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

Rev. Edward Pinkney Sentenced: Whirlpool and White Racism Imprison Another Black Leader

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

In Benton Harbor, the Whirlpool Corporation was always ‘Massa’ – Rev. Pinkney’s nemesis.”

In sentencing Rev. Edward Pinkney to between two and a half and ten years in prison, the State of Michigan has shown that the Old Jim Crow and the New Jim Crow are the same damn thing – bitter fruit of the white supremacist tree. An all-white jury, presided over by a white judge, under the malevolent guidance of a white prosecutor, based on evidence gathered by a white sheriff, found the Benton Harbor, Michigan, activist guilty of five elections-related felonies. It was the same white power structure that, back in 2007, convinced another all white jury to convict Rev. Pinkney of five counts of elections fraud, resulting in five years probation. A year later, when Pinkney, in a newspaper interview, quoted the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy to the effect that those who had persecuted him would be judged by the hand of God, he was sent to prison – the first American known to have been incarcerated for quoting the Bible.

This may seem like an Old Jim Crow story, about a preacher from a small, mostly Black town who wanted only to help his people through the voting process, but is set upon by backward whites determined to maintain their monopoly on political power. And, it is true; Old Man Jim Crow is alive and well on the banks of Lake Michigan. But it is the New Jim Crow, the Mass Black Incarceration State, that has snatched 66 year-old Rev. Pinkney away to what could become life in prison. The judge and prosecutor said that Pinkney’s 12 past and present felony convictions make him a career criminal, even though each count stems from an elections process. The Old Jim Crow would have unapologetically sent Pinkney to the chain gang for being an uppity Black man, but the New Jim Crow simply piled on a bunch of felonies to put him away as a serial criminal, allowing the system to claim that race had nothing to do with it.

The corporate rulers have Black allies.”

Rev. Pinkney’s life stretches between the old and new structures of Black oppression, one layered on top of the other. But, in Benton Harbor, the Whirlpool Corporation was always ‘Massa’ – Rev. Pinkney’s nemesis. His convictions in 2007 and this year were both rooted in election petitions Pinkney circulated to recall officials considered stooges of Whirlpool, whose world headquarters is located in Benton Harbor, and which has tried to turn the desperately poor, 94 percent Black town into an enclave of luxury and recreation for the rich.

The citizens of Benton Harbor and every other Black city and town in Michigan were effectively disenfranchised, so that appointed emergency financial managers could protect the interests of Whirlpool and the rest of the corporate class. But still, Rev. Pinkney kept circulating those recall petitions that ultimately led to his imprisonment.

Pinkney was once president of the local NAACP chapter, but was ousted when Whirlpool bought off the organization’s state leadership. In the New Jim Crow configuration, the corporate rulers have Black allies – the same ones that collaborate with the police and the mass Black incarceration regime. Their hold on Black America must also be broken, as part of the struggle to destroy white corporate rule – root and branch – and to free all political prisoners, including Rev. Edward Pinkney.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to, and be sure to sign up for email notifications of our new issues, each Wednesday.


BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20141217_gf_PinkneySentenced.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:03am EDT

When the System Provides No Remedies to Torture, You Must Overthrow It

When the System Provides No Remedies to Torture, You Must Overthrow It

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

“Remedies are precisely what the United States refuses to offer to Black people.”

Over the past four months, the world has come to know the name of Ferguson and rendered its own verdict on the U.S. criminal justice system. In addition to protests in nearly two hundred American cities since the non-indictment of the cop that killed Michael Brown, demonstrations were staged in solidarity with U.S. Blacks in at least eight cities in Canada as well as Japan, England, Scotland and Norway. Last week, a United Nations committee registered its objections to U.S. treatment of Blacks. The UN Committee Against Torture’s latest report largely focused on the Obama administration’s failure to punish the torture of detainees in places like Guantanamo Bay and CIA interrogation sites around the world, but it also warned Washington that its policing policies in Black America are not in compliance with international treaties against torture.

The committee’s findings are a great embarrassment to the planet’s sole superpower, which justifies its military adventures around the world by virtue of its claims to moral exceptionalism. Based on two days of testimony by U.S. human rights activists, last month, in Geneva, Switzerland, the committee concluded that solitary confinement, as practiced in the United States, constitutes torture, that some conditions in U.S. prisons also fit the definition of torture, and that when police target African Americans on the street for abuse, beatings, tasering and death by gunfire, they are guilty of torture.

Moreover, if the United States does not provide remedies and compensation for the victims of torture at the hands of its cops and prison guards, then the nation is in violation of its international treaty obligations – which is legally the same thing as violating U.S. law. Not only does the U.S. fail to provide either remedies or compensation for those it tortures, U.S. law does not even define what torture is, or set any standard to measure it. Which shows conclusively that no American government has ever seriously considered doing away with torture – certainly, not torture of Black people.

“Root and Branch”

The UN Committee was clearly quite impressed with the delegation of young activists from Chicago who testified under the banner, We Charge Genocide. The Committee included much of the group’s requests in its report, including investigation of police torture by outside institutions, prosecution of police who torture, and reparations for those who survive police torture in Chicago.

The UN Committee is most concerned that countries establish remedies to torture, in all its deadly forms. But remedies are precisely what the United States refuses to offer to Black people. No punishment for the cops, no compensation for their millions of victims, and no fundamental change in a system born in slavery and genocide. Under those circumstances, there is only one remedy: the overthrow of the system, itself, and the destruction – root and branch – of the Mass Black Incarceration State, which must be the goal of this new movement-in-the-making that still has no name, other than “Ferguson.”

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to, and sign up for email notifications of our new issues, each Wednesday.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at
Direct download: 20142103_gf_TortureUN.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:48am EDT