American Nightmare Blog

Beyond November 8th: Where Do We Go From Here?



Discussions with Jared Ball, Ajamu Baraka, Dhoruba Bin-Wahad, George Ciccariello-Maher, Rosa Clemente, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Arlene Eisen, Netfa Freeman, Firoze Manji, Heather Milton Lightening, Doug Norberg, Taliba O Njeri and Yolande Tomlinson.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016
4pm PT, 5pm MT, 6pm CT, 7pm ET


Whoever wins the Presidential election on November 8th, 2016, the capitalist and imperialist imperatives of the U.S. settler-colonial state will remain and will continue to ravage the Earth and all its inhabitants. Come November 9th, the left and the people’s movements must be prepared to fight the advancing onslaught of the capitalist system and U.S. imperialism and build concrete alternatives that will enable the liberation of humanity, regenerate the Earth’s productive systems, and end the 6th extinction event.

Join the An American Nightmare Project, a collaboration between Cooperation Jackson and Deep Dish TV, for a special “election night” discussion about developing a viable “fight and build; build and fight” program for the left and the people’s movements contained within the U.S. and throughout the world that is intended to start a conversation about building a viable anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist program to guide our collective action on November 9th and Beyond.

You can follow the program on the Jackson Rising/Cooperation Jackson YouTube Page:

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The Myth of American Democracy: Livestream Discussion





Livestream Discussion hosted by Kali Akuno, featuring Jared Ball and Thandisizwe Chimurenga

Presented by: Cooperation Jackson & Deep Dish TV for the “An American Nightmare: Black Labor and Liberation” Project

Is there any substance to the democratic promise of electoralism within the settler-colonial cum capitalist-imperialist “project”? Or is the role of electoralism, pure and simple, a systemic and historical deception falsifying reality, regenerating the illusion that it is not a system of settler-colonialism and capitalism-imperialism, but one that it is, potentially at least, a democratic multi-class multi-racial system, and that only those who chase this illusion will receive the paltry benefits of temporary privilege. The adherents to such illusions must clearly promote the settler-colonial theft of indigenous lands and power, the perpetual oppression of black labor and life, and the indispensable hegemony of the US as the primary global imperialist power.

This discussion took place on Tuesday, September 27th at 8 pm ET/7 pm CT/6 pm MT/5 pm PT


KALI AKUNO is a co-founder and co-director of Cooperation Jackson. Kali served as the Director of Special Projects and External Funding in the Mayoral Administration of the late Chokwe Lumumba of Jackson, MS. His focus in this role was supporting cooperative development, the introduction of eco-friendly and carbon reduction methods of operation, and the promotion of human rights and international relations for the city.


Kali also served as the Co-Director of the US Human Rights Network, the Executive Director of the Peoples’ Hurricane Relief Fund (PHRF) based in New Orleans, Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. And was a co-founder of the School of Social Justice and Community Development (SSJCD), a public school serving the academic needs of low-income African American and Latino communities in Oakland, California.


JARED A. BALL is a father and husband. After that he is a multimedia host, producer, journalist and educator. Ball is also a founder of “mixtape radio” and “mixtape journalism” about which he wrote I MiX What I Like: A MiXtape Manifesto (AK Press, 2011) and is co-editor of A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X (Black Classic Press, 2012).  Ball is an associate professor of communication studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD. and can be found online at IMIXWHATILIKE.ORG.




 is an award-winning, freelance journalist based in Los Angeles, California. She is a staff writer for Daily Kos and co-hosts a weekly, morning drive-time public affairs/news show on the Pacifica Radio network. Chimurenga has been a Contributing Writer for the Los Angeles Watts Times, Sentinel and Wave newspapers, as well as Ebony, Truthout and Counterpunch. She is the author of No Doubt: The Murder(s) of Oscar Grant and Reparations…Not Yet: A Case for Reparations and Why We Must Wait; she is also a contributor to several social justice anthologies.



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Why “Bad Cops” are not the Real Issue

I’m hoping these comments will bring some analysis to 5 seemingly innocuous but misguided words: “Not all cops are bad” and “good cops versus bad cops”. If you’re in the company of someone who says this or posts this on social media, and if you have seen and heard this as much as I have lately, then perhaps it’s time to deconstruct these phrases and start calling them out.

I was in Texas during the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. And I watched the live news right after the Dallas shootings. I’ve talked with family and friends here, where I grew up, a Xicana outside of San Antonio in a small country town called Bulverde. The responses have shocked me. And it makes me wonder why so many, even people who are outraged at police brutality and police killings, are saying “Not all cops are bad”, and how the “bad cops are making a bad name for the good cops”, these are the “bad apples”, etc. This is only meant to provide some context as to why this phrase and phrases like “bad cops” are not helpful but incredibly detrimental to the conversation.

First, just on a psychological level, it feels dismissive. Black and Brown people are watching their loved ones get killed on camera, on social media, without justice by police almost daily. These comments are simply not constructive or helpful to the deeper questions that we need to be asking now. Who hires the police? Who absolves them? For what reason?

Saying “not all cops are bad” is like saying “not all soldiers are bad”. It’s not that the statement is or isn’t true, it simply does not matter. It doesn’t matter if your brother, your father, your cousin, best friend, aunt or uncle is a cop, and you grew up with them and know them, and maybe they’re even a Person of Color…IT DOESN’T MATTER. And the reason it doesn’t matter is because it doesn’t contextualize the situation and actually undermines any effort to have a deeper understanding of the issues being faced by People of Color, poor people and marginalized people on a day-to-day basis.


In 2010, Wikileaks released the Collateral Murder video, which showed footage from a US Apache helicopter in 2007 killing civilians, a war crime, in a public square in Baghdad. People were outraged. In 2004, images of torture and the raping of young boys in front of their mothers was released from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and photos showed soldiers posing next to bodies being tortured, and other times deceased, giving a “thumbs up”. Did anyone respond, “Not all soldiers are bad”? No! Because it didn’t matter.

The cops of the world, our military, police other nations in the name of “Freedom”. But “freedom” is actually just a nice word to disguise words like “capitalism” and “imperialism”. The U.S. invades countries and engages in wars, killing civilians, dismissed as collateral damage, for political and monetary vested interests.

But the situation within the U.S. is not much different. We understand that “War is BAD” and “Imperialism is BAD”. The police, as well as the soldiers, are enforcers of a bigger and much more insidious beast.

Our nation was founded on the murder of millions of Indigenous people, and wealth was created by African slave labor for a white, patriarchal ruling class. Understanding the origins of the police is a start. Modern-day police departments stemmed from slave patrols. And the whole purpose of “policing” was, and is still, meant to protect some people, but not all people. In the 1800s slave owners, businessmen, bankers and emerging industrialists and their growing wealth needed to be protected. The police were created to serve and protect them, the propertied elites and their wealth, not POC, not poor people, not marginalized people.

The conditions have changed, but have they changed so much? We still enslave people, through prison labor and through our borders, which mean that we can pay people pennies on the dollar for what they would normally get paid.

Photo from Graffiti, location unknown.

Photo from Graffiti, location unknown.

The definition of “police” is literally to “control” a population and enforce government rule and order. The police “serve and protect” the government. They are government forces, and like the whole apparatus of government, they primarily serve and protect the interests of money and power, not primarily the interests of ordinary people.

It’s not about the individual cop (or soldier). Yes, some people are brutal and cruel. It’s about the mission police forces and the military are given. It’s about the absolution they are given for actions carried out to accomplish the mission. The phrases “good cop vs bad cop” or “not all cops are bad” hides this fundamental reality. History provides some understanding. But People of Color in the U.S. have an intense, personal experience of this reality every day of their lives. So, in response to amply documented incidences of violent police behavior, to say “not all cops are bad”, is greatly upsetting to POC and is counter-productive to the deeper conversations that are necessary now.

The fact is, for reasons that need to be explored more deeply, white people don’t have the same experience with the police forces as Black and Brown people in the U.S. Every time a Black or Brown person is killed by the police and these videos circulate on social media, Black and Brown people think of their family members, their loved ones. It can be traumatizing and seriously emotional. Every 28 hours, a Black person is killed by police, security guard or a vigilante.

bell hooks

Understand that Black and Brown people are policed and treated differently than most white people. Understand what “white privilege” means, and don’t be ashamed if you are white, but be aware. Understand that comments like “All Lives Matter”, “Blue Lives Matter”, and “Not all cops are bad”, are actually reinforcing racial divides and can be interpreted as racist rhetoric, even if they aren’t intended to be. Understand that for every “pro-police” post that is made, it undermines the Black and Brown community and fuels the War on Black people.

So the next time someone says, “my friend/family member is a cop, and not all cops are bad”, I think it is appropriate to say, “Great, do they and you speak out against the extrajudicial killings by police of Black and Brown folks?” Because if there’s any hesitation, or defensiveness, then there needs to be some personal, internal investigation as to why that is.

Black and Brown people, poor people, the LGBTQ community, marginalized people, need love and support now. But not in the form of BBQs and “Free Hugs” with cops, who will likely continue to surveil and brutalize communities after these photo ops. What people are asking for is real systemic change. What people want immediately is justice and for the police to be held accountable for their actions.

Abolition of the police, which deserves much deeper analysis than given here, will not and cannot happen in the current capitalist state. If we want to imagine a world without a police state, a world where police do not play the role of the oppressor, we need to organize and build a different system of production and social relationships that do not require it. That is a huge challenge but one that is worth the efforts of organizing and advocacy.



by Rebecca Centeno

Rebecca Centeno is the Outreach and Distribution Manager of Deep Dish TV. She is an activist, freelance documentary filmmaker and is pursuing her MFA at Hunter College in the Integrated Media Arts Program.




Collateral Murder:,8542,1211872,00.html

Origins of the police:

Every 28 hours:

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The Myth of American Democracy: The Reality of Symbolic but Hollow Empowerment

As the 2016 Presidential Primaries are drawing to a close and the leading candidates and their supporters are rapidly shifting towards intentionally isolating and attacking the emerging Movement for Black Lives, we want to have a strategic discussion to interrogate the aforementioned questions and discuss and propose possible solutions to the barriers and afflictions confronting the Black working class.

Kali Akuno is a co-founder and co-director of Cooperation Jackson.

KALI AKUNO is a co-founder and co-director of Cooperation Jackson. Kali served as the Director of Special Projects and External Funding in the Mayoral Administration of the late Chokwe Lumumba of Jackson, MS. His focus in this role was supporting cooperative development, the introduction of eco-friendly and carbon reduction methods of operation, and the promotion of human rights and international relations for the city.

Kali also served as the Co-Director of the US Human Rights Network, the Executive Director of the Peoples’ Hurricane Relief Fund (PHRF) based in New Orleans, Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. And was a co-founder of the School of Social Justice and Community Development (SSJCD), a public school serving the academic needs of low-income African American and Latino communities in Oakland, California.



ROSA CLEMENTE has been a community organizer, scholar, journalist and Hip Hop activist for over 20 years. In the 2008 U.S. election Clemente was the Green Party Vice Presidential running mate with Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. The pair comprised the first women of color ticket in American History.

Clemente is a frequent contributor on CNN, C-SPAN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, Free Speech TV, Pacifica Radio, teleSUR, Hard Knock Radio and Democracy Now!. She has been the subject of articles in the New York Times, The Nation, The Progressive, The Village Voice, Urban Latino, Essence, Latina, Vibe, The Huffington Post, Alternet, Wiretap, Black Agenda Report, Indymedia, News One, In These Times and The Source.


Jared Ball

JARED A. BALL is a father and husband. After that he is a multimedia host, producer, journalist and educator. Ball is also a founder of “mixtape radio” and “mixtape journalism” about which he wrote I MiX What I Like: A MiXtape Manifesto (AK Press, 2011) and is co-editor of A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X (Black Classic Press, 2012).  Ball is an associate professor of communication studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD. and can be found online at IMIXWHATILIKE.ORG.



MELINA ABDULLAH is Professor and Chair of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles and immediate past campus president and current Council for Affirmative Action Chair for the California Faculty Association (the faculty union).  Dr. Abdullah earned her Ph.D. from the University of Southern California in Political Science and her B.A. from Howard University in African-American Studies. She was appointed to the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission in 2014 and is a recognized expert on race relations.  Abdullah is the author of numerous articles and book chapters, with subjects ranging from political coalition building to womanist mothering.  What binds her research together is a focus on power allocation and societal transformation.  She is currently writing a book manuscript that examines Hip Hop and political mobilization.   Professor Abdullah is a womanist scholar-activist – recognizing that the role that she plays in the academy is intrinsically linked to broader struggles for the liberation of oppressed people. Melina serves on the leadership team for #BlackLivesMatter and is committed to ending state-sponsored and police violence towards all people, and especially Black people.  She has been particularly active in the resistance movement that emerged following the killings of Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown in California as well as in Ferguson, Missouri.  Professor Abdullah emerged as a national leader in the effort to advance ethnic studies.  She is a member of the California State University Chancellor’s Taskforce for the Advancement of Ethnic Studies.  Dr. Abdullah serves on leadership boards for the Los Angeles African American Women’s Public Policy Institute (LAAAWPPI), Black Community, Clergy and Labor Alliance (BCCLA), Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE) and The Reverence Wellness Salon.  She is active in political and community organizing, and frequently delivers public lectures and contributes to radio news programs, print and on-line media.  Melina is a member of the Beautiful Struggle collective and co-hosts/co-produces a weekly radio show of the same name which airs on KPFK (90.7 FM) and streams worldwide.  She blogs at  Melina is a “soccer mama” of three children and resides in Mid-City Los Angeles.


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Black People and Their Labor are “Disposable”?

Posted on the Real News Network 

Activist, organizer and producer of “An American Nightmare: Black Labor and Liberation” Kali Akuno discusses the “disposable” nature of Black life and labor –  September 9, 2015


Kali Akuno was the Coordinator of Special Projects and External Funding for the late mayor Chokwe Lumumba in Jackson, MS. He is the author of the organizing handbook Let Your Motto Be Resistance and wrote the preface to the report Operation Ghetto Storm. He is an organizer with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) (, former co-director of the US Human Rights Network, and served as executive director of the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund based in New Orleans, LA. Kali currently resides in Jackson, MS.

Jared A. Ball is a father and husband. After that he is a multimedia host, producer, journalist and educator. Ball is also a founder of “mixtape radio” and “mixtape journalism” about which he wrote I MiX What I Like: A MiXtape Manifesto (AK Press, 2011) and is co-editor of A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X (Black Classic Press, 2012). Ball is an associate professor of communication studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland and can be found online at IMIXWHATILIKE.ORG.


Black People and Their Labor are

JARED BALL, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome everyone, back to the Real News Network. I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore.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? These are some of the questions our next guest addresses in a new piece recently published for Counterpunch, titled Until We Win: Black Labor and Liberation In the Disposable Era. To discuss his article and more is Kali Akuno. Akuno is a longtime activist and organizer with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, is co-founder and co-director of Cooperation Jackson, and is currently also serving as advisor to the Jill Stein Green Party presidential campaign. He is also the producer of the forthcoming An American Nightmare: Black Labor and Liberation, a joint documentary project of Deep Dish TV and Cooperation Jackson.He joins us now from his office in Jackson, Mississippi. We welcome you, Kali Akuno, back to the Real News.

KALI AKUNO: Pleasure to be here.

BALL: So Kali, you say in your piece that there are concrete answers to those questions I raised in the intro. You say that these answers are firmly grounded in the capitalist dynamics that structure the brutal European settler colonial project we live in, and how African people have historically been positioned within it. Please, if you would, explain what you mean.

AKUNO: Well, I’ll try to be brief, but that’s a long conversation.

BALL: Right, right.

AKUNO: Let me start with this. Number one, African folks have always been fully integrated into this society. Just not integrated in a manner that we so chose or in a manner that we so desire. But we were brought here to labor. Forced labor, cheap labor. And for the 400-plus years at least within the American project, the British-American project, that’s the role that we’ve played. And our lives have always been to a certain extent expendable when we weren’t making profit, or when we weren’t maximizing profits for the benefit of the controllers of that system.And that’s a dynamic, in terms of writing this piece, I wanted a younger audience to always kind of, to grapple with, to understand. To have a deeper grasp on our history and what our particular role is. Because I think that shapes our demands and how we understand what our role is in transforming this society, in that you got uprooted from the ground up. From the floor up. And that reforming it, you got to deal with some things that might alleviate some pressure here or there, might make some things more bearable here and there. But the real solution calls for transforming society inside and out. And that’s what this piece is really trying to really kind of engage this present upsurge in the youth who are out there to understand the kind of material foundations of the society that they are confronting. And why they’re asking these questions, why am I being treated like this, we can give them some kind of, some solid answers. We’ve always been treated like this. And we shouldn’t expect the dynamics to change unless we are able to change the material foundations that kind of structure the society.

BALL: You know, you somewhat touched on this already. But if you would expand on this question of why this essay, now? What is in this moment that calls for this particular analysis? You talk a little bit about the Black Lives Matter effort. You talk about the post-Ferguson uprisings in this country. If you could just sort of more explain the moment we’re in now and why this particular analysis remains so important.

AKUNO: You know, it’s something that’s been on my mind since Baltimore, really. The events that took place in you all’s hometown. I thought that that was a critical shift in the upsurge, wherein you would see a couple of dynamics. One, that the more clever ends of the state, the velvet glove end of the states and [capital] were going to try to figure out how they can appropriate the energy of this movement and redirect it in ways that would serve their interest. And if they couldn’t do that, how are they going to crush it? And I think we’ve basically kind of been at that moment for the last several months.And I think the movement has been, this upsurge, if you look at its internal dialogs and conversation, it’s been trying to figure out, well, where do we go? What are our programs, what are our demands? And just thinking about this and looking at the growing reaction that’s taking place that you see, that I think to a certain extent you see now, with kind of the boiling over of what the counter is to a lot of our folks who were fighting against the Confederate flags all throughout the South, and what Donald Trump in his presidential campaign and some of the others, these other reactionaries at that end of the political spectrum, what they’re really calling up. This level of what people are calling white resentment or white anger, white fear. Which I would challenge is a much more deeper piece that we’ve got to analyze within the civil society.What I was trying to get, convey, mainly through conversation but also through this piece, is that we should expect and anticipate a very vicious white reaction, from the state and those forces outside the state, but which the state always has given a certain level of legitimacy to, or lend it a kind of a blind eye, or an uneven hand, if you would. So the here and now of why I thought this was important to try to release this, A, to start getting people to think on a little deeper level if a contribution could be made to that end. Hopefully this article kind of stimulates that. But more importantly, to get prepared for this reactionary backlash that’s for sure to come, that’s mounting, that’s building, that’s well organized, well financed, gets a lot of media attention and media coverage. And we need to get prepared first on the educational level, but more importantly on the educational level. So I was just trying to make some contribution based upon my understanding and analysis of history, but also the work that I’ve been doing and kind of grounding it, and where I see some success and where I see some challenges.

BALL: Well, we definitely want to have you back again to talk about the various efforts you’re involved in. But if you would, just very quickly, if you could summarize how the efforts you’re involved in now, whether it’s with the Green Party presidential campaign or Cooperation Jackson, or this forthcoming documentary An American Nightmare, how these efforts attempt to address this moment you’re talking about, this disposable moment, sort of updating the work as we talked off-air about, of Sam Yette or Sidney Willhelm, and their previous work about the disposable nature of black people.

AKUNO: Again, a much longer conversation. But trying to be brief, you know, [inaud.]. Cooperation Jackson is an effort towards transforming our material conditions. Through our own efforts, through our own labor. Trying to meet this disposable era where we have skill capacity and resources in the present to kind of transform our communities from the ground up. That’s really what Cooperation Jackson, this whole effort in building a solidarity economy, an economic democracy. That’s really what that push is about.The piece with the Jill Stein campaign and the Green Party, and playing a role of advisor there, that’s a part around building independent politics. And there’s many ways in which to do that. We have some experience doing that of a sort here in Jackson, Mississippi, with running Chokwe and Chokwe being mayor. So really trying to take some of the valuable lessons of that experience over the past six years and lend that to a bunch of different independent forces throughout the country, particularly with Jill Stein and the Green Party. I think in this piece of trying to get across some support, measures such as this, that was articulated in this article, to kind of reshape the debate and influence it to whatever extent possible.And then the piece–moreso with the film project. That’s trying to do education on a mass level, quite frankly. And something that can have a lasting impact, and an immediate impact. We’re looking to try to release it in 2016. We’re in the hunt for resources and doing a number of things of that nature for all of these projects, with all these campaigns, as you know. But for that one it’s really trying to make a lasting impact. We started this project, what’s called the American Nightmare Project, we started it well before Ferguson. It’s probably about two years in its conception already old now. And been trying to hone in on where exactly and how exactly do we tell this story, about the role of African people in this society, and do we have a future, in this society and in the world, looking at how the global economy and how the American economy and even local, domestic economies are shifting to make our labor not only redundant, but how we’re being treated as basically obsolete and being disposed of. And we wanted to–I really wanted to hone in on that analysis, because it’s something I learned from my experience in Katrina ten years ago. And I think it’s something that I’m still trying to develop and bring out, encourage people to argue and debate it, because I think we need it. We need a lot more theoretical engagement and analysis in our movement overall. But I think in this period there’s a definite need for more. So just trying to make those contributions and those three things. And this is kind of consistent with the trajectory that I’ve been trying to follow I think now for the last three to four years. It’s some of what you saw in the Jackson-Kush plan. Those three elements. And you see that still being played out with Cooperation Jackson on a local and somewhat a national level, with the Jill Stein campaign moving some local dynamics hopefully to a national stage. And with this project, trying to do the mass education work that I think is necessary to move a generation further along a radical path.

BALL: Well, Kali Akuno, thank you very much for joining us here at the Real News. And we’ll look to have you back again before too long.

AKUNO: Thank you.

BALL: And thank you for joining us here at the Real News. Again, for all involved I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore, saying as Fred Hampton used to say, to you we say peace if you’re willing to fight for it. So peace everybody, and we’ll catch you in the whirlwind.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution Showings this Week in NYC with Q&A


THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION is the first feature length documentary to explore the Black Panther Party, its significance to the broader American culture, its cultural and political awakening for black people, and the painful lessons wrought when a movement derails. Master documentarian Stanley Nelson goes straight to the source, weaving a treasure trove of rare archival footage with the voices of the people who were there: police, FBI informants, journalists, white supporters and detractors, and Black Panthers who remained loyal to the party and those who left it. Featuring Kathleen Cleaver, Jamal Joseph, and many others, THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION is an essential history and a vibrant chronicle of this pivotal movement that birthed a new revolutionary culture in America.




9/8, 7:15pm: Stanley Nelson, Panthers Jamal Joseph and Omar Barbour, moderated by Dante Barry, ED of Million Hoodies

9/9, 7:15pm: Stanley Nelson, moderated by Dr. Andrea Weiss, Founder of the Documentary Forum at City College of New York 

9/10, 7:15pm: Stanley Nelson and Gerald Lefcourt moderated by Vince Warren Center for Constitutional Rights

9/11, 7:15pm: Panther Omar Barbour, moderated by Alvin Starks, Director of Special Initiatives at Schomburg Center

9/13, 7:15pm: Panther Claudia Williams, moderated by Professor Mary Phillips

9/14, 7:15pm: Panther Charles “Cappy” Pinderhughes, moderated by Lumumba Bandele, NAACP LDF

9/15, 5:00pm: Stanley Nelson, co-presented by Studio Museum of Harlem, New York Historical Society, and the Museum of Contemportary African Diasporan Arts


Opens September 11 AMC Magic Johnson Harlem

9/11: Stanley Nelson and Panther Jamal Joseph in person


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Until We Win: Black Labor and Liberation in the Disposable Era


Until We Win: Black Labor and Liberation in the Disposable Era

Published in CounterPunch


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.

The correlation between capital accumulation (earning a profit) and the value of Black life to the overall system has remained consistent throughout the history of the US settler-colonial project, despite of shifts in production regimes (from agricultural, to industrial, to service and finance oriented) and how Black labor was deployed. The more value (profits) Black labor produces, the more Black lives are valued. The less value (profits) Black people produce, the less Black lives are valued. When Black lives are valued they are secured enough to allow for their reproduction (at the very least), when they are not they can be and have been readily discarded and disposed of. This is the basic equation and the basic social dynamic regarding the value of Black life to US society.

The Age of Disposability

We are living and struggling through a transformative era of the global capitalist system. Over the past 40 years, the expansionary dynamics of the system have produced a truly coordinated system of resource acquisition and controls, easily exploitable and cheap labor, production, marketing and consumption on a global scale. The increasingly automated and computerized dynamics of this expansion has resulted in millions, if not billions, of people being displaced through two broad processes: one, from “traditional” methods of life sustaining production (mainly farming), and the other from their “traditional” or ancestral homelands and regions (with people being forced to move to large cities and “foreign” territories in order to survive). As the International Labor Organization (ILO) recently reported in its World Employment and Social Outlook 2015 paper, this displacement renders millions to structurally regulated surplus or expendable statuses.

Capitalist logic does not allow for surplus populations to be sustained for long. They either have to be reabsorbed into the value producing mechanisms of the system, or disposed of. Events over the past 20 (or more) years, such as the forced separation of Yugoslavia, the genocide in Burundi and Rwanda, the never ending civil and international wars in Zaire/Congo and central Afrikan region, the mass displacement of farmers in Mexico clearly indicate that the system does not posses the current capacity to absorb the surplus populations and maintain its equilibrium.

The dominant actors in the global economy – multinational corporations, the trans-nationalist capitalist class, and state managers – are in crisis mode trying to figure out how to best manage this massive surplus in a politically justifiable (but expedient) manner.

This incapacity to manage crisis caused by capitalism itself is witnessed by numerous examples of haphazard intervention at managing the rapidly expanding number of displaced peoples such as:

* The ongoing global food crisis (which started in the mid-2000’s) where millions are unable to afford basic food stuffs because of rising prices and climate induced production shortages;

* The corporate driven displacement of hundreds of millions of farmers and workers in the global south (particularly in Africa and parts of Southeast Asia);

* Military responses (including the building of fortified walls and blockades) to the massive migrant crisis confronting the governments of the United States, Western Europe, Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, etc.;

*The corporate driven attempt to confront climate change almost exclusively by market (commodity) mechanisms;

*The scramble for domination of resources and labor, and the escalating number of imperialist facilitated armed conflicts and attempts at regime change in Africa, Asia (including Central Asia) and Eastern Europe.

More starkly, direct disposal experiments are also deepening and expanding:

* Against Afrikans in Colombia,

* Haitians in the Dominican Republic,

* Sub-Saharan Afrikans in Libya,

* Indigenous peoples in the Andean region,

* The Palestinians in Gaza, Adivasis in India,

* The Rohingya’s in Myanmar and Bangladesh,

* And the list goes on.

Accompanying all of this is the ever expanding level of xenophobia and violence targeted at migrants on a world scale, pitting the unevenly pacified and rewarded victims of imperialism against one other as has been witnessed in places like South Africa over the last decade, where attacks on migrant workers and communities has become a mainstay of political activity.

The capitalist system is demonstrating, day by day, that it no longer possesses the managerial capacity to absorb newly dislocated and displaced populations into the international working class (proletariat), and it is becoming harder and harder for the international ruling class to sustain the provision of material benefits that have traditionally been awarded to the most loyal subjects of capitalisms global empire, namely the “native” working classes in Western Europe and settlers in projects like the United States, Canada, and Australia.

When the capitalist system can’t expand and absorb it must preserve itself by shifting towards “correction and contraction” – excluding and if necessary disposing of all the surpluses that cannot be absorbed or consumed at a profit). We are now clearly in an era of correction and contraction that will have genocidal consequences for the surplus populations of the world if left unaddressed.

This dynamic brings us back to the US and the crisis of jobs, mass incarceration and the escalating number of extrajudicial police killings confronting Black people.

The Black Surplus Challenge/Problem

Afrikan, or Black, people in the United States are one of these surplus populations. Black people are no longer a central force in the productive process of the United States, in large part because those manufacturing industries that have not completely offshored their production no longer need large quantities of relatively cheap labor due to automation advances. At the same time agricultural industries have been largely mechanized or require even cheaper sources of super-exploited labor from migrant workers in order to ensure profits.

Various campaigns to reduce the cost of Black labor in the US have fundamentally failed, due to the militant resistance of Black labor and the ability of Black working class communities to “make ends meet” by engaging in and receiving survival level resources from the underground economy, which has grown exponentially in the Black community since the 1970’s. (The underground economy has exploded worldwide since the 1970’s due to the growth of unregulated “grey market” service economies and the explosion of the illicit drug trade. Its expansion has created considerable “market distortions” throughout the world, as it has created new value chains, circuits of accumulation, and financing streams that helped “cook the books” of banking institutions worldwide and helped finance capital become the dominant faction of capital in the 1980’s and 90’s).

The social dimensions of white supremacy regarding consumer “comfort”, “trust” and “security” seriously constrain the opportunities of Black workers in service industries and retail work, as significant numbers of non-Black consumers are uncomfortable receiving direct services from Black people (save for things like custodial and security services). These are the root causes of what many are calling the “Black jobs crisis”. The lack of jobs for Black people translates into a lack of need for Black people, which equates into the wholesale devaluation of Black life. And anything without value in the capitalist system is disposable.

The declining “value” of Black life is not a new problem – Black people have constituted an escalating problem in search of a solution for the US ruling class since the 1960’s. Although the US labor market started to have trouble absorbing Afrikan workers in the 1950’s, the surplus problem didn’t reach crisis proportions until the late 1960’s, when the Black Liberation Movement started to critically impact industrial production with demands for more jobs, training and open access to skilled and supervisorial work (which were “occupied” by white seniority-protected workers), higher wages, direct representation (through instruments like the League of Revolutionary Black Workers), constant strikes, work stoppages, other forms of industrial action, militant resistance to state and non-state forces of repression and hundreds of urban rebellions.

This resistance occurred at the same time that the international regime of integrated production, trade management, and financial integration, and currency convergence instituted by the United States after WWII, commonly called the Bretton Woods regime, fully maturated and ushered in the present phase of globalization. This regime obliterated most exclusivist (or protectionist) production regimes and allowed international capital to scour the world for cheaper sources of labor and raw materials without fear of inter-imperialist rivalry and interference (as predominated during earlier periods). Thus, Black labor was hitting its stride just as capital was finding secure ways to eliminate its dependence upon it (and Western unionized labor more generally) by starting to reap the rewards of its post-WWII mega-global investments (largely centered in Western Europe, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan).

One reward of these mega-global investments for US capital was that it reduced the scale and need for domestic industrial production, which limited the ability of Black labor to disrupt the system with work stoppages, strikes, and other forms of industrial action. As US capital rapidly reduced the scale of its domestic production in the 1970’s and 80’s, it intentionally elevated competition between white workers and Afrikan and other non-settler sources of labor for the crumbs it was still doling out. The settler-world view, position, and systems of entitlement possessed by the vast majority of white workers compelled them to support the overall initiatives of capital and to block the infusion of Afrikan, Xicano, Puerto Rican and other non-white labor when there were opportunities to do so during this period.

This development provided the social base for the “silent majority,” “law and order,” “tuff on crime,” “war on drugs,” “war on gangs and thugs” campaigns that dominated the national political landscape from the late 1960’s through the early 2000’s, that lead to mass incarceration, racist drug laws, and militarized policing that have terrorized Afrikan (and Indigenous, Xicano, Puerto Rican, etc.) communities since the 1970’s.

To deal with the crisis of Black labor redundancy and mass resistance the ruling class responded by creating a multipronged strategy of limited incorporation, counterinsurgency, and mass containment. The stratagem of limited incorporation sought to and has partially succeeded in dividing the Black community by class, as corporations and the state have been able to take in and utilize the skills of sectors of the Black petit bourgeoisie and working class for their own benefit. The stratagem of counterinsurgency crushed, divided and severely weakened Black organizations. And the stratagem of containment resulted in millions of Black people effectively being re-enslaved and warehoused in prisons throughout the US empire.

This three-pronged strategy exhausted itself by the mid-2000 as core dynamics of it (particularly the costs associated with mass incarceration and warehousing) became increasingly unprofitable and therefore unsustainable. Experiments with alternative forms of incarceration (like digitally monitored home detainment) and the spatial isolation and externalization of the Afrikan surplus population to the suburbs and exurbs currently abound, but no new comprehensive strategy has yet been devised by the ruling class to solve the problem of what to do and what politically can be done to address the Black surplus population problem. All that is clear from events like the catastrophe following Hurricane Katrina and the hundreds of Afrikans being daily, monthly, and yearly extra-judicially killed by various law enforcement agencies is that Black life is becoming increasingly more disposable. And it is becoming more disposable because in the context of the American capitalist socio-economic system, Black life is a commodity rapidly depreciating in value, but still must be corralled and controlled.


A Potential Path of Resistance

Although Afrikan people are essentially “talking instruments” to the overlords of the capitalist system, Black people have always possessed our own agency. Since the dawn of the Afrikan slave trade and the development of the mercantile plantations and chattel slavery, Black people resisted their enslavement and the systemic logic and dynamics of the capitalist system itself.

The fundamental question confronting Afrikan people since their enslavement and colonization in territories held by the US government is to what extent can Black people be the agents and instruments of their own liberation and history? It is clear that merely being the object or appendage of someone else’s project and history only leads to a disposable future. Black people have to forge their own future and chart a clear self-determining course of action in order to be more than just a mere footnote in world history.

Self-determination and social liberation, how do we get there? How will we take care of our own material needs (food, water, shelter, clothing, health care, defense, jobs, etc.)? How will we address the social contradictions that shape and define us, both internally and externally generated? How should we and will we express our political independence?

There are no easy or cookie cutter answers. However, there are some general principles and dynamics that I believe are perfectly clear. Given how we have been structurally positioned as a disposable, surplus population by the US empire we need to build a mass movement that focuses as much on organizing and buildingautonomous, self-organized and executed social projects as it focuses on campaigns and initiatives that apply transformative pressure on the government and the forces of economic exploitation and domination. This is imperative, especially when we clearly understand the imperatives of the system we are fighting against.

The capitalism system has always required certain levels of worker “reserves” (the army of the unemployed) in order to control labor costs and maintain social control. But, the system must now do two things simultaneously to maintain profits: drastically reduce the cost of all labor and ruthlessly discard millions of jobs and laborers. “You are on your own,” is the only social rationale the system has the capacity to process and its overlords insist that “there is no alternative” to the program of pain that they have to implement and administer. To the system therefore, Black people can either accept their fate as a disposable population, or go to hell. We have to therefore create our own options and do everything we can to eliminate the systemic threat that confronts us.

Autonomous projects are initiatives not supported or organized by the government (state) or some variant of monopoly capital (finance or corporate industrial or mercantile capital). These are initiatives that directly seek to create a democratic “economy of need” around organizing sustainable institutions that satisfy people’s basic needs around principles of social solidarity and participatory or direct democracy that intentionally put the needs of people before the needs of profit. These initiatives are built and sustained by people organizing themselves and collectivizing their resources through dues paying membership structures, income sharing, resource sharing, time banking, etc., to amass the initial resources needed to start and sustain our initiatives. These types of projects range from organizing community farms (focused on developing the capacity to feed thousands of people) to forming people’s self-defense networks to organizing non-market housing projects to building cooperatives to fulfill our material needs. To ensure that these are not mere Black capitalist enterprises, these initiatives must be built democratically from the ground up and must be owned, operated, and controlled by their workers and consumers. These are essentially “serve the people” or “survival programs” that help the people to sustain and attain a degree of autonomy and self-rule. Our challenge is marshaling enough resources and organizing these projects on a large enough scale to eventually meet the material needs of nearly 40 million people. And overcoming the various pressures that will be brought to bear on these institutions by the forces of capital to either criminalize and crush them during their development (via restrictions on access to finance, market access, legal security, etc.) or co-opt them and reincorporate them fully into the capitalist market if they survive and thrive.

Our pressure exerting initiatives must be focused on creating enough democratic and social space for us to organize ourselves in a self-determined manner. We should be under no illusion that the system can be reformed, it cannot. Capitalism and its bourgeois national-states, the US government being the most dominant amongst them, have demonstrated a tremendous ability to adapt to and absorb disruptive social forces and their demands – when it has ample surpluses. The capitalist system has essentially run out of surpluses, and therefore does not possess the flexibility that it once did.

Because real profits have declined since the late 1960’s, capitalism has resorted to operating largely on a parasitic basis, commonly referred to as neo-liberalism, which calls for the dismantling of the social welfare state, privatizing the social resources of the state, eliminating institutions of social solidarity (like trade unions), eliminating safety standards and protections, promoting the monopoly of trade by corporations, and running financial markets like casinos.

Our objectives therefore, must be structural and necessitate nothing less than complete social transformation. To press for our goals we must seek to exert maximum pressure by organizing mass campaigns that are strategic and tactically flexible, including mass action (protest) methods, direct action methods, boycotts, non-compliance methods, occupations, and various types of people’s or popular assemblies. The challenges here are not becoming sidelined and subordinated to someone else’s agenda – in particular that of the Democratic party (which as been the grave of social movements for generations) – and not getting distracted by symbolic reforms or losing sight of the strategic in the pursuit of the expedient.

What the combination of theses efforts will amount to is the creation of Black Autonomous Zones. These Autonomous Zones must serve as centers for collective survival, collective defense, collective self-sufficiency and social solidarity. However, we have to be clear that while building Black Autonomous Zones is necessary, they are not sufficient in and of themselves. In addition to advancing our own autonomous development and political independence, we have to build a revolutionary international movement. We are not going to transform the world on our own. As noted throughout this short work, Black people in the US are not the only people confronting massive displacement, dislocation, disposability, and genocide, various people’s and sectors of the working class throughout the US and the world are confronting these existential challenges and seeking concrete solutions and real allies as much as we do.

Our Autonomous Zones must link with, build with, and politically unite with oppressed, exploited and marginalized peoples, social sectors and social movements throughout the US and the world. The Autonomous Zones must link with Indigenous communities, Xicano’s and other communities stemming from the Caribbean, and Central and South America. We must also build alliances with poor and working class whites. It is essential that we help to serve as an alternative (or at least a counterweight) to the reactionary and outright fascist socialization and influences the white working class is constantly bombarded with.

Our Autonomous Zones should seek to serve as new fronts of class struggle that unite forces that are presently separated by white supremacy, xenophobia and other instruments of hierarchy, oppression and hatred. The knowledge drawn from countless generations of Black oppression must become known and shared by all exploited and oppressed people. We have to unite on the basis of a global anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, and anti-colonial program that centers the liberation of Indigenous, colonized, and oppressed peoples and the total social and material emancipation of all those who labor and create the value that drives human civilization. We must do so by creating a regenerative economic system that harmonizes human production and consumption with the limits of the Earth’s biosphere and the needs of all our extended relatives – the non-human species who occupy 99.9 percent of our ecosystem. This is no small task, but our survival as a people and as a species depends upon it.

The tremendous imbalance of forces in favor of capital and the instruments of imperialism largely dictates that the strategy needed to implement this program calls for the transformation of the oppressive social relationships that define our life from the “bottom up” through radical social movements. These social movements must challenge capital and the commodification of life and society at every turn, while at the same time building up its own social and material reserves for the inevitable frontal assaults that will be launched against our social movements and the people themselves by the forces of reaction. Ultimately, the forces of liberation are going to have to prepare themselves and all the progressive forces in society for a prolonged battle to destroy the repressive arms of the state as the final enforcer of bourgeois social control in the world capitalist system. As recent events Greece painfully illustrate, our international movement will have to simultaneously win, transform, and dismantle the capitalist state at the same time in order to secure the democratic space necessary for a revolutionary movement to accomplish the most minimal of its objectives.

Return to the Source

The intersecting, oppressive systems of capitalism, colonialism, imperialism, and white supremacy have consistently tried to reduce African people to objects, tools, chattel, and cheap labor. Despite the systemic impositions and constraints these systems have tried to impose, Afrikan people never lost sight of their humanity, never lost sight of their own value, and never conceded defeat.

In the age of mounting human surplus and the devaluation and disposal of life, Afrikan people are going to have to call on the strengths of our ancestors and the lessons learned in over 500 years of struggle against the systems of oppression and exploitation that beset them. Building a self-determining future based on self-respect, self-reliance, social solidarity, cooperative development and internationalism is a way forward that offers us the chance to survive and thrive in the 21st century and beyond


Kali Akuno is the Producer of “An American Nightmare: Black Labor and Liberation”, a joint documentary project of Deep Dish TV and Cooperation Jackson. He is the co-founder and co-director of Cooperation Jackson, and a co-writer of “Operation Ghetto Storm” better known as the “Every 28 Hours” report.. Kali can be reached at or on Twitter @KaliAkuno.

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American Nightmare: Black Labor and Liberation Orientation and Draft Program Outline

An American Nightmare
Black Labor and Liberation
(Working Title)
A TV and Internet Project by
Deep Dish TV and Cooperation Jackson’s Nubia Lumumba Arts and Culture Cooperative
Orientation and Draft Program Outline

An American Nightmare engages one of the most pressing social issues of our time: the disposability of Black people in the United States. For centuries enslaved or cheap Black labor created vast wealth for the United Stats. To ensure these profits an arsenal of judicial, social and physical tools were created to control and contain the Black population. A vicious system of racism reinforced and justified their dehumanization. It locked the vast majority of Black people into unskilled labor pools and maintained barriers to mobility. The 1950s and 60s witnessed a massive Black rebellion against the structural racism woven into the DNA of the country’s economic system and reinforced by a white supremacy that infects the society. At the same time U.S. capital, cognizant of the potential disruptive upheavals of the Black revolt against racism, intensified its drive for cheaper and more compliant sources of labor. Globalization and automation represent a dramatic change that has made Black labor increasingly unnecessary. The Black working class continues to be socially and politically demonized by the media as a burdensome surplus population. The mass incarceration of millions of Black and Brown people, the occupation of Black communities by militarized police and the daily extrajudicial killings by agents of the state must be seen as means to control a an economically irrelevant demographic with a long history of resistance.

An American Nightmare, a seven-part series, will illustrate why and how these social transformations developed and what Black people are doing throughout the US to defend themselves and win their liberation.

The first episode, I Can’t Breathe presents the key assertion of the series: the systematic crisis of American capitalism that began in the late 1960’s, reduced the systems dependence on Black labor. The accelerated reliance on new mechanized, computerized and globalized form of wealth production has made Black labor and life increasingly redundant and disposable.

Despite the mass incarceration of Black men and women and the intensity of police occupation of Black communities, with “stop and frisk” and “broken windows” tactics and the frequent killing of Black people by agents of the state, the election of Barack Obama in 2008 seemed to lend credibility to the argument that the United States is moving inexorably, if slowly and in fits and starts towards a colorblind society that affords equal opportunity to all. As one young woman put it: “Up until the election of Barack Obama we thought that if we could just get someone who could see things through our eyes in a position of power, then we’d win, right?” A myth contradicted by reality.

The second program in the series, “Foundation Myths: The Land of the Thief, Home of the Enslaved”, will explore how the “Foundation Myths” of the United States, those documents that proclaimed the equality of “all men”, but strictly limited the definition of “men” to mean only men of western European descent and phenotype. The founders of the American Republic vehemently denied the humanity of enslaved Africans, who were responsible for most of the wealth produced in the colonies. The founders claim that all men have the self-evident “right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” clearly did not apply to Blacks, slave or free.  And when these “enlightened minds” asserted in their Declaration of Independence a “right and duty to throw off the established government and provide new guards for their future security” when “a long train of abuses and usurpations” has become insufferable, they could hardly recognize the humanity of their slaves or cede them the same right to rebel against the tyranny. The denial of the humanity of enslaved Africans and the total negation of their human rights was a necessary requirement of the exploitative and extractive system of wealth generation being employed by the settlers of the American colonial project. The second episode will demonstrate that this negation remains a cornerstone of the society and will transform only when the economic system and its power relations are transformed.

The third episode, America I Do Mind Dying, examines more closely exactly how people of African descent have been incorporated into the capitalist economy in the territories that have historically defined the United States the past 400 + years. Despite the shift from enslaved labor to wage labor, and agricultural production to industrial production, the essential position and role of Black labor did not fundamentally shifted – until the late 20th century, when Black labor became largely surplus as the U.S. economy shifted to a new finance driven, service oriented, computer automated and globalized production. This program will explore the necessity and irreversibility of this shift and how it relates to the disposability of Black lives in the United States today.

However, this globalized, increasingly automated phase of capitalist production and the intensified economic disenfranchisement of Black people in the U.S. has posed serious problems for these “masters of the universe.” What do they do with 45 million African-Americans who have a diminishing economic role, but who have a long history of resistance?

The fourth program in the series, the Prison House of Nations, describes specific measures employed by a meaner, leaner, more repressive state to control and contain the Black population. It will focus on the role and impact institutions of the state play in Black communities and how this targeting and the policies that legitimize it limit the “right to life” of Black communities.

The United States has always been a segregated country. In the last thirty years demographic engineering increasingly involves gentrification and the forced displacement of Black communities through a variety of urban renewal strategies.

The fifth episode in the series, No There There will highlight how various political forces and policy regimes economically and politically contain Black urban communities, including the usage of emergency management powers in cities like New Orleans and Detroit and Benton Harbor in Michigan. It will also focus on why Black people are increasingly being pushed into isolated and under resourced suburbs and ex-urbs and how this development is helping to facilitate the increasing social death and disposability of Black people.

But the battle has been joined. From Ferguson to Baltimore, thousands of Black youth and allies in almost every major city in the U.S. have risen up against police brutality, murder and mass incarceration. This resistance has been accompanied by the quest of a new generation to understand the source of Black oppression and to find alternatives.

The sixth episode, We are the Small Axe will focus on the various forms of resistance to social death and ethnocide being developed by a variety community groups and political organizations. This includes efforts to build autonomous communities and cooperatives and other instruments of the solidarity or “people’s economy” to avert and overcome a disposable future.

The final program, Which Way Forward will focus on the political and ideological debates about the way forward for Black people in the United States. It raises the question, what future do Black people have in the United States? Can and will Black people survive if the capitalist socio-economic system that operates as its foundation doesn’t change? And how should Black people resist? Should they seek to reform the system? Break from the system? Or turn it over altogether? These are the critical questions we will leave our audience to consider going forward.

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It’s Not Just The South or The Confederate Flag!

In the supposedly liberal San Francisco, cops and courts enforce white supremacy

From: The San Francisco Chronicle
June 23, 2015 by Julia Beatty
“S.F. study finds big disparity in arrest rates between races”

Black people are disproportionately represented throughout the criminal justice system in San Francisco, from arrest to booking in jail to conviction and sentencing — and the disparity is growing worse, according to a city-commissioned study set to be released Tuesday.

The study found that black people are 7.1 times more likely to be arrested in the city than white people, 11 times more likely to be booked into jail and 10.3 times more likely to be convicted. Those convicted spend more time on probation or behind bars.

The study, which examined data through 2013, was commissioned by the San Francisco Reentry Council, a multiagency group that includes prosecutors and the mayor’s office and seeks to helps incarcerated people transition back into society.

The findings come as nationwide attention turns toward racial inequity in the criminal justice system, following several high-profile, video-recorded killings of unarmed black people by police officers.

And the report comes as thousands of San Francisco criminal cases and convictions over the past 10 years are under review, following the release of racist and anti-gay text messages sent between at least 14 San Francisco police officers.

“The disparities are stark,” said Laura Ridolfi, Director of Policy at the W. Haywood Burns Institute, the Oakland nonprofit that conducted the research. The organization seeks to redress what it sees as the justice system’s biased treatment of young people of color, whose early brushes with the system hurt their ability to be successful.

“This is a clear statement to the city and county that there is work to be done,” Ridolfi said. “The disparities here undermine the notion of justice.”

According to the study, the over-representation of minorities in San Francisco courts and jails has grown more stark over the past two decades, even as crime rates trend down across all demographics.

In 1994, for every white person arrested, 4.6 black people were taken into custody by police in San Francisco. In 2013, that number jumped to 7.1, according to the study. Though black people represented just 6 percent of the city’s adult population, they made up 40 percent of those arrested.

Once arrested, black people were less likely to make bail or be freed before trial, even though black defendants were more likely to be eligible for pretrial release.

“The report makes it clear: Racial profiling extends beyond the street and into the courthouse,” said Public Defender Jeff Adachi, co-chair of the Reentry Council. “It also shows that San Francisco lags behind the rest of the state in closing the equality gap in its justice system.”

While the racial disparity gap has been closing statewide, it has been growing in San Francisco, the study said.

In 1994, 3.9 black people were arrested in California for every white person, while that number was 4.6 in San Francisco. By 2013, the statewide number had dropped to three black people arrested for every white person, while that number jumped to 7.1 in the city.

While the study’s findings are alarming, Police Chief Greg Suhr said, “We try to do our job as objectively as possible.”

Suhr said socioeconomic factors must be considered in the statistics. Black residents of San Francisco tend to be poorer, live in neighborhoods with higher crime rates and, according to the study, are 10 times as likely as white residents to have a past criminal conviction. Suhr said his department has worked to address these issues through a jobs program that employs city teens, especially from poorer communities, and a recent push to keep kids in school.

“There are so many other things that are part of the conversation,” Suhr said. “But we’re certainly not trying to arrest our way out of this situation.”

Ridolfi said limitations of the data — in many cases the races of suspects and those arrested were not available — made it difficult to analyze the reasons behind the wide discrepancy between racial groups.

The study notes that accurate figures for Latino residents were unavailable due to the disregarding of ethnicity. Moreover, the authors said, the counting of many “Hispanics” as white likely served to understate the disparity between black and non-Hispanic white people.

Max Szabo, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office, said his office is “very supportive” of the study.

“This is important work that we are very supportive of, and we are not shying away from the challenges that this study depicts,” Szabo said. “As the district attorney has noted for some time, we need additional investment in data capacity so we can paint a clearer picture of disparities in the system and begin identifying policy solutions that can have a lasting impact.”

Kale Williams and Vivian Ho are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. E-mail:, vho@sfchronicle.comTwitter: @sfkale, @VivianHo

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