The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 directed by Göran Hugo Olsson is a timely documentary on the birth of the Black Power Movement that combines recently discovered film footage and interviews from the the 1960s and early 70s with commentary from contemporary Black activists and musicians.
Shot in stunning 16mm black and white and color by a Swedish film crew at the height of civil unrest over Vietnam and racial inequality in America, BPM features compelling interviews with Stokely Carmichael, Eldridge Cleaver, Angela Davis, Huey Newton and other key activists of the period, interspersed with powerful scenes of ghetto life in Oakland and Harlem. Both poetic and potent, the film manages to stir the heart without resorting to hyperbole or cheap sentiment. The subject matter is powerful enough on its own. The images and words speak for themselves…and they speak eloquently.
The only sour moment in the film is when a reptilian Louis Farrakhan spews the Nation Of Islam company line, silver tongue wrapping itself around every vowel like a dung beetle rolling in it’s own excrement and eyes leering with the lascivious gleam of an encyclopedia salesman looking to slip his sweaty hands under the apron of an unsuspecting suburban housewife And Malcolm died for this fucker’s sins.
As scenes unfold on the screen, personal reflections on the era and its influence on their lives and thinking are shared by Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu, ?uestlove, John Forté and Robin Kelley, among others. These were formative decades for a new generation of Black American activists, artists and teachers and the inspiration of the The Black Panthers, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Bobby Kennedy endures.
I have my own memories of this pivotal period in American history. I recall one of my first acts of becoming politically engaged. I was 17 and living in Berkeley. It was 1968. I went to The Black Panther headquarters, an aging, two-story, clapboard house in Oakland, and asked them what I could do to help. After getting over their initial amusement of seeing a skinny, long-haired, white boy standing in their office, two Panthers engaged me in conversation, curious to know my motivations. I told them I’d just read Eldridge Cleaver’s “Soul On Ice” and had been inspired by it, enough to do whatever I could to make the world a more just place. They handed me a stack of The Black Panther Newsletter and sent me out the door. I became a paperboy for the revolution.
While I watched BPM, the parallels between the civil rights and anti-war actions of the 1960s with the current Occupy Wall Street movement were quite obvious. We are still fighting the good fight…and it never seems to end. We make small inroads toward justice and then are slapped back down. But there is forward movement. Historically, popular uprisings that become the target of government suppression may falter but they always find a way to re-invent, resurrect and re-engage. We are seeing it play out at this very moment as the OWS survives against all efforts by the government and its police force to extinguish it. The success of the uprisings of the Sixties remind us that people DO have the power. Listening to and watching the speeches of Stokely Carmichael and Martin Luther King (the night before he was assassinated) not only made me feel proud to have been in the crux of it all at the time, it emboldened me to continue the fight and also angered me in knowing that there is still a fight to be fought.
The Black Power Mixtape is currently available for instant viewing on Netflix.
Unjustly imprisoned for being an accessory to the murder of a Judge, Angela Davis discusses violence and revolution in this jail cell interview from BPM. Not long after this interview, Davis was acquitted of all charges against her.
Vaclav Havel died today at the age of 75. A former chain smoker with chronic respiratory problems, Havel had been in failing health the past few months and died at his weekend home in Hradecek in the northern Czech Republic,
Czech independence leader, artist and human rights activist, Havel was elected the first president of a free Czechoslovakia since 1948 on December 29, 1989.
A prominent force in the Velvet Revolution, a bloodless overthrow of the communist regime in in Czechoslovakia, which returned democracy to Czechs after fifty years of Nazi occupation and communist rule, Havel was the very definition of a man of conscience. Soft-spoken, humble, impish and possessing a healthy sense of the absurd, Havel was that rare leader who chose the power of inspiration over rhetoric and empty gesture. He was a revolutionary who recognized that artistic creativity was every bit as important as political dogma or ideologies. Without the humanizing force of literature, theater and music and an understanding of the interconnectedness of all things, civilization is a hollow machine destined for spiritual starvation.
Himself a playwright, Havel was perhaps the only world leader who was closer to rock and rollers like Lou Reed, Frank Zappa and Keith Richards than politicians and bureaucrats. It is reputed that The Velvet Revolution was named after The Velvet Underground, whose music was made popular in Czechoslovakia by Prague’s radical avant-rock band The Plastic People.
Havel was a peacenik who somehow managed to navigate the treacherous waters of political power without losing his sense of perspective or soul.
Havel’s revolutionary message—which helped oust the world’s second strongest power from his country, but which Americans and in that moment the American Congress have not always been ready to hear—is that peace does not come by defeating enemies, it comes by making people free, governments democratic, and societies just. “The idea of human rights and freedoms must be an integral part of any meaningful world order. Yet, I think it must be anchored in a different place, and in a different way, than has been the case so far. If it is to be more than just a slogan mocked by half the world, it cannot be expressed in the language of a departing era, and it must not be mere froth floating on the subsiding waters of faith in a purely scientific relationship to the world.”
Today’s world, as we all know, is faced with multiple threats,” he said in 1993 in Athens, on accepting one of the countless honors he received. “From whichever angle I look at this menace, I always come to the conclusion that salvation can only come through a profound awakening of man to his own personal responsibility, which is at the same time a global responsibility. Thus, the only way to save our world, as I see it, lies in a democracy that recalls its ancient Greek roots: democracy based on an integral human personality personally answering for the fate of the community.
Without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness,” Havel told Congress, referring to a movement toward democracy, “nothing will change for the better in the sphere of our being as humans, and the catastrophe for which the world is headed—be it ecological, social, demographic, or a general breakdown of civilization—will be unavoidable. If we are no longer threatened by world war, or by the danger that the absurd mountains of nuclear weapons might blow up the world, this does not mean that we have definitely won. This is actually far from being a final victory.”
Havel speaks at the Forum for Creative Europe in March of 2009.
Part two, plus a clip about how rock and roll figured into the Velvet Revolution, after the jump…
Massive Attack’s Robert ‘3D’ Del Naja and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke thoughtfully discuss the impact of the Occupy movement. Recorded outside of the Occupy London Xmas Party on December 6th, where both men DJ’d to show their appreciation for the movement’s efforts.
His conclusions about the experience are not to be missed:
Finally, at 2:30 the next morning, after twenty-five hours in custody, I was released on bail. But there were at least 200 Occupy LA protestors who couldn’t afford the bail. The LAPD chose to keep those peaceful, non-violent protesters in prison for two full days… the absolute legal maximum that the LAPD is allowed to detain someone on misdemeanor charges.
As a reminder, Antonio Villaraigosa has referred to all of this as “the LAPD’s finest hour.”
So that’s what happened to the 292 women and men were arrested last Wednesday. Now let’s talk about a man who was not arrested last Wednesday. He is former Citigroup CEO Charles Prince. Under Charles Prince, Citigroup was guilty of massive, coordinated securities fraud.
Citigroup spent years intentionally buying up every bad mortgage loan it could find, creating bad securities out of those bad loans and then selling shares in those bad securities to duped investors. And then they sometimes secretly bet *against* their *own* bad securities to make even more money. For one such bad Citigroup security, Citigroup executives were internally calling it, quote, “a collection of dogshit”. To investors, however, they called it, quote, “an attractive investment rigorously selected by an independent investment adviser”.
This is fraud, and it’s a felony, and the Charles Princes of the world spent several years doing it again and again: knowingly writing bad mortgages, and then packaging them into fraudulent securities which they then sold to suckers and then repeating the process. This is a big part of why your property values went up so fast. But then the bubble burst, and that’s why our economy is now shattered for a generation, and it’s also why your home is now underwater. Or at least mine is.
Anyway, if your retirement fund lost a decade’s-worth of gains overnight, this is why.
If your son’s middle school has added furlough days because the school district can’t afford to keep its doors open for a full school year, this is why.
If your daughter has come out of college with a degree only to discover that there are no jobs for her, this is why.
But back to Charles Prince. For his four years of in charge of massive, repeated fraud at Citigroup, he received fifty-three million dollars in salary and also received another ninety-four million dollars in stock holdings. What Charles Prince has *not* received is a pair of zipcuffs. The nerves in his thumb are fine. No cop has thrown Charles Prince into the pavement, face-first. Each and every peaceful, nonviolent Occupy LA protester arrested last week has has spent more time sleeping on a jail floor than every single Charles Prince on Wall Street, combined.
The more I think about that, the madder I get. What does it say about our country that nonviolent protesters are given the bottom of a police boot while those who steal hundreds of billions, do trillions worth of damage to our economy and shatter our social fabric for a generation are not only spared the zipcuffs but showered with rewards?
In any event, believe it or not, I’m really not angry that I got arrested. I chose to get arrested. And I’m not even angry that the mayor and the LAPD decided to give non-violent protestors like me a little extra shiv in jail (although I’m not especially grateful for it either).
I’m just really angry that every single Charles Prince wasn’t in jail with me.
I was looking for an image of an old labor movement poster that had the fat cat asking the mouse “You going let that union guy steal your cookie?” which I’ve always thought was the ultimate stick in the eye to working class people who watch Fox News and believe billionaire “job creators” deserve tax cuts, whilst union members and their families—you, know, their actual neighbors and relatives!—should have to make greater sacrifices. Instead of a vintage image, I came across the above illustration, Molly Crabapple and John Leavitt’s “We’re All in This Together,” their contribution to the terrific looking Occupy Comics project (which Alan Moore has just signed on to as well).
Isn’t that just a thing of beauty? It deserves to be a poster/lithograph too. I bet a lot of people would buy them. I certainly would. It’s something that needs to get around. and be seen.
“I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.”
That quote (and Google) in turn led me to stumble across The Punk Patriot, who has been making politically-themed YouTube videos for some time now—that are often quite good—with the aim to promote “life, liberty and the pursuit of a less fucked-up government.” Worthy goals, indeed!
In the clip below, The Punk Patriot takes on the Reichwing echo-chamber. This is a great video to send to that Archie Bunker-ish great uncle of yours who annoyed the shit out of you on Thanksgiving with his Fox News/Dittohead nonsense…
Ties are supposed to be “slimming.” Doesn’t work too well with Newt’s toned physique, does it?
The organizers of New Gingrich’s big money fundraiser in Washington, DC last night had the misfortune of choosing a location that has glass doors facing outwards on both sides of the ballroom. Dozens of mostly unemployed workers affiliated with “Take Back the Capitol” gathered at the entrance of the swanky Willard Hotel in downtown D.C., passed out fake $100 bills with Gingrich’s swollen head on them and chanted “The poor get poorer, the rich get rich, that’s the platform of Gingrich.” Earlier in the day, the group brought traffic to a near-standstill on K Street.
Earlier, protesters had gathered outside the front doors of the Willard, chanting, “The poor get poorer, the rich get rich, that’s the platform of Gingrich.” They hoisted a “We are the 99%” banner, and the hotel locked several of its entrances.
The Gingrich fundraiser protest was part of “Take Back the Capitol,” a five-day, 99-percent-themed series of protests targeting lawmakers at popular fundraising and deal-making spots in DC, including the Capitol Hill Club, a GOP haunt, and Charlie Palmer Steakhouse, a favorite lunch spot for lobbyists and legislators a stone’s throw from Capitol. On Tuesday night, protesters lined the entrance to the swanky Lincoln restaurant to protest a fundraiser thrown by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). At least a dozen were arrested on Wednesday during a march on K Street, the symbolic heart of DC’s lobbying industry.
The protesters’ schedule includes a full day of events on Thursday, including actions at the Capitol Hill Club and elsewhere around DC. But no 1-percenter knows where they might strike next.
Beautiful. Turn up the heat on these bastards. Boil that Newt!
Earlier this week:OWS Takes the Fight to GOP Donors at Cantor Fundraiser (Mother Jones)