Activist predicts a steep price to pay for the ‘catastrophe of mis-leadership’
By Mel Reeves
Glen Ford, executive editor and chief of Black Agenda Report, will be speaking at Minneapolis North High School this Saturday as part of the first effort on the part of people of the Twin Cities to honor and educate people about the life and legacy of Malcolm X.
Ford is no stranger to the stage, having become in high demand in leftist and progressive circles. He was in Seattle last month supporting that city’s effort and the national movement for a $15 minimum wage, the $15 NOW movement. He will speak at a $15 NOW rally/meeting on Sunday in Minneapolis, and he will also speak Saturday evening at Minneapolis North High to Twin City educators about the attempt to privatize public education, on “the legacy of Brown vs. Board of Education 60 years later.”
Ford has been trying to reach people through radio and through his writing for years. “I used to use the slogan early in my career ‘merging the media, the masses and the movement.’” Ford was the Washington Bureau chief of one of the largest Black radio outlets in the country in the early ‘70s. “I tried to disseminate ideas that would be of use to the Movement that at the time was still pushing forward.
“I still see myself as carrying out that mission through blackagendareport.com [Black Agenda Report, or BAR]. BAR is designed to reach and influence those who influence others or who have an influence on others. I feel privileged by history to have come of age during the 1960s when there was a “Movement” that informed us of our obligation to better the world. The lack of a movement is a moral issue,” said Ford
The editor/activist lights up when he talks about the days of the Movement. The Movement can be best defined as that period of time beginning with the Civil Rights Movement and including the anti-war and women’s movements to improve the living and working conditions and human rights of all people. And he has an analysis of what happened to that Movement.
“The Movement was called off by who we at BAR call the mis-leadership class,” explained Ford. “The strength was such that it forced open new avenues for those who were ready to take advantage of the opportunities, including Martin Luther King’s entourage. Jesse Jackson opened his Operation Breadbasket and later PUSH, and Andrew Young was rewarded with an ambassadorship.”
“New opportunities opened up to enter politics and forge alliances with the Democratic Party. So protest [and] grassroots agitation became a nuisance, a hindrance. Movements are nuisances to power structures. Much of the leadership became embedded in the power structure. So there was an immediate loss.”
He also acknowledges that the efforts of Black people to gain a larger piece of the pie and to secure real economic, political and social justice were shut down by COINTELPRO (an acronym for COunter INTELligence PROgram, a series of covert FBI programs) and “its extra judicial practices.”
“We went from a mass movement and agitation to an electoral phase, which is the period we are in today.”
According to Ford, Malcolm X would have real problems with the U.S. as it stands today. “Malcolm was first of all a man, and a man of moral rectitude. He would have something to say about the moral crisis, which stems from a lack of political direction. The Movement was built around the idea of self-determination for all peoples and the working class. Without Malcolm and people like him giving political direction, people became aimless.”
Speaking of aimlessness, he says Black youth have bought what has been sold to them. “Black people are a commodity that are packaged as either criminal or exotic by the news media and the entertainment industry. Black youth have embraced their own commodification. They buy the package that has been sold to them, rather than creating their own image.”
He also says the youth have bought the message of the power structure, the message of individualism and greed. “The Movement,” said Ford, “said it’s right to resist. Today’s mantra is, ‘It’s right to get things.’”
Black Agenda Report has not been shy in calling out the ills and injustices of U.S. society and has been critical of every U.S. administration since its inception in 2006, accusing Democrats and Republicans alike of serving the interests of Wall Street, capital, and the one percent. Unlike many Black leaders, it has not given President Barack Obama a free pass.
A 2012 pre-Democratic convention debate on Democracy Now between Ford and Michael Eric Dyson was an Internet sensation. Ford said of Obama at the time that rather than being “the lesser evil,” he was “the more effective evil” and accused him of merging the banks and the state.
“What we are now looking at, after six years of this presidency, Black people waking up to the fact that we won’t have that [Obama] representation — as useless as it is. The conclusion is inescapable. We have fallen back. Median Black family income is one-twentieth that of White families. The unemployment situation in relationship to Whites is worse than it has [ever] been in modern times. When we look at Black participation in the workforce, in some cities it’s at 50 percent or below.
“People will have to make an assessment. So-called Black leaders are already revising their history to position themselves for a post-Obama world. They will have to answer for this catastrophe.
“The great hangover is going to be as deep and as horrible as the great euphoria of 2008. It will be a real psychological crisis for Black folks. There will be anger at Black mis-leadership. We will be in a time of flux.”
Glen Ford will be one of several guest speakers at the 1st Annual Twin Cities Malcolm X Conference on Saturday, May 17, from 10 am to 4 pm, at North High School, 1500 James Ave. North, in Minneapolis.
Mel Reeves welcomes reader response to [email protected].