Book Review: The Black Agenda
Book Reviewed by Robert Fleming
Who was Glen Ford?
If you ask that question of some of the best critical thinkers in the Black community, they would say Ford was one of the most capable’ take-no-prisoners’ political commentators of the last century. “Glen Ford was the most brilliant, courageous, and consistent writer and journalist in the Black radical and independent tradition of his generation,” activist Cornel West wrote.
A socialist, Vietnam veteran, former Black Panther Party member, and a Washington political observer for much of his career, Ford co-founded The Black Agenda, with Bruce Dixon and Margaret Kimberley. Earlier, he correspondent for Capitol Hill, State Department, and the White House for the Mutual Black Network. Also, he co-launched, produced, and hosted the first nationally syndicated Black news interview program on commercial television, Arica’s Black Forum in 1977.
Glen Ford, who died in 2021, first read news wire copy at age 11. He started his full time on-air post at a James Brown-owned radio station, WRDW in Augusta, Georgia. In fact, the soul entertainer halved his name from Rutherford to Ford. It is that uncompromising Ford name which many politicians and fellow pundits that compelled the federal authorities to put his Black Agenda Report on its blacklist of subversive publications. As a young journalist, I read his scathing analysis of politics and culture and was delighted to be amazed by his precise, insightful, and unfettered work.
In this collected work by OR Books, just released, Ford goes after the demented myth of the holiday which honors ‘the glorification’ of the theft of this land from Native Americans. In “No More American Thanksgivings,” he writes:
“Thanksgiving is much more than a lie – if it were that simple, an historical correction of the record of events in 1600s Massachusetts would suffice to purge the ‘flaw’ in the national mythology. But Thanksgiving is not just a twisted fable, and the mythology it nurtures is itself inherently evil.”
While some other Black leaders cried that urban America had been abandoned, Ford saw a more sinister plan by the rich developers to remove the Black, Brown and poor based on greed, profit, and racial politics:
“An urban policy does exist, hatched in corporate boardrooms and proceeding at various stages of implementation in cities across the nation. Urban America is not being ‘abandoned.’ Rather, the corporate plan calls for existing population to be removed and replaced, incrementally, a process that is well underway.”
Rather than drink the Kool-Aid of the Obama election euphoria, Ford did not accept that America’s democracy was now immune to Wall Street and corporate mischief. He writes:
“Our enemy is corporate capital, which has polluted every nook and cranny of electoral and traditional Black politics. The Congressional Black Caucus has been broken like an egg. Black institutions contort themselves and their agendas to seek corporate funding.”
Beyond progressive or liberal, Ford wrote that the two political parties had no soul. He recognized that Obama, Clinton, and Trump were deeply connected to the “fat cats” and narrow–minded political strategies. He pointed the modern Republican Party was conceived to be the party for white men with some of its bedrock theories of racism and white supremacy. His final statement about the Black electorate was that they would vote against their own interests to pick a winner. Winning was everything.
Ford dug deep on the concept of social media, namely the Facebook death grip on many segments of American society. He realized the important role that social media would shape national elections in the New Cold War, including Facebook’s scheme to shield the balloting from Russian interference. The writer also noted that social media could whip up crazed lone wolves and radicalized domestic terrorists to exact a toll not only on the minority communities as well as the government at large. We’ve seen this example in the January 6th uprising and the recent Buffalo super market massacre.
He blasted President Obama for catering to the whims of the military, the bankers, the insurers, and destroying the Left opposition. “For two generations, during every election cycle, Blacks have demanded a Marshall Plan to combat unemployment in the cities, where it just so happens that most Black people live,” the pundit writes:
“Every election cycle, that is, until the last one, when Black politicians made no demands whatsoever on candidate Barack Obama. Black America is now paying the cost of giving Obama a free pass.”
The pivotal 2016 presidential election which gave us the egomaniac rich businessman vs. the former Goldwater girl triggered Ford’s wrath. He warned his readers that the nation would regret the outcome of the voting and the consequences would linger with America for a long time. “One candidate, Trump, most resembles the late Alabama governor George Wallace with a ‘let’s make a deal’ foreign policy. The other, Clinton, is a genocidal maniac whose crimes as president will be Hitlerian in scale.”
When the virus appeared on our shores, Trump remarked that he could not tell Americans about the lethal nature of it because we would panic. Still, Ford probed into the root of the matter, a shattered health care system, as the COVID-19 epidemic raged in his writing. “If Trump is the root of all evil, then all that needs to be done is replace him with a Democrat, leaving intact the system created by the behest of the ruling class. But the COVID-19 epidemic would have wrought mass death and economic havoc in the U.S. no matter which half of the corporate duopoly was in charge.”
Following the George Floyd execution by police, Ford turned his attention to the Black Lives Matter movement, which he slammed for a lack of precise goals. “Lots of folks in Black Lives Matter identify themselves as revolutionaries. Nearly all of them claim to want radical social transformation, an end to capitalism…But BLM has eschewed both reformist and radical demands in its current campaign, revealing a loud but empty politics. We wish it were not so.”
In conclusion, Ford’s The Black Agenda covers all of the prickly issues in politics and culture since the sputtering Bush administration. As a revolutionary, he wished to translate the practical terms of white supremacy capitalism, so “our community with the information necessary could fight against the most depraved, perverted, and wicked system that has ever created.” He believed in the power of the human being. Read his wise words that holds everyone and everything accountable. Read him and say his name. We will miss Mr. Ford.