekou Odinga, Black Liberation Army members held in U.S. prisons; and Freedom for All Political Prisoners.
They tried to kill Assata in 1973, and they're still trying. They tried to kill the Black liberation movement, but its not dead yet. Join the Black is Back Coalition and a host of other concerned organizations at the Harlem State Office Building, on 125th Street, at 5pm, on Thursday. Tell the real terrorists what you think about them, their austerity, their mass incarceration, and their wars. For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at GlenFord@BlackAgendaReport.com.
For more information, go to Black Is Back Coalition event Facebook page:
HANDS OFF ASSATA! UNCLE SAM IS THE REAL TERRORIST!
On Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 5pm Eastern Standard Time, the New York City Chapter of the Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice Peace and Reparations (BIBC) will hold a demonstration in front of the Harlem State Office Building to protest the U.S. government’s recent announcement of the increased bounty placed on the life of Assata Shakur from $1 million to $2 million and her addition to the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list.
The State claims that Assata Shakur is a U.S. domestic terrorist and is offering money to anyone who can take Assata from Cuba and bring her back, dead or alive, to the U.S. so that she can be forced to serve the rest of her “life sentence” for the alleged murder of a New Jersey state trooper in the early 1970s.
The BIBC is absolutely opposed to the U.S. governments labeling of Assata Shakur as a terrorist. Assata Shakur, like the masses of African and other oppressed peoples around the world, is a victim of terrorism inflicted by the U.S. government.
It is the U.S. government that has the longest track record of terrorism on the face of the planet. Currently there are over 700 U.S. military installations in the world today. In each of those colonized territories suffering such occupation, the people face outright terror. The Afghani people suffer civilian casualties on a regular basis due to trigger happy U.S. Marine maneuvers. The same can be said all over the planet.
In fact, Cuba, the country from which the U.S. aims to snatch Assata, has been a decade’s long victim of that same U.S. terrorism that African people in this country have come to know all too well. The economic embargos and military restrictions that the U.S. has imposed on the Cuban government and people are not unlike the public policy of policy containment of the Black community here in the U.S., a policy which serves at best as a poor substitute for economic development.
The U.S. occupation of Cuba (Guantanamo Bay) is not unlike the police occupation of the African community. The numerous assassination attempts by the U.S. on the life of Fidel Castro and other Cuban leaders is not unlike the U.S. COINTELPRO initiated assassinations of Malcolm X, Fred Hampton and Martin Luther King.
Assata is being labeled a terrorist by the U.S. only because of her relationship to the Black Liberation Army, which, during the 1960’s and 70’s engaged in armed struggle against the U.S. government as a means of liberating Black people from its oppressive domination.
The U.S. is intensifying its attack on all remnants and symbols of resistance from the last genuine period of revolutionary struggle in this country. This attack on Assata is an attack on the African Liberation Movement and African people in general that cannot go unchecked!
This attack on the part of the U.S. is not a sign of strength. It is a sign of weakness and desperation that was necessary on the part of U.S. imperialism as a means of overturning the tides of history that are on course to wipe imperialism completely out of existence.
BIB also understands that the intensifying attack being made against Assata and the African Liberation Movement in general could only be made possible, with minimal political consequence, through a neo-colonial Black president Obama and U.S. attorney general Eric Holder.
While these government officials are Black, it is clear that they do not represent the interests of Black people. It is Obama who has intensified a campaign of imperialist war against African and African people around the world. It is Obama who has ordered the dropping of drone bombs in various parts of the African continent. It is Obama who has given a green light to the police throughout the U.S. to shoot and kill African people at will, an initiative that has resulted in the most recent finding that an African is murdered by the police in the U.S. every 28 hours.
The fact is that while George Bush’s regime set the stage for the bounty on Assata, it is Obama who has played the leading role in the play of U.S. imperialist repression waged around the world, a play whose final act consists of such attempts to completely wipe out any remnant of African resistance within U.S. borders.
Assata Shakur on the other hand, has represented the genuine interests of African people since she joined the movement for Black Power, as she continues to do today—even as she lives in Cuba in exile because of her acts of righteous resistance during the 1960s.
The Black is Back Coalition is calling on all lovers of genuine freedom and social justice to unite with us and attend this very important demonstration being held in defense of Assatta Shakur.
Free Assatta! Free Sundiata! Free Sekou Odinga! Free All BLA Prisoners of War! Free All Political Prisoners!
Wed, 8 May 2013
End Solitary Confinement in U.S. Prisons, Prepare to Back Hunger Strikers
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford
“Solitary confinement as a form of routine, mass punishment is beyond barbarity.”
Another prison hunger strike is looming in California, where more than 200 inmates at the Pelican Bay supermax have been in solitary confinement for between five and ten years and nearly 100 have been shut off from most human contact for 20 years or more. Across the nation, on any given day, more than 100,000 inmates suffer in solitary – about 25,000 in the federal system and another 80,000 or so in state facilities. That’s the equivalent of locking up every man, woman and child in Charleston, South Carolina, in their own little 8 by 12 foot box – for an eternity. Nothing like this American form of mass human torment has ever existed on the face of the earth: systematic, industrial strength torture, multiplied 100,000 times per day. Solitary confinement as a form of routine, mass punishment is beyond barbarity. Nowhere in human history do we find barbarians who tortured hundreds of thousands of people every day for decades at a time. Only in America.
Solitary confinement, by its very nature, is designed to ensure that no one but the torturers hears the cries of the tormented. However, knowledge of such monstrous evil compels decent men and women to action, in solidarity with those who have been wronged. The prisoners of Pelican Bay, who went on hunger strike in 2011, have sent word that they will do so again, on July 8, if the state of California does not meet their core demands. One demand is fundamental: that inmates not be confined to solitary unless they have been charged, “and found guilty of, committing a serious offense… a felony!” Instead, inmates are consigned to a life of oblivion based on anonymous allegations that they are affiliated with a gang, or for exhibiting the slightest hint of political thought – or for no discernable reason, at all. Not only is lengthy solitary confinement unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment, and a form of torture under international law, it is totally arbitrary and capricious.
“Support networks need to be in place, beforehand.”
In California, alone, more than 14,000 prisoners are held in isolation. The Pelican Bay inmates anticipate many of them will join the hunger strike, as thousands did in 2011, when 13 prisons were involved in the protest, and three inmates committed suicide. This time around, prison organizers have invited the participation of “all male and female prisoners across the U.S. prison systems,” both state and federal. Inmates in Georgia went on hunger strike, pressing a range of demands, in 2011 and again last year.
If the California prisoners are forced to put their lives on the line again, on July 8, support networks need to be in place, beforehand. The Stop Mass Incarceration Network is putting out the call, so that the inmates at Pelican Bay and throughout the vast U.S. prison gulag will know that folks on the outside have their back. June 21, 22 and 23 have been designated as Days of Solidarity With the Struggle to End Prison Torture, and to immediately disband the torture chambers. You can sign up by going to StopMassIncarceration.org.
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.