Defund The Police, Refund The Community: The Myth and Propaganda of Black Buying Power

As 1968 draws to a close for the second time, I have only passing thoughts to add to the word avalanche.

  • Will Credit-Card Biden really fulfill the abandoned visions of pre-Vietnam Lyndon B. Johnson and the economic-bill-of-rights Franklin Delano Roosevelt? Although I would not suggest anyone hold their breaths, Pooh’s head would hurt to see so many re-thinkings in America.
  • My friend Jared Ball’s new book, The Myth and Propaganda of Black Buying Power (now free for The People!) breaks so many patterns of thought, pushing away from the mythical “buying power” and toward economic redistribution. It has to be part of the Black discussions on how to approach that redistribution. An excerpt:  “What magnifies the impact of buying power claims is that they are largely promoted by, and even the product of, a Black commercial press who would transform the original concept into one designed to specifically target Black audiences. Beginning with John H. Johnson and carried throughout commercial media to today via the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), Target Market News, through popular journalists, academics and media personalities such as Tavis Smiley, Tom Joyner, and Dr. Julianne Malveaux, and also traditional Civil Rights organizations, including the Urban League and the NAACP, the myth has been propagated for two primary reasons. First—less known and garnering far less attention in the overall conversation—is that buying power is used as a means to attract advertising revenue by convincing White corporations of the potential of the Black consumer. Second, for so heavily propagating the myth—far more popular and far more mythological—is as a means of collective uplift or empowerment. Buying power largely then becomes a way for contemporary leadership or punditry to rebrand particular and far more conservative traditions of Black political struggle absent a meaningful examination of the history of these claims, their shortcomings, or criticism.”
  • Smiley, Joyner, and Malveaux have faded from the scene, but replaced by an army of Black liberals, ready for their 8-minute MSNBC segments. There is not one conversation on American “justice” since James Baldwin died that doesn’t lead to liberal democracy and capitalism.
  • What ideas from 19th and 20th century America are going to join those Confederate statues into history’s dumpster? This period seems so exciting, but Black radical anger has quickly faded before. At least we will have a real March on Washington this time.

Mumia Supporters Zoom Through An Active Weekend

This sentence is being produced as Day 3, Hour Five (of 24!) is about to begin. It’s been interesting seeing, feeling such concentrated Mumia stuff in one 72-hour or so period. For those of us old-heads (my first article about Abu-Jamal was written in early 1995, before Live From Death Row was released, it’s Old Home Week–all the old interviews joined with the original and more recent commentaries. Joined with activists young and not-so-young, sharing rhymes of all sorts. Powerful video collection starring Debbie and Mike Africa Sr., married members of the MOVE 9, and Jr.! (HOUR 10/11 UPDATE: Very detailed Inside the Activist Studio interview with Sekou Odinga.)

Since I already knew that Abu-Jamal has written so many columns, you can divide them into categories and display them chronologically, here are two important things I’ve gotten thus far:

  • During Friday’s Teach-in, Johanna Fernandez, who correctly described how Abu-Jamal “disciplined his prose” in prison, said she and her fellow organizers were inspired by the fact that the movement to stop Abu-Jamal from being executed on August 17, 1995, was the first radical movement to use email and the Internet.
  • Kathy Boudin, a legend in radical Left circles, proclaimed that Abu-Jamal was a “tremendous inspiration” to her because of his example of resistance and his very productivity, his very effective use of time.  Boudin said the imprisoned writer, 38 of 66 years in jail now, was worthy of celebration because of a) his leadership in showing how to use incarceration and b) his life of resistance. Abu-Jamal, she explained, is someone who “has been able to both immerse himself inside of the actual reality of the life he’s living in prison and at the same time he is able to work to define the larger system we are in,” of which COVID-19 is just a metaphor (if not a symptom).  As an Abu-Jamal biographer with a full first draft to read and review, her comments were undeniably incisive.

Some freestyling comments from the subject, dated on his birthday (4/24/20):

Netflix “Who Killed Malcolm X?” Doc: Nine Thoughts On Malcolm As CSI, Stagecraft Over Sincerity

1) Now everyone will see Newark the way I see it: as a small town. Treating it as a “small town with deadly secrets” was amusing. It is a place where, if you ride a bus or sit somewhere and be quiet, you will hear Old Heads talk about their time with The Nation. Now I finally understand why, in a city where historically you can get killed for looking at someone wrong, Bradley was able to walk around untouched. You also now know that we, as a group, care more about collective, community advancement than ideology and argument: the comment by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka that he learned from his father to “leave that alone because that won’t advance our cause” is classic Newark. Congrats to my brother, Baba Zayid Muhammad, for his honesty in this documentary. He educated me a lot about what this Black Power city is still like. I absolutely believe that Newark “got there first” in Black Power zealotry.

2) Continuing with Newark: why would Bradley be in Booker’s Newark mayor campaign commercial? Why would New Jersey Lt. Gov. Shelia Oliver be at Bradley’s funeral when she knew?!? Point-blank, Newark is a community service city, and all the community servants know each other. If you do “change your life around” and “do something positive,” particularly for our youth, we wipe your slate clean. That how we be. If Bradley had killed, say, Rahim Johnson, it wouldn’t even be brought up.

3) Last Newark note: I love the irony of Bradley’s high school being eventually being renamed after Malcolm. 🙂

4) It was extremely annoying that Peter Goldman, who wrote 85 percent of this documentary’s content back in the 1970s (!!!!!), was almost invisible, blotted out. The only thing more annoying is that Baba Zak Kondo was “second historical bananna” to David Garrow–this documentary’s Obi-Wan Kenobi. Kondo should have been the main voice here, and his wrap-up almost redeems this time-waster.

5) The big winner here was WABC-TV, who clearly sold a lot of footage. (Why did the documentarians keep misdating that Talmadge Hayer interview as 1970? That was very annoying and needs to be fixed!) See how great “Like It Is” was, folks outside of New York? Today I am very proud to have a doctoral dissertation that has a small part devoted to it. I will appreciate this Nextflix series forever if it leads to the show finally getting archived.

6) The “search” for Bradley was ridiculous stagecraft. And where were articles like these, since Bradley was so difficult to find? LOL! This program could have easily been cut by three hours. The phony drama should have been replaced with more on the Ali-Malcolm schism. That deserves its own doc or movie.

7) And speaking of future MX media products, my vote for the next movie or documentary needs to be solely based on his extraordinary travel diary. The fact that Malcolm tried to unify the African-Muslim world–and that he chose to return to America when he had choices to possibly stay alive longer–is a story that desperately needs to be told.

8) Um, where was this part? Did I miss it when I was in the bathroom? Did I miss any mention of the Minister? What’s going on? And if Goldman and Kondo were read so carefully, why didn’t Obi-Wan tell Luke that the FBI reported that Louis X was at the Newark mosque on the day of the assassination?!?

9) This could have been a lot worse, seeing that Henry Louis “Skip” Gates was the exec producer and Manning Marable’s wife a consultant. At least this is better than Spike’s treatment. This puts Spike’s movie in the fiction category the way Marable’s disastrous bio, at its best, put The Autobiography in that same category.

207-Word Review of “Harriet”

Powerful drama, beautifully executed. And Cynthia Erivo is a true star. But…..What kind of genre movie would you call a film where a hero has powers and accomplishes a heaping of derring-do, is deeply connected to her villain, has a secret identity (that the villain finds out during the climax), has a secret-ish headquarters, has an ally/adviser, gains a young sidekick, has to deal with a loved one getting killed and has the hero make a big speech in front of the villain before not killing him? Exactly. Is this proper for a world-historic figure? Did Kasi Lemmings hedge her bets about a 21st century, post-modern audience, or is this origin story the proper tribute to an abolitionist who was by all accounts a true wonder woman? I have my own opinion about the appropriateness of this (let’s just say the irritated historian ate the geek along with the popcorn and Welsh’s Fruit Snacks), but I’ll let the reader/moviegoer decide this one. I hope other films on Tubman put her in the historical context she and other abolitionists deserve–her spy days, the full scene of her Civil War battle, her relationship with other abolitionists. If alladat feels like school in comparison, then so be it.

 

139-Word Review of “Spider-Man: Far From Home” [SPOILER-FREE]

“Spider-Man 2” from 2004 (the powerfully ballooned version of “Spider-Man,” vol. 1, no. 50, “Spider-Man No More”) is this writer’s gold standard of “Spider-Man” films. Although “Spider-Man: Far From Home” was extremely effective, it didn’t reach that mark. It got real close, though. Then came the first post-credit sequence. That mere two minutes blew theater-goers’ minds and blew “Home” into “Spider-Man 2” territory. It was so shocking that the film’s second post-credit sequence, a somewhat surprising one to a Marvel (Comics) Zombie and completely perplexing if one is just a Marvel movie fan, almost fell flat. Which is quite an accomplishment for Marvel, a studio that, before this film, was criticized for making movies with plots that don’t move characters forward, action without real stakes and filled with heroes who face no consequences. No more, indeed. Wow, wow, wow.

256-Word Review of “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” [SPOILERS]

How do you mess up the same story twice? How do you make arguably the best X-Men story ever into mediocre entertainment 13 years after the same producers/writers/directors did it the first time? Simple: throw the comicbook story away because, like Batman-movie-killer Joel T. Schumacher or, even better, Zack Snyder, who seemingly thought every DC movie was some sort of “Watchmen” prequel, you think your vision is more important. There’s a reason this film has been correctly savaged: after almost 20 years, critics and fans are tired of this version of the X-Men, and they are waiting for Kevin Feige to take over. Because when he does, Cyclops, Storm and Jean will stop being supporting characters to J-Law (why even bother calling her Mystique when she does nothing? To be honest, I almost cheered when Jean killed her; she should have died at least one movie ago), Michael Fassbender (Dude, change your mind about James Bond, and do one film!), and James McAvoy. The “Dark Phoenix” story is simple to adapt, as either of these X-Men animated series can show you: Jean goes out of control, and each individual X-Man(/Woman) has to search his or her conscience how to handle it. But that would require each X-Man to be a fully developed character we would actually care about. (Quiz: Who plays Storm? You don’t know, right? See??? 🙂 ) And so one of the classic 20th century superhero stories will never get its proper due.  So when does “Spider-Man: Far From Home” come out again?

71-Word Review of “Avengers: Endgame”

This epic is many things, among them a meditation of how powerful love, honor, duty and friendship can be, if among the right group of people. An extraordinary end–and make no mistake, it is an ending! Deserves its place among the greatest superhero films ever made, even if detractors will correctly point out that it’s the sequel to 21 films, one that mined all its predecessors to create a perfect-hits collection.