It was a bright cold Chicago day in January or February 1976. I was working as a security guard at an A&P store on 35th street. I had no interest in catching shoplifters, I was going to school, working two jobs and it was all I could do to stay awake so nobody would steal the gun off my hip. Bobby Rush, former co-leader of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party, nowadays a 20 year congressman walked in. I’d been a rank and file member of the BPP in Chicago 6 and 7 years earlier, and worked in Bobby’s first political campaign for ward committeeman only two years before.
I greeted him and noted that he was running again, this time to be a Jimmy Carter delegate to the Democratic convention. So I asked him what’s up with that Bobby, aren’t you giving them all our hard earned credibility? He answered no, Bruce you got that backward. They got all the credibility.
It was one of those moments of clarity you don’t forget. I knew damn well Bobby had that upside down and backward. When we were knocking on doors for him two years earlier it was quite clear that we were able to pull people out to vote who would simply not come out for the Daley Democrat precinct captains. City Hall feared us so much that they canceled voter registration days in the projects to keep turnout low.
Four decades later the players are different, the game refined a little, but it’s still the game. The old movement is long gone. There are no more figures like Marion Berry or Bobby Rush whose personal connections with the old movement can serve to legitimize otherwise bankrupt Democrats. So the corporate foundations and marketers invented a new way for Democrats to brand themselves with some kind of movement stank. The Democrats new political brand is called #BlackLivesMatter, a well-funded marketing campaign which pretends to be a social movement.
This week the Movement For Black Lives held a conference call kicking off its Campaign For Electoral Justice, a legally nonpartisan engine to mobilize the black vote for Democrats between now and the 2018 election only a year away. There were plenty of blackety black political sounding terms dropped, lots of black love and black family, black liberation and black self-determination. The Campaign for Electoral Justice leaders, including the sister of Jackson Mississippi mayor Lumumba claimed that they’ve been building what they described as “a global movement for black liberation” over the past 3 years. They said they’d be staffing up to make themselves the national help desk for supporting black electoral campaigns across the country, initially hiring 13 political directors and lots of support staff, apparently spending millions of somebody’s dollars. The obvious question was whose dollars?
In the Q&A at the end of the call, somebody asked how transparent the Coalition for Electoral Justice intended to be about where its funding came from. The answer wandered around about data collection and extraction, and ended up with the non-answer that they’d raise money from sources which respected their independent strategy, whatever that meant. In fact Black Agenda Report wrote back in 2015 that corporate foundation sources including the Ford Foundation and the Borealis Fund are publicly committed to helping raise a hundred million dollars over the next few years to train the next wave of leaders in what’s called the #BlackLivesMatter movement. This is apparently some of that money in motion.
The Movement For Black Lives Coalition for Electoral Justice says it intends to kick off hundreds of local meetings across the country the weekend of November 4, a year out from the 2018 midterms.
Noam Chomsky a while back said that US political campaigns are marketing exercises, planned and executed by the same people who sell us designer jeans, cars and TV shows. The 2018 election season is officially underway, and Democrats have identified the marketing vehicle through which they hope to evoke the air of the movement to mobilize the black vote. It’s the Movement For Black Lives, and its Coalition for Electoral Justice. Get ready for it.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Bruce Dixon. Look for our Black Agenda Radio commentaries on SoundCloud, like and share them on social medial and of course we are at www.blackagendareport.com.