By MARY UYEMATSU KAO

As 2021 comes to an end, and the U.S. approaches the one-million mark of American lives lost to COVID-19, I would think holiday celebrations should include more somber notes than usual.  Instead of seeing street behavior that would acknowledge grieving over 800,000 people in the U.S. who have died of COVID-19, we witness the convulsions for survival in a society and nation that is imploding as the wealth gap stretches far beyond our imaginations. In a nation inundated with death, whether from school shootings, the uptick in crime rampages, fentanyl overdoses, alongside COVID-19 deaths, those who have passed may or may not have received the deserved attention due to their lives and legacies.

Among those who have died that you may not know is Glen Ford, co-creator and executive editor of the website “Black Agenda Report.” He passed away in July of this year at the age of 71. As a revolutionary journalist, he was a voice of clarity and foresight against what is now more widely recognized as neoliberalism. Ford was known for calling out an elite class of black misleaders who keep the movements for justice and human rights in a non-threatening position to the powers that be. 

Why do I want the Japanese American community to know about him? For the same reason that I credit Malcolm X for giving us back our identities as Asian Americans by dismantling the ideology of white supremacy. Just as the black civil rights movement gave rise to the Third World Movements of the ’60s and ’70s, the Asian American Movement has taken inspiration and leadership from the struggles of black Americans.

Glenn Omatsu’s “Four Prisons” article summarized the corporate offensive during the 1970s as creating “devastation of the African American community. . .[it] provides the necessary backdrop for understanding why the mass movements of the 1960s seemed to disintegrate. The movements did not disappear, but a major focus of activity shifted to issues of day-to-day survival.” 

Omatsu quotes Vincent Harding for marking the 1970s as the “winter” of civil rights: “. . .a dangerous loss of hope among black people, hope in ourselves, hope in the possibility of any real change, hope in any moral, creative force beyond the flatness of our lives.” (“The ‘Four Prisons’ and the Movements of Liberation, Amerasia Journal Vol. 15, No. 1,1989)

The grandfather of rap, Gil Scott Heron, referred to this time as “Winter in America”:

And now it’s winter

Winter in America

And all of the healers done been killed or sent away

Yeah, and the people know, people know

It’s winter

Winter in America

And ain’t nobody fighting

Cause nobody knows what to save

And ain’t nobody fighting

Cause nobody knows, nobody knows

And ain’t nobody fighting

Cause nobody knows what to save

Glen Ford, co-creator and editor of the “Black Agenda Report” website.

Glen Ford was razor-sharp in pointing out the compromising misleadership of Barack Obama, when the so-called “progressive left” was enamored by Obama and the Democratic Party. Ford initially gave Obama a pass when he was first nominated for the presidential run. But it didn’t last long once Obama occupied the Oval office. It soon became clear who Obama was protecting and serving — and it wasn’t black folks!

Ford exposed the Democratic Party for gobbling up and co-opting the aspirations of the black movements for justice and human rights, and instead funneling them into the “lesser of two evils” choices.  Ford’s rewrite of the time-worn saying — “not the lesser of evils, but the more effective evil” — puts in a nutshell how Obama, being the first black president, was able to subvert progressive movements as they put their trust in him to make America right [pun intended].

Ford sums up Obama’s more effective evil: “He’s expanded the theaters of war in drone wars, and he’s made an unremitting assault on international law. . . .  what will go down as his biggest contribution to history is a kind of merging of the banks and the state, with $16 trillion being infused into these banks, into Wall Street. . .and the line between Wall Street and the federal government virtually disappearing.” (https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/09/an-intra-left-debate-is-obama-the-more-effective-of-2-evils/262134/)

Ford more recently pointed a finger at the leaders of the Black Lives Matter Movement, who were quickly doused with corporate funding after the George Floyd murder gave rise to massive street demonstrations. White America was out in the streets calling for Black Lives Matter; corporate dollars rushed to douse the fire by neutralizing Black Lives Matter leadership into the mainstream of the corporatized “nonprofit industrial complex.” Hey, if corporations can cry “Black Lives Matter,” as Alfred E. Newman (remember **MAD Magazine**?) would say, “What me worry?!?!!!” NOT!!!

“Black Agenda Report” (BAR) practices the traditions of “telling it like it is” and “the truth will set you free.” The scourge of corporate media is BAR’s analysis on what’s happening today from the viewpoint of how black and all oppressed people are affected.

Ford spent more than 40 years in journalism with an impressive track record. From being a Washington, D.C. bureau chief and correspondent for the Mutual Black Network (a syndicated news service), to creating the “Black World Report” and in 1977, producing and hosting “America’s Black Forum,” the first nationally syndicated black news program on commercial TV.  These efforts paved the way for the founding of the “Black Agenda Report.” (https://newsone.com/playlist/notable-black-deaths-2021/item/23)

Glen Ford’s voice has now transitioned to the archives of BAR, but BAR continues in the principles it was founded on. BAR is also a syndicated news organization, featuring articles from other news outlets. BAR features Aida Chávez, D.C. correspondent for **The Nation**, who reported on the Innovation and Competition Act 2021 (USICA) that is now going through Congress. She raises red flags on threats for a new Cold War :

“For months, Pentagon officials, lawmakers, and the national media have focused on China’s growing military capabilities . . .the biggest military threat to the United States and the world. . . .  There is only one country that maintains nearly 800 military bases in at least 80 countries around the world, spends more on the military than the next seven countries combined, and has used nuclear weapons in war.  The same country has been directly responsible for countless military interventions. And it isn’t China.

“. . .this $250 billion ‘innovation’ bill is nothing more than a dangerous escalation in a multipronged offensive against China. The Innovation and Competition Act leverages industrial policy to ratchet up U.S. militarization and potentially instigate global conflict — all while hindering the global fight against climate change. And just as the ‘War on Terror’ led to a systematic assault on Muslims and people of color. . .the language of national security and competition that will arise around a new Cold War could serve to justify racist and repressive policies here at home.”

Chavez goes on to explain: “Domestically, the bill would establish an anti-China bureaucratic apparatus tasked with hunting down ‘undue’ Chinese influence in the United States, which critics warn would exacerbate the racial profiling of Chinese Americans and Chinese nationals living in the U.S. and inflame anti-Asian racism. It allocates $300 million a year for 2022 to 2026 to create a ‘Countering Chinese Influence Fund’. . .”

At the close of this year, honoring Glen Ford along with all those who have passed this year of 2021, may the memories of your lives continue to give us hope and direction for a better way to live.

Best wishes for safe and kind-hearted holidays, and to peace and good health for 2022!

Mary Uyematsu Kao is a retired photojournalist. She published her photography book “Rockin’ the Boat: Flashbacks of the 1970s Asian Movement” in June 2020. Comments and feedback are welcome at uyematsu72@gmail.com.

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