A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon, 07/17/2015
“With under 5 percent of the world’s people, the US accounts for 25 percent of the planet’s prisoners. More than half its 2.2 million prisoners come from the one eighth of its population which is black. Today, an astounding 3 percent of all African Americans languish in prisons and jails, and nearly as many more are on probation, parole, bail, house arrest or court supervision… Right now, the shadow of prison squats at the corners of, and often at the center of nearly every black family’s life in this nation.”
Yesterday President Obama repeated some of these same figures, and they are pretty much the same. Total US prisoners are still 2.2 or 2.3 million, and a slight drop in the black incarceration rate makes us now a little less instead of a little more than half, but the overall picture is unchanged in a decade. The president then announced the release of forty-some nonviolent federal drug offenders out of a total of about 70,000, and stopped in at a federal prison Thursday. The same day, ex-president Bill Clinton offered a half-hearted “apology” for his 1990s crime bills, which he admitted “set the stage” for state and federal governments to nearly double the US prison population.
Why? Why did President Obama wait six and a half years into his presidency to say the basic damning numbers and free a token handful of drug war prisoners? And how come Bill Clinton, fifteen years out of office chose this week to publicly admit that black mass incarceration was maybe not the best public policy?
[This is another in series on electoral politics. In the US, every four years, presidential elections are theatrically staged, designed to confuse and disrupt popular movements against class exploitation and racial oppression, and other democratic movements. The elections claim to be the way democracy works, and people must vote for politicians to represent their interests. Whoever wins, the people’s interests have been lost in the shuffle, and their independence and political initiative and action has been suffocated or destroyed. As the 2016 election candidacies begin to control the political imaginations of millions, a fight-back begins to grow. — Frontlines ed.]
Monday, Jul 20, 2015
The 73-year-old socialist got where he is by sticking to his guns. But his righteousness stunts his political reach
Sen. Bernie Sanders is who he is: a 73-year-old socialist inured to being told he’s wrong, politically, who’s developed an ironclad hold on the conviction that he’s right. So it’s not surprising that he’s resisting learning lessons from his early campaign stumbles at winning support from African Americans and Latinos.
If you’re a Sanders fan, part of what you like about him is that he sticks to his guns. In fact, Sanders fans are a lot like him: used to being on the political margins, they’ve learned to take refuge in the knowledge of their righteousness, which eases the sting of being perpetually in the political minority.
[This is another in series on electoral politics. In the US, every four years, presidential elections are theatrically staged, designed to confuse and disrupt popular movements against class exploitation and racial oppression, and other democratic movements. The elections claim to be the way democracy works, and people must vote for politicians to represent their interests. Whoever wins, the people’s interests have been lost in the shuffle, and their independence and political initiative and action has been suffocated or destroyed. As the 2016 election candidacies begin to control the political imaginations of millions, a fight-back begins to grow. In this report of a Black Lives Matter protest at a Bernie Sanders campaign event, a BLM leader says no politician deserves automatic support (but leaves open the option for later). — Frontlines ed.]
by Alexandra Ma07/17/2015
Every night, some 1,000 refugees arrive at the Greek island of Lesbos, many cramped on rubber dingys carrying 35 to 45 people each. More than half of them fled Syria, others left violence-torn Afghanistan and Iraq.
After making it safely onto Lesbos’ shores, for many refugees, a harsh reality check awaits. The number of migrants arriving on the Greek island in hopes of finding safety and a better life in the European Union has risen dramatically in the past year, but the island lacks the resources to accommodate them properly.
New migrants usually arrive on the island’s northern shore and need to make their way 40 miles south to the transit camps, where they stay up to ten days before moving to a detention center to be registered. Some of the transit camps, however, lack adequate water or sanitation facilities as well as organized garbage collection, Kirk Day of the International Rescue Committee told The Huffington Post in an email. He added that the sites’ residents are exposed to communicable diseases and injury infections. Some migrants arrive with diarrhea, deep cuts or open wounds that are left untreated in the camps. Those in need of medicines for heart problems and diabetes often have to wait for supplies.
Faced with a crippling economic crisis, Greece’s government in Athens has been unable to provide the migrants on the island with the necessary assistance and the United Nations has urged other countries of the European Union to step in. In the meantime, it is often left to local residents, activists and aid organizations to fill the gap.
by Claude Marks and Isaac Ontiveros
Four years ago prisoners in California – led by those in the control units of Pelican Bay – organized a hunger strike to demand an end to the torturous conditions of solitary confinement. Two more strikes would follow, with over 30,000 prisoners taking united action in the summer of 2013 – both in isolation and in general population in nearly every California prison.
The strikes reflected significant shifts in political consciousness among prisoners and their loved ones. The violence of imprisonment was further exposed by demands and heightened organization from within the cages. Prisoner-led collective actions as well as growing public support dramatically have changed the political landscape.
[The solidarity video/song by a Palestinian poet marks a global defiance toward repressive powers. Professor GN Saibaba’s case has drawn the attention and solidarity of people in India and around the world, especially from oppressed people who have faced the same political repression in other lands. In thousands of cases, the Indian government (and other states which serve feudal and capitalist-imperialist interests) has rounded up political opponents, has made usual false accusations that their political activism is subversive or seditious, and kept them imprisoned for lengthy times. In this was, the Indian state aims to break the spirit of political opponents and the people they serve, and to destroy their organizations and their supporters. With all this, the aim of such political repression is to impose fear and enforce compliance and submission — and to prevent new debates and movements against injustices and oppressions. We present this and other postings on the production of political imprisonment in India. — Frontlines ed.]
*Hungry* — Song from Palestine
Introducing text: Arundhati Roy, excerpted from *Outlook* essay: