Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson reflects on the movement for the Movement for BlackLives after the Dallas shootings. Recorded at the Common Bound conference in Buffalo for The Laura Flanders Show and New Economy Coalition
OCT. 13, 2015 – nytimes.com
OAKLAND, Calif. — This summer, the median rent for a one-bedroom in San Francisco’s cityscape of peaked Victorians soared higher than Manhattan’s, sent skyward by a housing shortage fueled in part by the arrival of droves of newcomers here to mine tech gold.
And so, as the story of such cities goes, the priced-out move outward — in New York City, to Brooklyn and, increasingly, to Queens. For San Franciscans, the rent refuge is here in Oakland, where the rates are increasing as well — so much so that young professionals are living in repurposed shipping containers while the homeless are lugging around coffinlike sleeping boxes on wheels. Continue reading
September 4, 2015
Since the rebellion in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014, Black people throughout the United States have been grappling with a number of critical questions such as why are Black people being hunted and killed every 28 hours or more by various operatives of the law? Why don’t Black people seem to matter to this society? And what can and must we do to end these attacks and liberate ourselves? There are concrete answers to these questions. Answers that are firmly grounded in the capitalist dynamics that structure the brutal European settler-colonial project we live in and how Afrikan people have historically been positioned within it.
The Value of Black Life
There was a time in the United States Empire, when Afrikan people, aka, Black people, were deemed to be extremely valuable to the “American project”, when our lives as it is said, “mattered”. This “time” was the era of chattel slavery, when the labor provided by Afrikan people was indispensable to the settler-colonial enterprise, accounting for nearly half of the commodified value produced within its holdings and exchanged in “domestic” and international markets. Our ancestors were held and regarded as prize horses or bulls, something to be treated with a degree of “care” (i.e. enough to ensure that they were able to work and reproduce their labor, and produce value for their enslavers) because of their centrality to the processes of material production.
What mattered was Black labor power and how it could be harnessed and controlled, not Afrikan humanity. Afrikan humanity did not matter – it had to be denied in order create and sustain the social rationale and systemic dynamics that allowed for the commodification of human beings. These “dynamics” included armed militias and slave patrols, iron-clad non-exception social clauses like the “one-drop” rule, the slave codes, vagrancy laws, and a complex mix of laws and social customs all aimed at oppressing, controlling and scientifically exploiting Black life and labor to the maximum degree. This systemic need served the variants of white supremacy, colonial subjugation, and imperialism that capitalism built to govern social relations in the United States. All of the fundamental systems created to control Afrikan life and labor between the 17th and 19th centuries are still in operation today, despite a few surface moderations, and serve the same basic functions. Continue reading
“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.
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.
29 June 2015
As Japanese Americans whose relatives were imprisoned as “national security threats” during World War II, we were shocked to learn that the Obama administration is contracting with private prison companies to imprison thousands of mothers and children from Central America in detention camps. This, after these families fled some of the most violent countries in the world to apply for asylum in the United States.
After visiting one of these family detention facilities, a descendant of incarcerated Japanese Americans described the place as feeling like “an updated version” of the World War II prison camps. The Japanese American Citizens League has stated that the organization is “deeply troubled by the chilling similarities between the confinement of women and children in places such as Dilley and Karnes, and the wartime treatment of Japanese Americans at places such as Manzanar, Heart Mountain and Tule Lake.” Continue reading
Last month many of us celebrated the 90th birthday of the one of America’s greatest revolutionaries, El-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, also known as Malcolm X. That his birthday follows his assassination date (February 21) on the calendar seems appropriate this year, as Malcolm could be said to be resurrected these days: from condemnations of US racism at the United Nations, to self-defense against cops in NYC, to Black rifle clubs in Texas, to mass rebellion in Baltimore, to a growing disillusionment with the two-party system and doctrinaire nonviolence in America, he has seldom seemed more relevant.
This is all the more remarkable given that the representation of Malcolm in popular media is more distorted than ever. 2015 opened with the Martin Luther King biopic Selma giving us the most forgettable (perhaps the only forgettable) portrayal of Malcolm X in cinema history. In some ways, the muting of Malcolm was inevitable; an accurate depiction of the Muslim leader presented a danger of upstaging King in the movie the same way that he often upstaged King in real life. But that isn’t any excuse for the distortion of Malcolm X’s politics and the role he played in the Black freedom struggle.
In the short scene in which he appears, Malcolm comes literally hat in hand to Coretta Scott King begging to address the protesters and be a part of the movement. He appears to have arrived uninvited, crashing a party he has no real place in. As he offers to scare the segregationists with an “alternative” to MLK’s nonviolence, he hints that this is actually just a bluff because his “eyes see in a new way.” Everything about this scene is fundamentally wrong: Malcolm explained himself to Mrs. King after, not before, he gave his speech—a speech which he was invited to give by the director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s Selma Project.1 And when Malcolm spoke of offering an alternative to King’s pacifism, it was anything but a bluff. Continue reading
Ian Simpson, Reuters, April 27, 2015
BALTIMORE – Rioters hurled bricks, looted businesses and set fires in Baltimore on Monday in violence that injured at least seven police officers following the funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died after he was injured in police custody.
The disturbances broke out just a few blocks from the funeral of Freddie Gray and then spread through parts of Baltimore in the most violent U.S. demonstrations since looting in Ferguson, Missouri, last year. Continue reading
Dan Berger’s latest volume, Captive Nation, is perfectly timed. In a moment where interest in mass incarceration across the political spectrum is on the rise, sanitized versions of carceral history will doubtless emerge. Berger’s account offers an instant antidote to any such efforts. He warns us we will be negating a long history of righteous rebellions of the oppressed if we opt for quick fix policy packages that do not address the inequalities underlying the rapid growth of incarceration.
Berger’s personal profile as an historian casts him in a unique position to tell his tale. He represents a bridge between the praxis of the 60s and 70s and today’s decarceration campaigners. Back in the day, activists connected to those in prison by striking up extensive correspondence via snail mail and making in person visits. In this age of digital communication, Berger has stepped back in time and used those old “analog” methods to establish relationships with a number of those still incarcerated for their activities in that era, people such as Veronza Bower, Sundiata Acoli, Jalil Muntaqim (also known as Anthony Bottom) and David Gilbert. These relationships were key to Berger’s framing of the stories he tells as well as his analysis.
Prison Intellectual Culture: The Case of George Jackson
Two things particularly struck me as I read Captive Nation. The first was the amazing radical intellectual culture that emerged in prisons during this period, a culture, I should add, that appeared almost totally absent in the federal and state prisons where I resided from 2002-09. Berger’s depictions of the richness of political debate and the eagerness of people inside to connect prison resistance to the Black liberation struggle and other movements of the era, were staggering. The politics of the rebels/revolutionaries Berger describes were not mere legal maneuverings aimed at overturning individual cases or re-doing legislation. Rather, they aimed to depict and contest the political economy and ideological foundations of a “system.”
Elsken was asked: “So, you don’t want to do anything …” She responded, “No, Plant a couple more trees. That’s all I really want to do. Maybe bigger trees.”
The group of detained mothers announced Tuesday that they had launched a hunger strike, and demanded that they be released along with their children while they pursued asylum claims outside of detention. The Karnes facility houses hundreds of Central American women who crossed the border illegally with their children during a surge of migration from the violence-plagued countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras last year.