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

Giving Thanks For Whistleblowers, Leakers, Old and New Maroons

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

There are selfless and courageous people, and representing precious historical traditions for which we ought to pause and be thankful. In early 21st century North America, these brave souls are whistleblowers and leakers, the spiritual and sometimes the literal descendants of maroons.

Maroons were the scourge of slaveholding societies in the New World from Brazil and Surinam to Colombia, Cuba and all the West Indies. Maroons were slaves who resisted by escaping, remaining at large and wherever possible, forming communities to actively resist their recapture. In Brazil, one community of maroons called Palmares remained independent for nearly a century, repelling dozens of raids and incursions by Dutch and Portuguese slavemasters. Black Brazilians still celebrate the life of Zumbi, the last leader of Palmares every November. There were armed maroon uprisings and sustained maroon wars throughout the Caribbean. In Haiti it was maroon uprisings, in conjunction with competitions between colonial powers which ultimately led to the world's first republic established by former slaves. There were maroons in the United States as well, though roads and railroads and free back country whites, things that existed nowhere else in the slaveholding Americas, made sustainable maroon communities immensely more difficult, but not impossible.

Today's whistleblowers and leakers, like the resisting slaves of two and three centuries ago, are the bravest and most selfless among us. Like the maroons of two centuries ago, they risk their careers, their and what personal freedom they do have to tell the truth about corporate and government wrongdoing, for which they often pay heavy prices. Our own Marsha Coleman-Abedayo is one of these courageous souls.

No US administration has been more vicious in its efforts to pre-emptively clamp down on government employees and contractors than that of our First Black President. Unaccountable private corporations are every bit as savage in the pursuit of employees and journalists who expose their practices. Corporations like Amazon and many Big Ag firms have bribed state and federal officials to enact a wide range of gag laws forbidding former employees to write or speak about working conditions and practices in warehouses, factories, farms, pharmaceutical plants and laboratories to name just a few places under pain of years in state or federal prison. Corporations have used their influence in government to label some of these truth tellers as “terrorists”, exposing them to a galaxy of extra punitive measures.

The fates of Private Chelsea Manning, of fugitive Edward Snowden, and dozens or hundreds of well-known recent political prisoners are also eloquent testimony that the tradition of individual modern maroons is alive and well. And though WikiLeaks, an international newsgathering collaborative, analogous to a global maroon community has been severely weakened by illegal financial maneuvers endorsed by hostile governments, it still releases important new information like recent details of the secret negotiations of the so-called Trans Pacific Trade Partnership.

You won't find the tradition of the maroons in the black church today, or in black businesses, or among blacks in public office. You'll find it among those who stand up for the poor against corporate and government abuse – among our whislteblowers, our leakers, our maroons. For this, we should pause and give thanks.

For Black Agenda Report, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. He can be reached via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)

Direct download: 20131125_bd_giving_thanks.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:16pm EDT

A More Perfect Union”: Historian Henry Louis Gates Mangles, Obscures Black History

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

The final installment of Dr. Henry Louis Gates' latest PBS series, “Many Rivers To Cross” was nothing to write home about.

It was a lazy and dishonestly drawn picture purporting to do what black scholars whoring for the establishment in the age of Obama are always trying to do, namely paint the rise of the black misleadership class and its first black president, Barack Obama as the logical and the inevitable outcomes Sof the black Freedom Movement of the fifties and sixties, and of what they misleadingly the Black Power movement of the sixties and seventies.

I call it “lazy” because instead of illuminating the contexts, the causes and the consequences of social and historical forces like real historians are supposed to do, Gates spins up a series of images and vignettes connected only by superficial commentary and narration.

He begins with the assassination of King, the rebellions in dozens of US cities, and five or six minutes on the Black Panther Party, emphasizing armed self-defense and coolness, while entirely omitting its socialist politics and how its opposition to the horrifically bloody war in Vietnam in which 2 or 3 million Asians died won it lots of allies in white America and around the world. The Black Panther Party was not a Black Power movement, it was a movement of black people against capitalist and racist empire.

In place of real analysis, Gates slides in a couple chummy minutes with Ron Karenga, nowadays a fellow professor whose US organization, as part of the FBI's COINTELPRO back in the day, murdered several Panthers in cold blood. Gates and Karenga share a chuckle about how FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover really didn't mean what he said about the Panther Party being the “greatest threat to the internal security of the United States.” What Hoover really feared, the guy who shot Panthers offered helpfully, was “...a united black front.”

From there, Gates slips in quick succession back to the Panthers, to “black is beautiful” and Don Cornelius's Soul Train, to affirmative action and the birth of the current corporate-oriented black elite, including his own experience at Yale. He solemnly reflects upon the Cosby's and how the image of upwardly mobile black life spoke to his own experience. Gates doesn't forget to remind us that most of black America is relatively poor, over-policed, ill-housed and generally ill-served, and even uses the term “mass incarceration” a good two dozen times. At 36 minutes he mentions Katrina, but the only analysis offered is Kanye West on how “George Bush don't like black people.” From there Gates segues to Barack Obama's visit to Katrina evacuees at the Houston Astrodome, and the tears many shed at his inauguration.

A real historian noting the real status of black political power might have pointed out that Democrats, including the numerous and powerful Congressional Black Caucus refused to convene hearings on Katrina for fear of being labeled the black folks' party going into the 2006 elections. But Gates is not laboring under that burden.

Skip Gates doesn't want to teach us 52 minutes of history. That's not his job. His job is to justify the glittering careers of people like himself and his class, and the First Black President who are somehow supposed to represent the oppressed, even as they remain oppressed. His job is proclaim that he and his like are the pinnacles of black achievement, the fruits of our people's long struggle, the aim of and the end of the long march of black history, or something very like it.

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

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party, and forty some years ago was a rank and file member of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party. Contact him via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)


Direct download: 20131125_bd_skipgates_vs_blkhistory.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:36pm EDT

Obama’s Ludicrous Afghanistan Declarations

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Since when has the U.S. voluntarily left anyplace it has forcibly occupied?”

The most ridiculous actor in the fictitious U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is not President Hamid Karzai, the hustler the U.S. installed as its puppet after the American invasion in 2001. The real clowns in this charade are those Americans that pretend to believe President Obama when he says the U.S. war in Afghanistan will end on the last day of next year. Obama is, of course, lying through his teeth. The United States and its NATO allies plan to keep 10,000 to 16,000 troops in the country, occupying nine bases, some of them set aside for exclusive American use – and would remain there at least ten years, through 2024. Shamelessly, Obama claims these troops – including thousands from the Special Operations killer elite – will have no “combat” role. It’s the same lie President Kennedy told in 1963, when he called the 16,000 U.S. troops then stationed in Vietnam “advisors,” and the same bald-faced deception that Obama, himself, tried to pull off, unsuccessfully, in Iraq – until the Iraqis kicked the Americans out.

Barack Obama has arrogated to himself the right to redefine the very meaning of war, having two years ago declared that the 7-month U.S. bombing campaign against Libya was not really a war because no Americans were killed. In Afghanistan, Obama waves his semantic magic wand

to transform the past 12 years of war into 10 more years of not-war, simply by changing the nomenclature. This is hucksterism from Hell.

There is zero chance of a zero option.”

If there was a Devil, he would be laughing his butt off at Susan Rice, Obama’s National Security Advisor and raving Banshee of War, whose assignment is to pretend that the U.S. might choose the so-called “Zero Option” if President Karzai doesn’t immediately sign away his country to the Americans for the next ten years. By “Zero Option,” Washington means it might just pick up its killer soldiers and weapons and leave Afghanistan. But that’s an empty bluff. Since when has the U.S. voluntarily left anyplace it has forcibly occupied? There is zero chance of a zero option. But, I am reminded of the events in 1963 Vietnam, when the Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother were overthrown and executed in a U.S.-backed coup. Sending the homicidal Susan Rice to get in President Karzai’s face is definitely some kind of threat.

Far from ending U.S. imperial wars, Barack Obama has expanded the theaters of armed conflict. He tried to keep U.S. troops in Iraq, but the Iraqis insisted on the withdrawal terms and timetable they had negotiated with President George Bush. Iraq is now paying a heavy price, as the U.S. and its allies arm Iraqi Al Qaida and other jihadist elements fighting to overthrow the government of neighboring Syria. These U.S.-backed jihadists – the same ones the Americans fought against in Iraq for eight years – now wage war against Shiites on both sides of the border.

If there is any hope for an eventual peace in the region, it is that Washington might finally begin to understand that it can no longer control events through brute force, or by using jihadists as surrogates in the Middle East and South Asia. Maybe that’s why the Americans have tried to strike a deal with Iran. Maybe President Karzai thinks the winds of change will be sweeping through his neighborhood, soon, and he doesn’t want to go out like the puppet he came in.

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

Executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20131127_gf_ObamaStan.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:30pm EDT