Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party (originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense). The Party was the handiwork of Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, although it has been said that the “first” such party was actually Alabama’s Lowndes County Freedom Organization:
“Jim Crow was a grim reality in Lowndes County, Alabama, at the beginning of 1965. African Americans attended separate and unequal schools, lived in dilapidated and deteriorating housing, and toiled as underpaid and overworked domestics and farm laborers. They were also completely shut out of the voting process. There were five thousand African Americans of voting age in an overwhelmingly black rural county, but not a single one was registered. Most were too scared to even try. Francis Moss, born nearly seventy years earlier, was among those immobilized by an overwhelming fear of white violence. ‘I used to run in the house whenever I saw a white man coming down the road,’ she said. ‘I was afraid I’d be killed. And I wasn’t a baby the, but a grown woman.’
By the end of 1996, however, Jim Crow was crumbling. The most obvious sign of its demise could be found on the voter rolls, which listed the names of nearly three thousand African Americans. In a remarkable display of collective courage, African Americans managed to set aside their fear and act on the powerful impulse to end segregation immediately. ‘Negroes ain’t planning on scaring no more,’ said a black farmer. Their fierce determination to take action also led them to embark on a radical experiment in democracy. With the help of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) [including Stokely Carmichael, ‘one of SNNC’s most experienced field secretaries’], they created the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO), an all-black, independent political party whose ballot symbol was a snarling black panther.* ‘We ain’t backing up,’ said Sidney Logan, Jr., the LCFO candidate for sheriff. ‘We’re looking for power.’ Their bold bid to take over the local government transformed Lowndes County from an unheard of bastion of white supremacy to the center of southern black militancy. [….]
The creation of LCFO was the defining event of the Lowndes movement. It transformed local black political behavior by providing African Americans with a framework for a new kind of political engagement. It inspired black activists and emboldened black radicals nationwide, including Oakland-based organizers Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton, who named the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense after the LCFO ballot symbol. It also provided SNCC organizers with a new, more radical, organizing program that they famously called Black Power.”—Hasan Kwame Jeffries, Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama’s Black Belt (New York University Press, 2009).
* Jeffries says “the logo was the brainchild of SNCC field secretary Ruth Howard, who patterned it after the panther mascot of Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia” (now Clark Atlanta University), although it is found on a 1936 WPA (Federal Art Project) poster for the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. In any case, as Jeffries explains, the “snarling black panther” was as ballot symbol adopted “to meet the state requirement that every political party have a logo due to the high rate of adult illiteracy.”
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Black Panther Party Platform and Program: “What We Want, What We Believe” (1972) (modified from the original, 1966 version)
1. We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our Black and oppressed communities. We believe that Black and oppressed people will not be free until we are able to determine our destinies in our own communities ourselves, by fully controlling all the institutions which exist in our communities.
2. We want full employment for our people. We believe that the federal government is responsible and obligated to give every person employment or a guaranteed income. We believe that if the American businessmen will not give full employment, then the technology and means of production should be taken from the businessmen and placed in the community so that the people of the community can organize and employ all of its people and give a high standard of living.
3. We want an end to the robbery by the capitalist of our Black and oppressed communities. We believe that this racist government has robbed us and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules were promised 100 years ago as restitution for slave labor and mass murder of Black people. We will accept the payment in currency which will be distributed to our many communities. The American racist has taken part in the slaughter of over fifty million Black people. Therefore, we feel this is a modest demand that we make.
4. We want decent housing, fit for the shelter of human beings. We believe that if the landlords will not give decent housing to our Black and oppressed communities, then the housing and the land should be made into cooperatives so that the people in our communities, with government aid, can build and make decent housing and the land should be made into cooperatives so that the people in our communities, with government aid, can build and make decent housing for the people.
5. We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present-day society. We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of self. If you do not have knowledge of yourself and your position in the society and the world, then you will have little chance to know anything else.
6. We want completely free health care for all Black and oppressed people. We believe that the government must provide, free of charge, for the people, health facilities which will not only treat our illnesses, most of which have come about as a result of our oppression, but which will also develop preventative medical programs to guarantee our future survival. We believe that mass health education and research programs must be developed to give all Black and oppressed people access to advanced scientific and medical information, so we may provide ourselves with proper medical attention and care.
7. We want an immediate end to police brutality and murder of Black people, other people of color, all oppressed people inside the United States. We believe that the racist and fascist government of the United States uses its domestic enforcement agencies to carry out its program of oppression against Black people, other people of color and poor people inside the United States. We believe it is our right, therefore, to defend ourselves against such armed forces, and that all Black and oppressed people should be armed for self-defense of our homes and communities against these fascist police forces.
8. We want an immediate end to all wars of aggression. We believe that the various conflicts which exist around the world stem directly from the aggressive desires of the U.S. ruling circle and government to force its domination upon the oppressed people of the world. We believe that if the U.S. government or its lackeys do not cease these aggressive wars that it is the right of the people to defend themselves by any means necessary against their aggressors.
9. We want freedom for all Black and poor oppressed people now held in U.S. federal, state, county, city and military prisons and jails. We want trials by a jury of peers for all persons charged with so-called crimes under the laws of this country. We believe that the many Black and poor oppressed people now held in U.S. prisons and jails have not received fair and impartial trials under a racist and fascist judicial system and should be free from incarceration. We believe in the ultimate elimination of all wretched, inhuman penal institutions, because the masses of men and women imprisoned inside the United States or by the U.S. military are the victims of oppressive conditions which are the real cause of their imprisonment. We believe that when persons are brought to trial that they must be guaranteed, by the United States, juries of their peers, attorneys of their choice and freedom from imprisonment while awaiting trials.
10. We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, peace and people's community control of modern technology. When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.
* Black Panther Intercommunal News Service, May 13, 1972.
My select bibliography for the Black Panther Party is here.
During the Vietnam War on this date in October 1972, there was a “mutiny” or “riot” on the Navy aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk ostensibly led by African American sailors (‘The ship’s complement consisted of 4,483 sailors, aircrew, and Marines, 302 of whom were black.’) Accounts vary as to what precisely precipitated the mutiny (and various conditions contributed to its proximate causes), one stating it began when Marines attempted to disrupt a protest meeting of black sailors. The meeting had been called in response to what occurred when the warship was in Subic Bay, the night before its scheduled departure:
“…[S]erious fighting erupted at the Subic Bay men’s club, the San Paquito. On the evening of the twelfth, after the first full day of combat in the Tonkin Gulf, the ship’s intelligence investigator exacerbated still smoldering tensions by calling in only black sailors for questioning and possible criminal action related to the brawl at Subic. Outraged at what they considered blatant discrimination, over one hundred blacks gathered for an angry meeting on the mess deck at approximately 8 P.M. The ship’s Marine detachment was summoned to suppress the meeting, and an explosive situation soon developed. Commander Benjamin Cloud, the executive officer and a black man himself, entered the area and attempted to restore calm by ordering the blacks and the Marines to separate ends of the ship. Moments later, however, Captain Marland Townsend, the commanding officer, arrived and issued conflicting orders. As confusion spread, the blacks and the armed Marines encountered each other unexpectedly on the hangar deck, and a bitter clash quickly broke out. The fighting spread rapidly, with bands of blacks and whites marauding throughout the ship’s decks and attacking each other with fists, chains, wrenches, and pipes. [….] Finally, after a 2:30 A.M. meeting in the ship’s forecastle, the fighting subsided. The uprising left forty whites and six blacks injured. Of the twenty-five sailors arrested for the incident, all were black.” (David Cortright)
Twenty-nine sailors–all but three of them black–were eventually charged with crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and 19 were found guilty of at least one charge.
The “mutiny” should be viewed as part of widespread antiwar protests within the US armed forces, in this case, as part of the movement called SOS (Stop Our Ships/Support Our Sailors). H. Bruce Franklin provides the requisite historical context which should preclude us from reducing this incident to solely racial tensions and provocations:
“In 1970 and 1971, ships had been sporadically forced out of action by outbreaks and even sabotage by crew members. Occasional inconspicuous newspaper articles allowed perceptive members of the general public to get inklings of what was happening to the fleet. An early example was the destroyer Richard B. Anderson, which was kept from sailing to Vietnam for eight weeks when crew members deliberately wrecked an engine. Toward the end of 1971, the sailors’ antiwar activities coalesced into a coherent movement called SOS (Stop Our Ships/Support Our Sailors) that emerged on three of the gigantic aircraft carriers crucial to the Tonkin Gulf Strategy [and later, Operation Linebacker]: the USS Constellation, the USS Coral Sea, and the USS Kitty Hawk. (One early act was a petition by 1,500 crew members of the Constellation demanding that Jane Fonda’s antiwar show be allowed to perform on board.) On these three ships alone that fall, thousands of crew members signed antiwar petitions, published onboard antiwar newspapers, and supported the dozens of crew members who refuse to board for Vietnam duty.
In March 1972 the aircraft carrier USS Midway received orders to leave San Francisco Bay for Vietnam. A wave of protests and sabotage swept the ship, hitting the press when dissident crewmen deliberately spilled three thousand gallons of oil into the bay. In June the attack carrier USS Ranger was ordered to sail from San Diego to Vietnam. The Naval Investigative Service reported large-scale clandestine movement among the crew and at least twenty acts of physical sabotage, culminating in the destruction of the main reduction gear of an engine; repairs forced a four-and-a-half month delay in the ship’s sailing. In July the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal was prevented from sailing by a major fire deliberately set by crewmen, which caused millions of dollars of damage to the captain’s and admiral’s quarters of the ship. In September and October the crew of the Corral Sea, which had been publishing the antiwar newspaper We Are Everywhere for a year, staged renewed protests against the war, with over a thousand crewmen signing a petition to “Stop Our Ship.” It was forced to return to San Francisco Bay, where crew members held a national press conference and helped organize rallies and other demonstrations. Almost a hundred crew members, including several officers, refused Vietnam service and jumped ship in California and Hawaii. In September crew members of the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga organized their own “Stop It Now” movement, and navy intelligence tried unsuccessfully to break up the SOS movement on the showpiece carrier USS Enterprise, home of the antiwar paper SOS Enterprise Ledger. A bloody September battle between groups of marines on the amphibious landing ship USS Sumter in the Gulf of Tonkin off Vietnam was not made public until the following January.”
Franklin proceeds to note the outbreak that took place on the Kitty Hawk—“where organized antiwar activities (including publication of the antiwar paper Kitty Litter) had continued during its eight-month tour off Vietnam”—only to be followed several days later by fighting on the Kitty Hawk’s oiler, the USS Hassayampa. “The Kitty Hawk was forced to retire to San Diego, whence it sailed to San Francisco in early January, where it underwent a ‘six-month refitting job.’ The sailors’ movement had thus removed this major aircraft carrier from the war.”
That “Black Power” ideology and political praxis was making inroads among African American soldiers in the antiwar movement is evidenced in what is described as the “largest and most significant” of these antiwar protests and rebellions, namely, one that took place aboard the USS Constellation in early November 1972, and “has been aptly described as ‘the first mass mutiny in the history of the U.S. Navy.’”
“In October, during training operations off the Southern California coast, black crew members formed an organization called the ‘Black Fraction,’ with the aim of protecting minority interests in promotion policies and in the administration of military justice. Throughout October the group held several meetings, including one attended by the ship’s executive officer, where programs were developed to defend blacks subjected to court-martial proceedings and to examine the ship’s records for evidence of discrimination in non-judicial punishment. As the organization grew in strength, the command, on November 1, singled out fifteen leading members of Black Fraction as agitators and ordered that six of them be given immediate less-than-honorable discharges. At approximately the same time, a notice appeared in the ship’s plan of the day announcing that 250 additional men were to be administratively discharged. Fearing that most of these punitive releases would be directed at them and angry at the command’s apparent efforts to suppress their activities, over one hundred sailors, including a number of whites, staged a sit-in at the after mess deck on November 3 and demanded that the ship’s commander, Captain J.D. Ward, personally hear their grievances. The captain refused to acknowledge them, however, and the dissidents continued their strike throughout the day and into the early morning hours on November 4, refusing a direct order to report for muster on the flight deck. As tensions aboard the ship mounted, a series of high-level consultations were held among Captain Ward, the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Zumwalt in Washington, and other senior naval commanders. To avert another Kitty Hawk, the officials reluctantly decided to cut sea operations short and return the rebels to San Diego as a ‘beach detachment.’ Captain Ward pulled the ship into the harbor on the fourth and allowed more hand one hundred thirty men to go ashore. The Constellation returned a few days later to pick up the dissidents, but the men refused to board ship, and on the morning of November 9 staged a defiant dockside strike—perhaps the largest act of mass defiance in naval history. Despite the seriousness of their action, not one of the one hundred thirty sailors was arrested. Several of the men received early discharges, but most were simply reassigned to shore duty.” (David Cortright)
My select bibliography for the Vietnam War is here.
Good discussion of this in Politico.
Everything (well, not everything, but a lot of stuff) you wanted to know about the Islamic World but heretofore (and apart from Wikipedia) did not know where to begin, I have gathered together below. The following resources should suffice by way of an introduction and material for further exploration, research and reading, should you summon the requisite motivation:
Recently, I proudly presided at the wedding of Jacob Shiffrin and Sarah Olbrantz in Saint Louis, Missouri. It was a wonderful event. But, how you might ask, could I have the authority to marry them. I am not a judge, a clergyman, or authorized by a religious institution of which Jacob or Sarah are members as Missouri law seems to require. The answer, of course, is that I became a pseudo-clergyman on line in a couple of minutes. Missouri accepts such credentials. So do most states (although questions have been raised in Connecticut, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, and New York). Although Missouri permits judges to marry couples, some states require that only spiritual leaders preside at weddings.
Suppose, however, that a couple want a non-religious social worker to marry them. Is a state law preventing the social worker from marrying the couple constitutional? It strikes me that a law forcing a couple to be married by a minister or a pseudo-minister establishes religion within the meaning of the First Amendment. If the purpose of such laws is to assure that couples are well advised, there is no basis for excluding the social worker. If the purpose of the law is to impose religious advice on the couple, the laws would seem to clearly violate the First Amendment.
In 1753, Parliament required that couples be married in Anglican churches with exceptions for Jews and Quakers. We have come a long way since then. We have a long way to go.
“James Forman (October 4, 1928 – January 10, 2005) was an American Civil Rights leader active in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Black Panther Party, and the International Black Workers Congress.”
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The following is from the Foreword (June 1997) by Julian Bond to James Forman’s The Making of Black Revolutionaries (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1997 ed. [Macmillan, 1972]): xi-xiii.
“James Forman is one of the under-appreciated figures of the modern civil rights movement. His autobiography, The Making of Black Revolutionaries, is a classic.
In a determined voice, Forman describes his life and activism. He doesn’t mince words. Nor is he cautious in his descriptions of those he believes to be enemies of black progress, whether black or white. Revolutionaries is precious because it represents one of the very few autobiographies by a youthful activist. [….]
James Forman had enormous influence on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the civil rights movement, and on me personally. He molded SNCC’s near-anarchic personality into a functioning, if still chaotic, organizational structure, and insured that most of its parts functioned smoothly most of the time. He brought his trained historian’s eye and values to our work, thereby accounting for the large repository of field and other reports, giving SNCC the best detailed records (for its short life) among its contemporary and often competing organizations.
‘Write it all down’ was his constant injunction; because he insisted, the SNCC files contain often lyrical descriptions of exactly how an organizer goes about his or her work. Here one may learn who the real ‘leaders’ are, and how those who aspire to leadership can be helped to develop to their fullest. The SNCC field secretaries’ reports, written at Forman’s insistence and withheld at great peril, offer a day-to-day account of community organizing that cannot be found anywhere else. [….]
Forman’s scholarly bent also guided his selection of SNCC staff; the organization had the best research arm of any civil rights organization before or since. Field secretaries entered the rural, small-town South armed with evidence of who controlled what, and who, in turn, owned them.
‘Power structure’ was no abstract phrase for SNCC’s brand of brothers and sisters, but a real list with real people’s names and addresses and descriptions of assets and interlocking directorships, demonstrating how large interests, ranging from Memphis and New York banks to the Queen of England, might own at least partial control of a plantation in Mississippi’s Delta. Knowledge of who owned what was crucial to SNCC’s strategies. From it, we knew that Southern peonage was no accident, but rather the deliberate result of economic policies determined thousands of miles away from the cotton field. [….]
James Forman was slightly older than most SNCC people, and that age advantage gave him a solemnity and seriousness well suited to the task he undertook. Undoubtedly, his military experience—recounted in frightful detail in these pages—made a great difference, too, for most of us were just old enough to worry about the draft when the movement caught us up and made several of us happily ineligible for military service. Imposing governance on the self-styled revolutionaries was a difficult task, but Forman proved equal to it.
He became SNCC’s Executive Secretary because the field staff wanted firm assurance that they would receive their meager pay on time and, equally as important, that a steady hand was ever present in the Atlanta headquarters to insure that the jailings, beatings, and deaths they expected to occur would not pass by unnoticed.
Forman was a master propagandist. He insisted that SNCC develop a publicity apparatus—called Communications—and that it produce material of the highest quality and unassailable objectivity. In time, we owned a large web-fed offset press, had four staff photographers and a professional-level darkroom, and printed a newspaper, The Student Voice. [….]
My favorite Forman memory is of the many youthful whites who trickled into the office, usually convinced that their unique determination and commitment were just what the movement needed, demanding to be put to work leading demonstrations in deepest Mississippi or organizing some other dangerous action elsewhere. Forman’s usual response was to give them a broom and instructions to report back when the office floors were swept. Some left before they finished; those who completed the task were given a second look. He also often swept the floor and cleaned restrooms, believing he ought never [like Mohandas Gandhi] to ask anyone to do task he would not do himself.
‘Forman provided a necessary ingredient in the development of an organizational structure for the southern student movement,’ writes SNCC historian Clayborne Carson. ‘Without a leader like Forman, who was prepared to assume responsibility for fund-raising and directing the activities of a full-time staff, it is unlikely that SNCC could have become a durable organization.’
Carson is right—without Forman, there would have been no SNCC, at least not the one that developed in the early 1960s. Without SNCC, it is doubtful that the movement would have succeeded as well as it did….” [….]
Greg Deal’s Leonard Peltier mural at the Albuquerque, New Mexico Peace and Justice Center, headquarters for the Peltier Defense Committee
“Leonard Peltier (born September 12, 1944) is a Native American activist and member of the American Indian Movement (AIM). In 1977 he was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment for first degree murder in the shooting of two Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents during a 1975 conflict on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Peltier’s indictment and conviction have been the subject of much controversy; Amnesty International placed his case under the ‘Unfair Trials’ category of its Annual Report: USA 2010.
Peltier is incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary, Coleman in Florida. Peltier’s next scheduled parole hearing will be in July 2024. Barring appeals, parole, or presidential pardon, his projected release date is October 11, 2040.”
Indeed, Peltier is “considered by Amnesty International, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, National Congress of American Indians, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Rev. Jesse Jackson, among many others, to be a political prisoner who should be immediately released. [….] Mr. Peltier has been in prison for over  years.”
“According to a new estimate in 2016, there are 3.3 million Muslims living in the United States, about 1% of the total U.S. population.” OK, that’s a sufficient “reason” for at least some of us to take an interest in Islamic ethics (as with other ethical traditions, it is both ‘lived’ and, as an ideal, aspirational), about which I suspect there’s abundant ignorance.
Here is a very select list of titles (you’re warmly invited to add more in the comments), in English, on “Islamic ethics.” Of course ethics in Islam cannot be discussed without—at the very least—a corresponding knowledge of Islamic theology and jurisprudence. Still, and for comparative and philosophical reasons, we can make sense of “Islamic ethics” as such, much in the manner we speak of and write about other kinds of religious ethics (e.g., Christian, Buddhist…).
From the New York Times to PBS, the media proclaims that Donald Trump is not stable, but he is the change candidate, and Hillary Clinton is not. In other words, she just stands for four more years of Obama.
In one sense this is true. It will not be possible to get legislation through the Republican House. At the same time, Trump would not be able to get anything through the Senate which is likely to be controlled by the Democrats. So on the domestic level, whoever is President will govern at the margins by executive order, although appointments to the federal departments are obviously important.
In terms of foreign policy, Trump is the change candidate. But change in the hands of an ignorant, reckless, thin-skinned, narcissist is hard to rally around.
But Hillary Clinton is the real change candidate. The Supreme Court has been dominated by Republicans since the 1970’s – more than 40 years. If the Democrats control the Court, the change will be huge. The Court will no longer be the lap child of the Chamber of Commerce. Citizens United will be a bad dream of the past. The rights of criminal defendants can be restored. Our cruel penal system can be reformed. The rights of dissenting voices can be given the protections they deserve. Voting rights restrictions will be rebuffed. Moreover, the Court has the power to address the system in which poor communities get less funds per student for education than wealthy communities. Indeed, instead of being a tool of the rich and powerful, the Court can once again be a place of justice for those who are subordinated in today’s America.
This is the real change that can take place because of this election, and Hillary Clinton is the change candidate.
“[f]raming symbols and discourses—rendered in the form of images, platforms and demands—are the most critical aspect of any movement-building effort. At their most effective, they bring political coherence and focus to an activist community, convey meaning and goals to supporters and potential participants, mobilize constituents to action, and equip adherents organizationally to contest for legitimacy (and power). Along these lines, framing discourses can communicate insurgent ideas about what changes are necessary, rather than simply what reforms are deemed possible.”
There are numerous historical exemplifications, some well-known, others less so, of such “framing” by social movements and political groups in the diverse struggles for black freedom and self-determination in this country. The end of legal institution of chattel slavery took place, first, with the Emancipation Proclamation, followed by the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery and involuntary servitude (although the exception that established ‘punishment for crime’ has led to notoriously nefarious consequences for the criminal justice system: ‘From the very beginning, the slave narrative, in both fact and fiction, has shaped America’s approach to crime control and punishment’*). Lang provides us with some historical exemplars by of a vivid and inspiriting backdrop to the attempt by The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) to continue this tradition of “transformative agenda setting:”
“The work of movement framing has been an enduring feature of struggles for black freedom, though each wave of struggle has imagined black freedom in historically specific ways. This history includes the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs (1896), which promoted seven ‘Objectives’ for the education, economic welfare and social rights of women and youth during the early years of Jim Crow, and popularized the motto ‘Lifting as We Climb.’ It also encompasses the Universal Negro Improvement Association’s 1920 ‘Declaration of the Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World,’ which globalized a Black Nationalist vision of self-determination in the wreckage of the First World War. Similarly, the ‘Ten-Point Program’ of Oakland’s Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (1966) reflected an anti-colonial consciousness prevalent among urban youth of color. As another example, the ‘Combahee River Collective Statement’ (1977) spoke to a growing intersectional approach to both analyzing and combating oppression on the bases of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Moreover, in its 1998 ‘Freedom Agenda,’ the Black Radical Congress reacted to the retreat from racial equality and economic justice that had occurred during the successive presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and William Jefferson Clinton, and offered a politically left alternative to the reactionary black conservatism of the 1995 Million Man March.”
The Movement for Black Lives is a coalition of over 50 groups and organizations that “engaged in a year long process of convening local and national groups to create a United Front,” united so as to articulate its “common aspirations” and formulate a “Platform” statement with “demands,” including the outline of some 30-plus policies. The “Policy Demands” revolve around the following topics: “the war on black people,” “reparations,” “investments and divestments,” “economic justice,” “democratic community control,” and “independent Black political power and Black self-determination.” In Lang’s words,
“On a bigger canvas, these ‘Policy Demands’ speak to the effects of a current neoliberal landscape characterized by, among other things, a denigration of social welfare expenditures and ideas of the public good; an emphasis on fiscal austerity and the punitive functions of the state; the deregulation of capital; widening gaps of wealth and privilege; the reduction of all social relations to private market exchanges; and the resulting atomization of the individual.”
Please read Lang’s post, and click on the links above for the specific policy demands. This is an impressive, timely and radical document that deserves wide circulation, discussion, and endorsement.
* Donald F. Tibbs, From Black Power to Prison Power: The Making of Jones v. North Carolina Prisoners’ Union (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012): 181.
Today is the birthday of the philosopher, Alain Locke:
“Alain LeRoy Locke (September 13, 1885 – June 9, 1954) was an American writer, philosopher, educator, and patron of the arts. Distinguished as the first African American Rhodes Scholar in 1907, Locke was the philosophical architect —the acknowledged ‘Dean’— of the Harlem Renaissance.”
The following is from the introduction to the entry on Locke in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy by Jacoby Adeshei Carter:
“Alain LeRoy Locke is heralded as the ‘Father of the Harlem Renaissance’ for his publication in 1925 of The New Negro—an anthology of poetry, essays, plays, music and portraiture by white and black artists. Locke is best known as a theorist, critic, and interpreter of African-American literature and art. He was also a creative and systematic philosopher who developed theories of value, pluralism and cultural relativism that informed and were reinforced by his work on aesthetics. Locke saw black aesthetics quite differently than some of the leading Negro intellectuals of his day; most notably W. E. B. Du Bois, with whom he disagreed about the appropriate social function of Negro artistic pursuits. Du Bois thought it was a role and responsibility of the Negro artist to offer a representation of the Negro and black experience which might help in the quest for social uplift. Locke criticized this as ‘propaganda’ and argued that the primary responsibility and function of the artist is to express his own individuality, and in doing that to communicate something of universal human appeal.
Locke was a distinguished scholar and educator and during his lifetime an important philosopher of race and culture. Principal among his contributions in these areas was the development of the notion of ‘ethnic race,’ Locke’s conception of race as primarily a matter of social and cultural, rather than biological, heredity. Locke was in contemporary parlance a racial revisionist, and held the somewhat controversial and paradoxical view that it was often in the interests of groups to think and act as members of a ‘race’ even while they consciously worked for the destruction or alteration of pernicious racial categories. Racial designations were for Locke incomprehensible apart from an understanding of the specific cultural and historical contexts in which they grew up. A great deal of Locke’s philosophical thinking and writing in the areas of pluralism, relativism and democracy are aimed at offering a more lucid understanding of cultural or racial differences and prospects for more functional methods of navigating contacts between different races and cultures.
Locke, like Du Bois, is often affiliated with the pragmatist philosophical tradition though somewhat surprisingly—surprising because Locke’s actual views are closer substantively to pragmatist thinkers Like Dewey, James, and Royce than are Du Bois’s—he does not receive as much attention in the writings of contemporary pragmatist philosophers as does Du Bois. Regardless, he is most strongly identified with the pragmatist tradition, but his ‘critical pragmatism’ and most specifically his value theory, is also influenced by Hugo Münsterberg, F.S.C. Schiller, Alexius Meinong, Frantz Brentano, and Christian von Erhenfels. From early on in his education at Harvard University, Locke had an affinity for the pragmatist tradition in philosophy. Locked developed his mature views on axiology well in advance of many leading pragmatists—e.g., Dewey and James. Among pragmatists, Locke has arguably the most developed and systematic philosophy of value, and offers many critical insights concerning democracy.”
The Alain Locke Society was founded by Leonard Harris, with Jacoby Adeshei Carter serving as Executive Director.
A Select Bibliography:
Steve (Stephen Bantu) Biko (18 December 1946 – 12 September 1977), “leader of the South African Students’ Organisation (SASO) and pioneer of the Black Consciousness philosophy, died in police custody at the age of thirty. Biko was arrested in the outskirts of Grahamstown on 18 August 1977. During his detention in a Port Elizabeth police cell he had been chained to a grill at night and left to lie in urine-soaked blankets. He had been stripped naked and kept in leg-irons for 48 hours in his cell. A blow in a scuffle with security police led to him suffering brain damage. Realising to a certain extent the seriousness of his condition, the police decided to transfer him to a prison hospital in Pretoria, which was 1133 km away. He died shortly after his arrival there. His death was confirmed by the commissioner of police, General Gert Prinsloo.”
This following is a small portion of an extract from Biko’s giving of evidence in the SASO/BPC [South African Students’ Organisation/Black People’s Convention] trial (1975-76, almost two full years!) of nine student leaders who “were found guilty under the Terrorism Act and sentenced to periods of imprisonment, three for six years and six for five years. The next day they were driven from Pretoria to Cape Town in the back of a police van, and from there taken to Robben Island.” Biko was queried by the defence lawyer, Advocate David Soggot (assistant counsel for Defence), Mr. L. Attwell, assistant counsel for the Prosecution, and the trial judge, Judge Boshoff.
“We try to get blacks in conscientisation to grapple realistically with their problems, to attempt to find solutions to their problems, to develop what one might call an awareness, a physical awareness of their situation, to be able to analyse it, and to provide answers for themselves. The purpose behind it really being to provide some kind of hope; I think the central theme about black society is that it has got elements of a defeated society, people often look like they have given up on the struggle. Like the man who was telling me that he now lives to work, he has given himself to the idea. Now this sense of defeat is basically what we are fighting against; people must develop a hope, people must develop some form of security to be together to look at their problems, and people must in this way build up their humanity. This is the point about conscientisation and Black Consciousness.”— Steve Biko: I Write What I Like—Selected Writings (University of Chicago Press, 2002; first published in London: The Bowerdean Press, 1978): 114.
“The incident that has erupted here at Attica is not a result of the dastardly bushwacking of the two prisoners Sept. 8, 1971 but of the unmitigated oppression wrought by the racist administration network of the prison, throughout the year.
WE are MEN! We are not beasts and do not intend to be beaten or driven as such. The entire prison population has set forth to change forever the ruthless brutalization and disregard for the lives of the prisoners here and throughout the United State. What has happened here is but the sound before the fury of those who are oppressed.” – “L.D.” (Elliot James) Barkley, reading aloud from the introductory paragraphs of The Five Demands in the prison’s D-Yard
Today marks the 45th anniversary of the start of the revolt (to reduce it to a ‘riot’ is misleading and tendentious, thus inaccurate) by prisoners of the Attica Correctional Facility. Thirty-nine individuals were killed by corrections officers and state troopers in the armed assault of the prison, nine of which were hostages, one, a civilian, and the remaining twenty-nine persons, inmates (several deaths occurred prior to re-taking control of the prison). As Heather Ann Thompson notes in her new book on the uprising (see below), numerous others were “wounded, maimed, tortured, and scarred” at the prison on September 13, 1971.
The New York Times has an archival page with helpful material covering the various historical, sociological, and political dimensions of the Uprising. See too this interview with Joseph “Jazz” Hayden at Jacobin (first published in the Socialist Worker).
Today is also the date chosen for a nationwide “prison strike” (a ‘Nationally Coordinated Prisoner Work stoppage’): “This September 9, we may witness the largest prison strike in US history. Potentially thousands of inmates across both state and federal prisons in as many as 24 states plan to engage in a coordinated strike and protest in an attempt to bring attention to the daily injustice of their lives. The strikers are calling for an end to ‘slave-like’ working conditions, illegal reprisals, and inhumane living conditions.
Planned for the 45th anniversary of the Attica Prison uprising, the actions of September 9 will shed light on the often decrepit conditions suffered by the 2.4 million people in what is the largest carceral system in the world. They will also mark a new point in the fight against mass incarceration, and likely stand as a harbinger for further actions and strikes to come. Malik Washington, an inmate in the H. H. Coffield Unit in Texas and the chief spokesperson for the End Prison Slavery in Texas movement, wrote to me in a letter: ‘Prisoners in Amerikan prisons are sick and tired of being degraded, dehumanized, and exploited.’—From John Washington’s September 7th article in The Nation.
I want to share this extraordinarily profound and eloquent (not ‘eloquent’ in the sense that a Trump supporter on CNN confidently described a recent campaign speech by Trump as ‘eloquent’) passage from Tom Wicker’s book, A Time to Die: The Attica Prison Revolt (Haymarket Books, 2011; first published by Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Co., 1975). It comes at a point in the micro-historical narrative of events surrounding the Attica Uprising when “negotiations” with the prisoners in D-yard appear to have ended and Wicker has just gotten off the phone with Governor Nelson Rockefeller in a futile, last minute effort to persuade him to meet with the “Observers Committee” (which consisted of 14 individuals invited by the rebelling inmates and an additional 23 other members) so as to, among other things, buy time in order to enhance the probability that a “massacre,” as an otherwise predictable result of the effort by authorities to re-take control of the prison, would not occur. In short, Wicker was “hoping the governor would become alarmed from his descriptions of the violence he thought impending and would be encouraged by the possibility of reassuring the inmates with his presence:”
“He wondered if the trouble was not, rather, that to the Rockefellers of the world, those institutions, processes, and arrangements by which humans had sought to order their affairs had become, finally, more important than the people who had erected them and sought to live by them.
Perhaps that was why the state for all its good intentions and the system for all its idealistic trappings—democracy and representation and due process—so often produced injustice and myopia and indifference and rigidity. Perhaps that is why men like Tom Wicker [in the Preface, Wicker explains his use of the third person] could perceive the system as basically sound, the state as fundamentally well-meaning, the people as mostly decent—yet stumble time and again on the inequities and callousness and brutalities wrought in the name of society. Perhaps the fault lay not in any system but in men’s profound instinct to establish and maintain, at all costs, an order of things.
Never mind, if so, the intrinsic value of Attica, the ‘institution’ then in question, its palpable responsibility for the injustices and wastage happening within it. The state could sustain Attica, even call it a ‘correctional facility,’ because it was an institution, and official at that, a part of the order of things, serving that order against the frightening possibilities of unruly humanity, undisciplined conduct. Re-opening it, restoring the order, was more important than that many lives might have to be sacrificed to do it. Captain ‘Starry’ Vere could see no higher duty or obligation than maintenance of the King’s established naval code. Indeed, he told his brother officers that ‘in receiving our commissions we in the most important regards ceased to be natural free agents.’ So it was not only they who condemned Billy Budd to death, but only ‘martial law operating through us’—the order of things.
Similarly, neither Rockefeller nor any of his officials wanted to cause loss of life. But the order of things was operating through them. Institutions and processes required of them a way of doing and believing, a system of behavior, to which they gave allegiance, sometimes passionately, sometimes pragmatically, usually without question. ‘Tell me whether or not, occupying the position we do,’ Captain Vere demanded to know, ‘private conscience should not yield to that imperial one formulated in the code under which alone we officially proceed?’ Rockefeller could have put the question to Wicker as dispassionately.
Institutions must not only function, whatever the end result; the order of things must be preserved. The powerful must not be at the beck and call of the powerless even when suddenly the powerless wield momentary power, for the powerful are obliged to meet great responsibilities to the order of things. That order gives them their power and must survive the moment. Governors must not deal as equals with lawbreakers; that would endanger the order of the things. Amnesty must not be granted to offenders; they must pay a debt to the order of things. If policemen and armies, being human, sometimes go too far, use unusual force, that is deplorable, but still they are the necessary enforcers of the order of things, what is the alternative? Only the unimaginable—that the order of things be sacrificed to life.”
William Kunstler at New York City rally protesting the carnage at Attica that led to the deaths of 29 inmates and 10 hostages killed by corrections officers and state troopers (recalling with James Forman, Jr., that ‘[t]he most sadistic crimes took place after state officials had full control of the prison’).
Today is the 21st anniversary of the death of William Kunstler (July 17, 1919 - September 4, 1995), the indefatigable Left-activist (‘cause’) lawyer and WW II U.S. Army veteran. Here is his Wikipedia entry, which is tolerable, all things considered, although it fails to mention that Kunstler was among those asked to negotiate on behalf of the rebelling inmates at Attica Correctional Facility, September 9 -13, 1971. Kunstler’s efforts in solidarity with the prisoners in D-yard is discussed in Tom Wicker’s (also invited by the prisoners to assist in negotiations and a member of the ‘Observers Committee’) A Time to Die: The Attica Prison Revolt (Haymarket Books, 2011; originally published by Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Co., 1975) and Heather Ann Thompson’s Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy (Pantheon Books, 2016). Kunstler also represented one of the “Central Park Five” defendants, all of whom had their convictions vacated by New York Supreme Court Justice Charles J. Tejada on December 19, 2002 (they had completed their prison sentences at the time of Tejada’s order).*
In 2009, two of his four daughters, Emily and Sarah Kunstler, completed a documentary about their late father, William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe.
* Let’s not forget that Donald Trump, “in early May, 1989, took out a full-page ad in the Daily News to say what he thought he knew about the case.” There is, no doubt, consistency of character here.
This “manifesto” was inspired several years ago by a PrawsBlawg post of Kelly Anders that asked, “If you had to design a model for a ‘people’s law school,’ what would it contain, and how would it compare to schools that already exist?” I’m not prepared to design a model, yet, provoked by her question, I would like to suggest some items: literature, programs, institutions, course material, commitments and so forth that might be essential to the moral perspective, socio-economic and political values, and pedagogical practices of any such enterprise. My menu of items is not meant to be exhaustive but merely illustrative or representative of what should (or at least could) motivate and sustain the creation of a “people’s law school,” one that is unabashedly of Leftist provenance and orientation, its fundamental principles based on the triune motto of the French Revolution: “liberté, égalité, fraternité.” My first post on this topic, “Toward a Manifesto of Inspiration for A People’s Law School,” is here. (Please note that this is intended for anyone with a passionate interest in the law and thus not just for teachers and students in J.D. programs.)
Requisite Books & (a few) Articles:
I have a comparatively short bibliography dedicated to the aim of synthesizing Marxism and Freudian psychology, for complementary social scientific and emancipatory reasons: Marxism & Freudian Psychology: Toward an Emancipatory Synthesis. At the end of the list there are links to the much larger, respective compilations for Marxism and Freudian (and post-Freudian) psychology.
Of course, under the circumstances, Hillary Clinton must be elected President, but what can she be trusted to do? I will argue that there is a lot to worry about here, but first, some things she can be trusted to do. First, she will appoint Justices who will transform the Supreme Court from a dream of the Federalist Society to a moderately liberal court that respects equality, principles of criminal justice, and fairness in elections. Second, she will on most issues act like a Democratic President. Third, e-mail carelessness to the contrary, her brilliance, experience and judgment will make her a reliable anchor in foreign policy and national security (though many of us prefer she were less hawkish). Fourth, she will block Donald Trump from ever becoming President of the United States.
But there is much to worry about and not because she is more likely to issue false statements or shift positions than most politicians (though she is too slow to admit mistakes and has tried to brazen her way through). My main concern is that, according to Thomas Frank, Hillary Clinton was Bill Clinton’s main political advisor, and Bill Clinton campaigned as a progressive, but governed in a regressive way. Yes, he secured the earned income tax credit, and he tried hard for health care, but he stuck it to labor with NAFTA, set up a recession with the repeal of Glass Steagall (while currying the favor of bankers), endorsed a punitive crime bill, a bill that explicitly set far higher penalties for crack cocaine despite its disproportionate impact on African Americans. And, with explicit support from Hillary Clinton, not to mention Al Gore (over the objections of Robert Reich and even Robert Rubin), he changed welfare as we know it by throwing tens of thousands of women and dependent children off welfare. The party that cared about the poor and working people became the party that cared about professionals and people with money to contribute. Bill Clinton claimed to be a new Democrat. It was new; but it had nothing to recommend it.
Will Hillary Clinton follow the lead of Bill Clinton (and many others) by governing in way that is different from the carefully negotiated platform? One basis for concern is that she apparently would like to be a two term President. Unless her polling negatives drop, there is good reason to believe that she would lose to any likely Republican nominee. Crazy, as the Republicans are, they are not likely to nominate anyone as unhinged as Donald Trump. I think it likely that Hillary Clinton is not immune from the belief that a policy which makes it more likely for her to be reelected is the right policy to be pursued. Thankfully, however, there is good reason to believe that Hillary Clinton will govern in general accord with the Party platform. Although that platform repudiates the policies of Bill Clinton, those policies are not good politics today if they ever were before, and the voters’ anger over inequality is not likely to disappear over the coming years. Failure to follow the policies of the Democratic Party platform may curry favor with big business, but it will be a prescription for electoral failure.