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

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

The electoral scenery must be quite depressing to those who think change must come through the ballot. The system disgorges “a multiracial cast of scoundrels from both major parties coiled up incestuously under the same corporate tent.” However, something different may be afoot in at least three points on the map.


A Tale of Three Cities: Newark, Jackson, Seattle

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

The vote is hardly worth casting, these days.”

Electoral politics, the arena that half of Black America was barred from entering until only about 50 years ago, has become a vast wasteland, hopelessly polluted by corporate dollars. Black electoral politics is no exception. It’s been only a little over a decade since corporate America got serious about creating a new class of right-wing Black Democrats. Corporate money made Cory Booker a U.S. senator and a household name; elevated the Memphis idiot Harold Ford to national prominence; and totally neutralized the Congressional Black Caucus as a force for progressive…anything. Black mayors are, for the most part, nothing more than vassals of corporate boardrooms – just like most of their white and Latino counterparts. The vote is hardly worth casting, these days, with a multiracial cast of scoundrels from both major parties coiled up so incestuously under the same corporate tent.

That’s why what’s unfolding in Newark, New Jersey, Jackson, Mississippi, and Seattle, Washington, is so rare – and important.

In Seattle, there’s a group of folks who don’t mind working hard and building alliances, all the while telling the world that socialism is the only alternative to barbarism. Kshama Sawant, the newly minted city councilperson, and her Socialist Alternative comrades have forced corporate Democrats to pretend that they really would like to see the city’s minimum wage raised to $15 an hour. Socialist Alternative also demands that the rich pay for an overhaul of public education and transportation – a platform that most people would support, if they thought it had a chance of passing. Kshama Suwant and her comrades believe that people will vote in their own interests if the candidates have proven they are trustworthy.

In Jackson, Mississippi, 66 year-old Mayor Chokwe Lumumba has proven his selfless dedication to social transformation over many decades; as an activist with the Republic of New Africa; in his capacity as a people’s lawyer; and as one of the founders of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. He has now gathered members of that movement for an experiment in radical governance of the biggest city in the belly of the Mississippi beast. Mayor Lumumba and his comrades want to encourage a cooperative economy to build “wealth equity, economic democracy and self-determination in Jackson,” the South, and the nation. So far, there’s already been an unsuccessful attempt to impose a state takeover of local Jackson government, like in Detroit.

In Newark, New Jersey, which Cory Booker made into a playground for corporate educational experimentation, city councilman and high school principal Ras Baraka is running for mayor. He’s the son of the late poet/activist Amiri Baraka, and if even a fraction of the crowd that showed up for his father’s funeral actually works for his campaign, he’ll win. Ras Baraka opposes recent school closings and promises to bring economic development to the neighborhoods. But, when you are the son of Amiri Baraka, the subtext will always be self-determination – and what exactly does that mean when you’re running and governing as Democrat, as are both Baraka and Chokwe Lumumba? The theory seems to be that, since the Democrats don’t really stand for anything, then maybe they can be forced to tolerate some degree of radical Black politics. We shall see how that works out in practice.

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

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20140219_gf_TaleOf3Cities.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:26pm EDT