Where The Left Lives


How to Make Mass Incarceration a Political Issue

by BAR Managing Editor Bruce Dixon

This article was originally published in Black Commentator July 21, 2005 


“A great force of suffering accumulated between the basement of heaven and the roof of hell...”

Zora Neale Hurston wrote those words almost seventy years ago at the beginning of her great allegorical work on black America, Moses, Man of the Mountain. She could have been speaking about African America today. As black activists ponder how best to build a mass movement to transform America, a mass movement that must start in but not be confined to our communities, one single low-hanging fruit of organizing opportunity is hard to miss.  That opportunity lies in the manifest unfairness and hypocrisy of America’s system of racially selective policing, prosecution and mass imprisonment.  These awful public policies are inviting targets for electoral and other mobilizations in black communities and beyond.

It's Time To Build A Mass Movement

Originally published in Black Commentator on June 30, 2005 
A mass movement is an assertion of popular leadership by the people themselves.

 It's Time To Build A Mass Movement

by BAR Managing Editor Bruce Dixon 

“Democracy… does not come from the government, from on high, it comes from people getting together and struggling for justice.”Howard Zinn, Spelman College commencement address, Atlanta, 2005.

Politicians are elected and selected, but mass movements transform societies.  Judges uphold, strike down, or invent brand new law, but mass movements drag the courts, laws and officeholders all in their wake.  Progressive and even partially successful mass movements can alter the political calculus for decades to come, thus improving the lives of millions.  Social Security, the New Deal, and employer-provided medical care didn’t come from the pen of FDR.  The end of “separate but equal” didn’t come from the lips of any judge, and voting rights were not simply granted by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  All these were hard-won outcomes of protracted struggle by progressive mass movements, every one of which operated outside the law and none of which looked to elected officials or the corporate media of those days for blessings or legitimacy.  It’s time to re-learn those lessons and build a new progressive mass movement in the United States.

2005's Ten Worst Places to be Black

by BAR Managing Editor Bruce Dixon

This article was originally published in Black Commentator on July 14, 2005 

"It's high time to begin constructing useful indices with which to measure the quality of life, not for just a fortunate few, but for the broad masses of our people." 

The pervasive corporate media bubble, which grossly distorts the views most Americans have of the world beyond their shores, and of life in America’s black one-eighth, operates to fool African Americans, too.  While a fortunate few of us are doing very well indeed, and many more are hanging on as best we can, the conditions of life for a substantial chunk of black America are not substantially improving, and appear to be getting much worse.  This is a truth which can’t be found anywhere in the corporate media, but it is nevertheless one with which we must familiarize ourselves in preparation for the upcoming national black dialogue.  It is high time to begin constructing useful indices with which to measure the quality of life, not just for a fortunate few, but for the broad masses of our people in America’s black one-eighth.

Corporate Biopiracy and the Terminator Seed

by Bruce Dixon

Originally published in Black Commentator on April 28, 2005 

It is arguably the most fiendish product yet devised by corporate genetic engineers

Ever since humans started farming about ten thousand years ago, farmers have saved the seed from one year’s crop to produce the next, and freely exchanged seed with neighbors and friends.  If the Bush administration and its friends at Monsanto and other “life-sciences” corporations get their way it will soon be illegal in much of the world.

What Is Bob Johnson Up To?


by BAR Managing Editor Glen Ford.

This item was originally published on February 24, 2005 in Black Commentator.


"Of the eight Johnson 'questions' listed, all but three implicitly urge collaboration with the GOP or a boycott of Democrats" 


In a transparent bid to boost Republican fortunes among Blacks, billionaire Bob Johnson attempted earlier this year to convene a secret meeting of prominent African Americans at BET headquarters in Washington, DC. obtained a copy of the invitation to the “retreat,” scheduled for January 13 and 14 and ostensibly designed “for the purpose of brainstorming ideas as to how we as African Americans can best confront the political and demographic realities of the 21st century.” None of the invitees were told the identity of the others and the press was scrupulously kept in the dark, but we have learned enough to report that the mix was high-powered and politically diverse. (Click here to view the Johnson invitation letter to the retreat. The page may load slowly for dial up users due to the large size of the image.)

Most of Dr. King's People Never Did Get There

by BAR Managing Editor Glen Ford
Originally published in Black Commentator on January 20, 2005 
"The crisis of mass incarceration and no employment has shattered has shattered every institutional connections with which the old order might communicate with the younger base in African American communities."
Most of Dr. King'sPeople Never Did Get There
by BAR Executive Editor Glen Ford 

I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in Memphis, April 3, 1968 – the eve of his assassination.

Dr. King wasn’t talking about civil rights or voting rights legislation when he gave the last speech of his life, that rainy night in Memphis. With the exception of the Fair Housing Act then awaiting action on Capitol Hill, the legislative demolition of Jim Crow was already complete. (Lyndon Johnson pushed the bill through Congress a week after the assassination as a kind of memorial to King.) So, what was that metaphorical “promised land” that King saw from the mountaintop, and how many Black folks have managed to “get there” in the 37 years since his death?

Barefoot, Sick, Hungy and Afraid: The Real U.S.Policy in Africa

by BAR Executive Editor Glen Ford

What is the real objective of a US foreign policy in Africa which offers military aid, weapons, logistics and training to the armed forces of more than 50 of the 54 nations of the most war torn and impoverished continent on earth? Is it building and strengthening civil societies? Or is the permanent state of insecurity, dependence, endemic violence and poverty which characterizes Africa today just better for business?

In Search of the Real Barack Obama: Can a Black Senate Candidate Resist the DLC?

by BAR Managing Editor Bruce Dixon
Below are three articles originally published in Black Commentator on June 5, June 19, and June 26, 2003.  
In these we initiated a dialog between the editors of Black Commentator and Barack Obama, then a state senator from the south side of Chicago and candidate for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate regarding his ties to the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), his opposition to the invasion of Iraq, and questioned him on the repeal of NAFTA and single payer health insurance.

Who Killed Black Radio News?

by BAR Executive Editor Glen Ford

This item was originally published in Black Commentator on May 29, 2003

There are more than one million Black radio listeners apiece in metro Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Baltimore-DC, Houston, Philadelphia, and twice that many in the tri-state metro area centered by New York. But not one of these major markets has a single full time black news reporter reporting on and packaging news for a black audience. Not one. It wasn't always this way. What changed and why? What does the absence of news reporting mean to our communities, our futures, to the public space for black on black dialog?

Treat Corporate Media Like the Enemy - Revoke the Free "Black Pass" for BET & Black Radio

by BAR Executive Editor Glen Ford

In this May 1, 2003 article, originally published on that date in Black Commentator, Glen Ford explains why the free "Black Pass" of outfits like Radio One and BET must be unconditionally revoked.  For the shot callers of commercial black radio and TV, African Americans are not a polity, entitled to our own opinions coming out of our unique histroical experience.  For them, we are merely a market.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Bogus "Election Study" Grossly Inflates Black Vote For Denise Majette

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Corporate media and establishment black "political scientists" want us to believe Rep. McKinney lost her congressional seat because black voters walked away from her, and that her opponent Denise Majette put together some new kind of "biracial coalition." But analysis of the precinct by precinct figures reveal that nothing could be further from the truth.

BET's Black Billionaire Trojan Horse: Bob Johnson Fronts for Republican Agenda

by BAR Executive Editor Glen Ford 
Bob Johnson, the Black Entertainment Television founder with a personal net worth of $1.3 billion, is a Trojan Horse, an aggressive political operative of the Bush White House posing as a Democrat. He has used his high profile status as one-half of all African American billionaires (the determinedly non-partisan Oprah Winfrey is the other half) to advance the most politically perilous item on the GOP agenda: privatization of Social Security.

How Sister McKinney Lost, and What We Can Learn From It

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

On August 8 or 9 I walked into Cynthia McKinney's campaign office and offered to help after work and on weekends for the last ten days. I've served as volunteer in and consultant to a couple dozen political campaigns and voter registration drives in the Chicago area in the 70's, 80's and 90's.

Newark: The First Domino? The Hard Right Tests Its National Black Strategy

by Glen Ford

In this May 2, 2002 article, which appeared in the second issue of the Black Commentator, co-founded by Glen Ford, the author continues the examination of the strange career of Corey Booker that began in April 2002's Fruit of the Poisoned Tree. This was published just before Newark's 2002 mayoral election.

Fruit Of The Poisoned Tree: The Hard Right's Plan To Capture Newark NJ

by Glen Ford

In this groundbreaking 2002 article, which appeared in the very first issue of the Black Commentator, co-founded by Glen Ford, the author throws prophetic light on the early career and sponsorship of a new type of African American politician --- Corey Booker in his first run for mayor of Newark NJ. Thanks in part to this expose Booker was defeated in 2002, but won the election four years later in 2006


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