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In major reversal, N.J. Supreme Court orders parole of man convicted of murdering state trooper in 1973

By S.P. Sullivan – May 10, 2022

New Jersey’s highest court on Tuesday ordered the parole of one of New Jersey’s most high-profile prisoners, Sundiata Acoli, the Black Liberation Army activist convicted for the 1973 murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster.

In a narrow 3-2 vote, the state Supreme Court reversed a decision by the state parole board denying Acoli parole, ruling there was not “substantial credible evidence” to support the board’s findings that his release presented a danger to the public.

“In light of Acoli’s verbal renunciation of violence as an acceptable way to achieve social change; more than two decades infraction-free in the federal prison system; the multitude of programs and counseling sessions he completed; his honor status as an inmate; his acquisition of vocational skills; and his advanced age, it is difficult to imagine what else might have persuaded the board that Acoli did not present a substantial likelihood to reoffend,” Justice Barry Albin wrote for the majority.

The gun battle on the New Jersey Turnpike in which Foerster was killed remains one of the most infamous cases in the Garden State over the last half century and Acoli’s parole petition has been closely monitored by both the law enforcement community and a network of supporters who say Acoli has repaid his debt to society.

The state had denied parole eight times over the course of decades, finding Acoli lacked remorse for the killing because, under questioning at his last hearing, Acoli posited that Foerster could have been killed by “friendly fire” in a lengthy interview.

Acoli’s supporters said he’s an 85-year-old grandfather with dementia, a “model prisoner” who poses no risk to the public.

While he has apologized for his role in Foerster’s murder, Acoli, formerly known as Clark Edward Squire, has claimed he was grazed by a bullet and blacked out during the shootout, and couldn’t remember the exact sequence of events.

It remains an open question who actually fired upon the trooper.

Acoli was in a car with Assata Shakur, then known Joanne Chesimard, when they and another passenger, James Costen, were pulled over for a busted taillight in 1973. Somehow, the routine stop turned into a gunfight that left Costen and Foerster dead and another state trooper, James Harper, wounded.

Shakur and Acoli were both convicted for Foerster’s murder, although Shakur escaped to Cuba, where she remains one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives to this day. Acoli, meanwhile, has served the intervening decades in prison.

“He has lived in one of the worst environments in the world for 40 years without a single offense,” Bruce Afran, a civil rights lawyer who has taken up Acoli’s cause, said during oral arguments in January.

The state Attorney General’s Office had opposed Acoli’s release, saying he has not demonstrated remorse.

“Despite him saying he’d accepted responsibility and understanding, when pushed with what happens, he goes to blaming the victims here, the officers,” assistant attorney general Stephanie Cohen said during oral arguments earlier this year.

Advocates said Acoli, who first became eligible for parole in 1993, has been repeatedly denied parole because he was convicted of murdering a state trooper, which tarred his efforts at parole.

Under the law that was in effect when Acoli was sentenced, he is technically eligible for parole, but the state parole board ruled in 2017 that he showed a lack of remorse and remained too dangerous for release.

Werner Foerster

New Jersey State Police Trooper Werner Foerster’s funeral in 1973.

The overlooked story of Mark Clark, the 22-yr-old Black Panther assassinated with Fred Hampton

Mark Clark, who served as a defense captain for the Illinois Black Panther Party, was just 22 years old when he and Fred Hampton, deputy chair of the Illinois Black Panther Party, were assassinated in a raid coordinated by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, Chicago police, and the FBI.

Clark and 21-year-old Hampton were gunned down by 14 police officers as they lie sleeping in Hampton’s apartment in Chicago, Illinois, in the early morning hours of December 4, 1969. About a hundred bullets were fired in what police described as a gun battle with members of the Black Panther Party.

But ballistics experts later found that only one of those bullets came from the side of the Panthers. The raid was also later found to be part of COINTELPRO, a secret FBI program whose purpose, as stated by one FBI document, was to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize the activities of Black nationalist hate type organizations and groupings, their leadership, spokesmen, membership and supporters.

The Black Panther Party, a creation of Huey Newton and fellow student Bobby Seale, insisted on a Black nationalist response to racial discrimination. The party’s Illinois chapter was being headed by Hampton when he was killed by authorities thanks to the information provided by FBI informant William O’Neal. Then a petty criminal, O’Neal infiltrated the party and provided the FBI with a floor plan of the Chicago apartment where Hampton and Clark were assassinated in 1969.

Much has been written about Hampton, including his charisma, leadership skills and intelligence but Clark, who died with him during the raid, is rarely talked about. As a matter of fact, when Chicago Police stormed into Hampton’s apartment, Clark was the first to be murdered. A bullet hit him in the heart and he died instantly.

Who was Clark?

He was born in Peoria, Illinois, on June 28, 1947. Clark became a member of the local NAACP chapter when he was 15 and later formed the Peoria chapter of the Black Panther Party. Clark also started the first free breakfast program for Peoria youth.

“He was very active in political things. Really just the fight against racism,” Gloria Clark-Jackson said of her brother when she published a book about him entitled, Mark Clark: Soul of a Black Panther in September 2020.

Clark and his siblings were brought up as Christians. His father, Elder William Clark, was a pastor and the founder of Holy Temple Church of God and Christ that can still be found on Webster and McBean on Peoria’s South Side.

“It was ironic that we were always taught to treat people right, but we weren’t always treated the same way, as people of color,” Clark-Jackson, who is a retired nurse, told WCBU.

Clark, who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Washington, D.C. and could call for order when older persons could not, attended Manual High School and then went to Illinois Central Junior College in Peoria. But he could not complete his graduation. Apparently, he liked to learn but didn’t like school. “Most of his knowledge came from his own efforts,” his sister Elner said in an interview.

Described as a “thinker” and a “quiet leader”, Clark suddenly passed away in the early morning hours of December 4, 1969, when Chicago Police stormed Hampton’s apartment where he was. Deborah Johnson, Hampton’s fiancée, later recounted what happened.

“I remember it like it was yesterday. The police knocked on the door (around 4.35 am) and Defense Captain Mark Clark (who headed up the Black Panther’s Peoria chapter) answered the door by saying, ‘Who is it?’ The police said, ‘Tommy.’ And Mark responded, ‘Tommy who?’ Then the police responded back, ‘Tommy gun.’ After that, the police kicked in the front door and started shooting. And Mark was killed instantly.”

Reports said that when Clark was shot in the heart, his shotgun fired as a reflexive convulsion. That was the only shot the Panthers fired as compared to about a hundred bullets from the cops.

“He had a feeling for people and placed them above himself,” a close friend said of Clark after his murder.

Clark-Jackson, who shares her brother’s story in her book, was also a member of the Black Panther Party under Clark’s leadership. She told WCBU that she will never forget the determined, serious look that took over her brother’s face the day he recruited her into the Black Panther Party.

“I will never forget the words he spoke that still reverberate in my mind. His message is as clear today as it was then: ‘There are many who will talk about the injustice in this country, but only a few will do something about it. Which one are you?’”

The city of Chicago, Cook County, and the federal government reached a settlement with Clark’s and Hampton’s survivors in the early 1980s. FBI informant O’Neal was hated by some and commended by others as his role in the 1969 raid that killed Hampton and Clark became known. And many believe that his guilt over his role as an FBI informant led to his death in 1990. O’Neal apparently walked in front of a speeding car which struck and killed him. His death was ruled a suicide.


Maroons As Movement Role Models

The contemporary Black struggle should draw on the experience and example of maroons, the escaped slaves that formed communities of freedom beyond the reach of the slave masters, said Willie Jamaal Wright, a professor of Geography and Africana Studies at Rutgers University. Wright wrote a recent article on “The Morphology of Marronage.” Maroon communities “served as models of cooperative economics, of cooperative living,” and “a model of sacrifice” that is needed today, said Wright.

source: Maroons As Movement Role Models

From the writings of Raya Dunayevskaya: From Black mass revolt to Freedom

Editor’s note: News and Letters Committees issued the pamphlet Black Mass Revolt in October 1967, following uprisings in Detroit and Newark. It was signed by the organization. Raya Dunayevskaya was the principal author of some parts, including the final Part V, “Where to Now?” which is excerpted here. The pamphlet can be found in the Raya Dunayevskaya Collection, #3526.

“Has Whitey got the message?” asked one of the Black militants. “Have our own leaders? The system has got to go.”

We trust no one will, at this late stage, presume to ask that young militant whether he “really” meant the capitalist system as if, facing the aftermath of a raid on a blind pig [speakeasy] on 12th Street, Detroit, the youth was talking about a system to break the bank at Monte Carlo.

Now that a new page in the dialectics of liberation—its thought as well as its struggles—has been opened, the question is: where to now? The dynamism of the debates around the question of Black nationalism reveals that the new feature of class awareness distinguishes this Black nationalism both from that of the “Nation of Islam” and of “Black Christianity.” Heretofore the latter two differed from each other by their religious, rather than their class, nature. Now they must relate themselves to the Black nationalism that is conscious of its class character which, in turn, has relegated the question of violence vs. non-violence to secondary importance. Instead, the primary question has become one of future direction.

The significance of the Detroit revolt is that here “Burn, baby, burn” meant putting to the torch not only white but also some Black establishments. Not only that. The Black masses had here raised the question of the middle-class nature of their Black leaders.

It may satisfy some vain self-styled leaders to think they have but one problem, that of “civilizing whites.” But the Black masses know that the Black “intellectual vanguard” is the same flesh as all elites. Elitism, no matter what color, is blinded by the concept of the alleged backwardness of the masses. Because this has always been so, those masses have no illusions about leaders, no matter what their color, who are glib with words against whitey, but tongue-tied when it comes to passing on leadership tasks to the rank and file.

Here is what one who had attended the Black Power Conference in Newark had to say on the subject:

The Black Power Conference in Newark is another example of how the leadership looks at the masses of Black people. It was held in the rich business district of Newark, in the Episcopal Diocese house and two of the richest hotels there. Also, it cost $25 to attend, which put it out of the reach of the poor working-class Black man.

At first they didn’t even want to let Newark people in without paying. Then it came to light that it was just to let people blow off steam, but to keep the old leadership in the spotlight, that all the projects afterward would be decided on by leaders who would then tell those who attended what to do. We changed some of that, but not everything.

Ever since the rebellions in Harlem and Watts in 1964 and 1965, there has been a movement among the Black masses of America toward either total freedom or death. Harlem and Watts manifested the fact that the civil rights movement was dead; that the Black man in this country wanted more than just civil rights.

The Black people want Freedom and Self-Determination, which, in itself, means the total overthrow of this society—in other words, revolution, And that is just what it is called by the youth as well as by the old—the Revolution.

The name of Black Power caught on. We have pride in being Black. We see both young and old (but mainly the youth) taking an interest in Black art and culture. The fact that they are now supporting the Black artists and writers and studying their own history to find out about themselves points this out. They are calling each other brother and sister and literally meaning it.

But though the Black Power slogan is popular, it is not the name that the masses give to what they are doing. They have another name for it. It is Revolution.

The whole point against whitey is to get rid of the power structure, that is to say, the capitalist class system. Without tearing that out by its roots, no freedom is possible. Tokenism will not do. That must go. Far from creating jobs for the masses, or ridding the slums of rats, much less ridding them of the tenements themselves, or sending the poor Black man’s children to the universities from which one may reach Congress, the Senate and now even the Supreme Court, tokenism props up the status quo, “the system.”

Too many of the leaders who talk about Black Power mean only electoral power as if that would change the system. They talk about being the majority, or promise they “soon will be,” in the cities. But the masses down South, where they are the majority, know that voting doesn’t change anything very much. It isn’t only that whitey cheats them out of their majority—that they do expertly even when the Blacks do come and vote. But the greater truth still is this: so long as the “boss and Black” relationship remains, no vote can change their conditions of life.

So overpowering is that relationship of “boss to Black” that when the New Deal first came South, even the federal power had to bow to it. And it is even more true now that “neutral” mechanization—Automation—has taken over. Just consider the single fact that even in the state of Mississippi, in the 17 counties where most of the cotton is grown, no less than 75% of all cotton picking is done, not by human labor, but by machine. It is in the heart of the South, in the places where the Negro is still the majority, where there is actual starvation, actual infant mortality that compares with what it is in the most technologically underdeveloped countries like India—where the actual health conditions of the adult population in any village are comparable to those in Lowndes County, Alabama, or the Mississippi Delta.

It drives the masses from the farms to the cities, in the South as well as the North. But, though there is 65% urbanization among Negroes, this too solves no problems as unemployment follows the Negro wherever he goes. Of course, they have certain power, as the revolts in the cities have shown. But, unless one is strategically placed in industry, one cannot stop its wheels from turning and thus stop capitalism in its tracks.

To give any other impression by claiming that the organization of the ghettos is equivalent to the organization in the factories is only to sow disastrous illusions. The masses are right to reject these illusions, and, instead, try to find some solidarity with white labor—the white rank-and-file workers who do oppose management. Not only are they involved throughout the country in big strikes together, but the Black workers are right to use this as the reason for not isolating themselves from the white workers by lumping them in the same category as the whitey who is boss.

It may appear to the middle class Negro that it is only a question of working out “new lines of communication” with the masses to bring the “message” to them. But the Black masses refuse to blind themselves to the inherent faults of leaders—even the uncorrupted ones—who are under the illusion that they can get something for the masses within the system. The masses know that, by any name, these crumbs called “reforms” are, in fact, an acceptance of the system.

Nor are they about to accept a Sunday sermon as a “philosophy of history.” Just as Black nationalism didn’t change its class nature by moving from Elijah Muhammad’s “Nation of Islam” to the Christianity of a Black Jesus and a Black Madonna, so Black Power, exhilarating as that naturally is, will not mean tearing the system up by its roots unless it means mass power, working-class power. This is what a Black worker meant when he said, “I like to listen to Rap Brown and Stokely Carmichael. I like to hear them lay it on the line to whitey. They talk it up good. But that doesn’t mean I’ll follow them. I have to see things change right here, first,” and he pointed to the production line.

Like the human force itself, theory, too, cannot be created out of thin air, no matter how many sermons some leaders and their publicists christen “a philosophy of history.” For a philosophy of liberation one must have a view of the movement of history. Theory has its own history, its own roots, its own dynamic. No greater page has been written in American history, for example, than the one by the Abolitionists. Their philosophy of history—to abolish slavery—was the greatest for its time and place.

But once that vision exhausted itself with the abolition of chattel slavery by Civil War, not even a Frederick Douglass, who saw the need for political struggles, nor a Wendell Phillips, who saw the need for a new force—white as well as Black labor—could extend the lifetime of the old philosophy of history.

The time had come, with the end of the Civil War, for a new philosophy of history based on a new, united labor force, and a new vision. This new vision was one of man himself who would be whole, ending once and for all the class division between manual and mental labor. Man himself would be that unity of body, heart and mind which could, by its mass movement, reshape the whole course of human history.

That is precisely the greatness of Karl Marx; he never separated mass movement from the underlying philosophy of freedom that would change, in its entirety, the whole course of human development. The very idea of theory was transformed from an intellectual exercise into a historic narrative which, precisely because it dealt with actions of masses who were doing their own thinking, became, at one and the same time, self-emancipation and historic Reason.

It will not do to speak of a “philosophy of history” as if that, to use an expression of Marx’s, is nothing more than “the evacuating motion” of the intellectual’s own head. Unless the philosophy arises out of a historic movement of masses struggling for total freedom, and the whole world is its stage, it can neither answer the urgency of our life and times, nor bear the seeds of the future forward movement of humanity. Because the Carmichaels understand this (but only in part), they are trying to associate “Black Power” with the struggles of the “Third World.” The advantage there is that this means the mellowing of the blackness, since there are many oppressed whites, yellows, and whatever other color the human is.

The trouble is that this “Third World” that is being associated with “Black Power” seems to be only that part of it which follows the “Communist line”—and that only at the moment when it is not revolutionary, but more racist than either nationalist or internationalist. At the same time, Carmichael is so preoccupied with “shortcuts to revolution” (guerrilla warfare) that he doesn’t even realize that, instead of a shortcut, he is holding on to a short circuit. But the revolution in America is not about to short circuit itself before it has ever gained sufficient momentum to achieve the goal of total freedom.

The advantage of all the talk of Black Power is its own dynamism, the fact that it is altogether too late now to turn it back to a talk among “leaders.” What some call the civil rights doldrums, and others call the fatal division within the Black nationalist movement, we, of News and Letters Committees, see as the organization of mass thought by the masses themselves. There is no substitute for this self-organization of thought, any more than there is a substitute for the self-emancipation of the masses. The task is too large, too vital, to be left to intellectuals, or even to a “cadre organization.” It has to be a mass activity.

At the same time, the very need for such mass participation will not tolerate mere waiting for “the day of revolution.” The need demands daily practice, daily laboring at the task of working out a new relationship of theory to practice. It is this which transforms the possibility of achieving a new unity of theory and practice into an actual adventure. . . .

The purpose of developing this unity of Black and white, of theory and practice, of national and international relations, is to construct the means by which the tearing up of the capitalist system by its roots would assure the reconstruction of society on totally new, truly human foundations—free from wars, racism, economic crises and the mutilation of human beings.

Ilyasah Shabazz Talks About Malcolm X’s Legacy


Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz, talks about the legacy of her dad on what would have been his 95th birthday with Karen. #MalcolmX #IyasahShabazz #KarenHunterShow

150 years since ‘Bloody Kansas’/The legacy of John Brown


May 9 marks the 220th anniversary of this great abolitionist’s birth. This article was originally published in Workers World on Sept. 14, 2006.

Many historians agree that the Civil War really started on a flat patch of land known as “Bloody Kansas” 150 years ago, in the spring, summer and on into the autumn of 1856.

This area of land covering some 82,000 square miles now sits at the geographic center of the continental United States. It rarely gets national attention these days, and when it does it’s usually for reactionary developments, ike the effort to ban evolution from the public schools’ science curriculum.

Yet this was once the hub of the most important political conflict of its day, indeed of all U.S. history: the struggle over slavery. This was where diametrically opposed forces — abolitionists and pro-slavers — clashed.

When 1856 began, the pro-slavery forces had looked to be ascendant. Congress had passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act on May 30, 1854. The law provided for popular sovereignty — voting by white male landowners, that is — to decide whether Kansas and Nebraska would be free or slave states. Kansas had since been the scene of a violent terror campaign, based across the border in Missouri.

Death squads, known as Border Ruffians, aiuadsed to kill or drive out those who opposed the spread of slavery to Kansas, and to flood the territory with their own numbers. Jesse and Frank James, glorified as “rebellious” outlaws in the movies and folklore, were the most well-known of these ruffians.

The Border Ruffians hunted down and murdered African Americans who had escaped slavery and were heading north to Canada. They brazenly assassinated Underground Railway station operators and anti-slavery newspaper editors.

It had started to seem like a foregone conclusion that Kansas would enter the union as a slave state. Then John Brown arrived.

With a small, brave band of stalwarts, he took on the slave owners’ death squads in direct combat, and bested them. He revived and rallied the anti-slavery forces.

At the Battle of Osawatomie, on Aug. 30, 1856, his brilliant tactical maneuvers led to the defeat of a pro-slavery force of 300 soldiers by his group of under 20 — and from then on he was affectionately known as “Old Osawatomie” by admirers around the country.

In Lawrence, Kanasas, in the first two weeks of September, he led the military defense of the state capital against a pro-slavery assault — and ever after was respectfully called “Captain Brown” by those who fought alongside him.

But before Osawatomie, before Lawrence, John Brown had already become a legend. That happened at Pottawatomie Creek.

A daring raid

At Pottawatomie on the night of May 24-25, 1856, John Brown led an armed band in a lightning raid against an encampment where he knew he’d find several of the worst of the Border Ruffians who were terrorizing the territory.

When Brown and company rode off, they left the dead bodies of five racist thugs. The criminals Brown and his band killed had been responsible for many assaults and murders; they were also known for capturing Native women and forcing them into prostitution and sexually assaulting Free State women.

Until Brown acted, the slaveocracy had been waging an undeclared war with what seemed like impunity. And not just in the fields and towns of Kansas. On May 22, two days before Brown rode to Pottawatomie, Preston Brooks, a member of Congress from South Carolina, had strode onto the floor of the U.S. Senate and beaten anti-slavery Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts nearly to death as retaliation for Sumner’s speech “The Crime against Kansas.”

After Pottawatomie, all this changed. The slaveocracy did not surrender — it would take the Civil War for that. But from Pottawatomie word went out.

No longer would the racist death squads have free reign in Kansas. A new force, a force for freedom, was fighting back.

For years afterward, in fact to this very day, bourgeois historians have misrepresented what happened at Pottawatomie. It has been portrayed as an insane, isolated event, as a senseless, inexplicable act of violence — and its perpetrator as a wild-eyed, crazed, fanatical maniac. The official bourgeois version removes the Pottawatomie raid from its historic context — the bloody terrorist war the Border Ruffians were waging — and omits the fact that the men Brown’s troops killed were racist murderers.

John Brown was no lunatic. He was a hero. By first frost in the fall of 1856, he had accomplished what six months earlier no one thought possible. The territory had been secured. Kansas would enter the union as a free state.

The victory came at a high personal cost for Brown. His son Frederick died at the Battle of Osawatomie. Another son, John Brown Jr., was captured by the pro-slavery forces and tortured horribly while held prisoner, which led to many years of illness and anguish.

Brown himself was now a wanted man. A price on his head, he went underground, leaving Kansas. He headed toward the Northeast.

There he would spend the next three years raising funds, recruiting troops, writing, speaking and planning. His goal was nothing less than to launch a guerrilla war, whose leadership would be taken up by African Americans, to end slavery and establish full freedom and equality for all.

On to Harpers Ferry

Before, during and after his time in Kansas, John Brown was keen to learn how to wage the kind of guerrilla warfare he believed would be necessary to destroy slavery. To whom did he look as his teachers?

To Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey and other enslaved African American leaders of U.S. slave revolts; to the Seminole nation that had resisted domination by colonial settlers; to the Maroons of the South and of Jamaica and Surinam, escaped slaves who fought the settler state’s forces in daring raids from bases in the hills and mountains; and to Toussaint L’Ouverture, one of the great liberators of Haiti.

Most well-meaning whites, including abolitionists, were under the sway of racism to varying degrees. In contrast, Brown not only admired but sought to learn from and emulate Black and Native leaders. He was that free of the taint of racism.

In Kansas, Brown worked closely with a Native ally, Ottawa Jones, who sheltered, fed and helped arm Brown’s group at several points during the months of conflict. Although he himself was a fiercely devout Christian, Brown counted Jews and atheists among his troops.

For three years after leaving Kansas, Brown was based in North Elba, N.Y. [in upstate New York].There he established a cooperative farming community, the first ever where Black and white families lived and worked as equals.

Along with farming and guiding escaped slaves along an Underground Railroad route across the border to Canada, Brown would spend those three years preparing for the action he was determined would give rise to a generalized mass uprising by enslaved Black people. He would write a new constitution for the United States which first and foremost proclaimed race and sex equality.

He would travel to Canada and recruit several African Americans, including Osborne P. Anderson, who would fight alongside Brown at Harpers Ferry, Va. (now W.Va.), and live to write about it. He would meet often with the great organizer and orator, Frederick Douglass, and the two would become close friends. Douglass had escaped from slavery as a young man.

He would confer with the “Moses” of the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman, whom he always respectfully referred to as “Gen. Tubman.” Some believe that Tubman helped plan the raid on the U.S. Army arsenal at Harpers Ferry and would have taken part in it had she not fallen ill.

African-American freedom fighters Dangerfield Newby, Lewis S. Leary, John Brown’s sons Watson and Oliver, and six others of their number would die at Harpers Ferry in October 1859. Five would escape and survive. Seven, including John Brown, would be captured and hanged.

Gen. Robert E. Lee, who scant months later would lead the secessionist Confederate army, led the opposing force that captured John Brown at Harpers Ferry. John Wilkes Booth, who would assassinate President Abraham Lincoln in 1865, was among the troops guarding the scaffolding on the day they hanged John Brown.

On that day, Dec. 2, 1859, just before they led him from his cell to the gallows, this great soldier for human liberation would write, “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.” Brown was buried in the majority Black cemetery in North Elba, a fitting tribute indeed.

In April 1861 the Civil War would begin.



By Jared Ball

The following is an excerpt from Jared Ball’s upcoming book, “The Myth and Propaganda of Black Buying Power” from Palgrave Pilot/Palgrave Macmillan (May 2020), republished from the author’s personal site.

The book will be released on May 25, 2020. Pre-order it here.

The Myth and Propaganda of Black Buying Power demonstrates:

• The claim that African America has roughly $1 trillion in “buying power” is popularly repeated mythology with no basis in sound economic logic or data. While the myth has a longer history it is today largely propelled by misreadings and poor (false) interpretations of Nielsen surveys and marketing reports produced by the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the Terry College of Business housed in the Bank of America Financial Center in Athens, GA. and where, as their website explains, their bias and purpose is in their founding mission. The center was, “Created to convey economic expertise to Georgia businesses and entrepreneurs, the Simon S. Selig, Jr. Center for Economic Growth is primarily responsible for conducting research on economic, demographic, and social issues related to Georgia’s current and future growth” (emphasis added).

• “Buying Power” is a marketing phrase that refers only to the “power” of consumers to purchase what are strictly available goods and is used as a measurement for corporations to better market their products. Most of the contemporary and popular understanding of the myth of buying power is derived from, and maintained by, a commercial Black press whose own commercial interests (attracting advertising dollars from the largest White corporations) supersede any journalistic mission to properly inform. “Power” here has nothing to do with actual economic strength and there is no collective $1+ trillion that Black people have and just foolishly spend ignorantly to their economic detriment.

• The myth of “buying power” functions as propaganda working to deny the reality of structural, intentional and necessary economic inequality required to maintain society as it is, one that benefits an increasingly decreasing number of people. To do this the myth functions to falsely blame the poor for being poor. Poverty, the myth encourages, is the result of the poor having little to no “financial literacy,” or as resulting from their bad spending habits, when in reality poverty is an intended result of an economic and social system.

Anyone at all familiar with any part of the Black public sphere will have heard one form or another of the following: “If we just used our money like other communities… If we didn’t spend so much on hair, cars and weed… we could make our dollar circulate like ‘they’ do and be far better off!” More specifically, those familiar with like-spaces would have heard reference to “the numbers,” that “Black America’s economy makes it among the most powerful national economies in the world…” and that “… we have a $1+ trillion that we just misuse…” From the most isolated and forcibly marginalized radical activist spaces to the most commonly populated spheres of Black public discourse the refrain is consistent and always suggests the same; that at least a solid portion of the Black oppressive political pie is comprised of a financially illiterate backwards mass incapable of correcting itself to take proper advantage of a freedom which waits just slightly beyond their feeble grasp. The suggestion that Black people lack “financial literacy” and, therefore, ignorantly refuse existing opportunities to advance economically obliterates the realities of capitalism as an economic and social system or conditions that system creates.

The idea is as simple as it is wrong but is masked by a surrounding powerful and heavily propagated mythology. The “buying power” of Black America, it is often repeated, now said to have crossed $1 trillion annually, is foolishly squandered but with some unity could be harnessed to overturn the centuries-old and eerily consistent economic deprivations suffered still. However, “buying power,” as a concept popularly held, is entirely misunderstood and has been by so many for so long that it continues to confound and inhibit conversations about economics in general, the specifics of the Black economic condition, and what might be done about it. And while all communities, all segments of all communities, businesses, municipalities, etc. have their “buying power” assessed it is only in relation to Black America that the concept becomes truly mythologized. Beyond that, the myth is politically weaponized with a very particular perniciousness and pervasiveness metastasized to the “conceptual original sin” of American racism (Downing and Husband 2005). The misunderstanding and misapplication of the concept of buying power, by those both friendly and hostile to the Black community, is unparalleled anywhere in political, economic, or media analyses.

Black America does not have an annual $1+ trillion that is collectively, by some choice, spent frivolously rather than harnessed to the betterment of the collective. Here we must develop upon the difference between power as economic strength as is conventionally understood and buying power, a concept developed by business, advertising, marketing, and government interests and where power is defined only as a group’s ability to enrich those interests. Genuine economic strength is measured in wealth, assets, land, stock, etc. and with a clarity in the differences between wealth and income, the latter being what one earns in exchange for labor, the former being income earned from the labor of others.

“Power” in the phrase “buying power” does not mean what many assume is a kind of genuine wealth, sovereignty, or autonomy. Once consigned to the phrase “buying power” that latter term loses all popularly (rightly)-held assumptions of its meaning and becomes something very different, almost dangerously different in terms of how that difference is carried to, and with what impact it has on, various audiences, and Black America specifically. In the form of its association with the word “buying” power means only the ability to spend what available money (or credit) is available on only the specific goods similarly made available for purchase. Having access to rims, fronts, hair or weed is one thing, while access to capital, stock, land, expanding business, etc. is quite another. Black people can buy marijuana just not the increasingly legal dispensaries emerging into a multi-billion dollar almost exclusively White industry (Ross 2018).

Buying power, spending power, or purchasing power are all interchangeable and applied to nearly every possibly grouped segment of society and are also applied to corporations and local, state and even national governments. But the concept, or more appropriately said, the marketing formula, is used with a particular pernicious effect, when it comes to Black America and, as such, deserves this special focus and attempt at dispelling. Nowhere else, for no one else, is buying power used as a bludgeon with such regularity and persistence within communities, both in terms of media attention and as a method of “political organization,” as is the case with Black America. For solutions to come it is true that those spaces where Black politics are most often discussed and where the futures of Black people are most seriously considered must rid themselves of this and other mythologies related to the economy of the United States and the role Black people play within. This would include challenging the prevailing wisdom, as it applies to this subject only, of past and present luminaries.



Kevin “Rashid” Johnson is Minister of Defense for the New Afrikan Black Panther Party. He carries out his duties while imprisoned in the US. This interview originally appeared on his website.


As a class question, we must of course begin with distinguishing between bourgeois and proletarian forms of state power. The state is nothing but the organization of the armed force of one class over its rival class(es). The bourgeoisie, as a tiny oppressor class that exploits or marginalizes all other classes to its own benefit, organizes its institutions of state power (military, police, prisons), that exist outside and above all other classes, to enforce and preserve its dominance and rule over everyone else.

To seize and exercise state power the proletariat, as the social majority, must in turn arm itself and its class allies to enforce its own power over the bourgeoisie.

Which brings us to the substance of your question concerning what lessons we’ve learned about transitioning from bourgeois state power (the capitalist state) to proletarian state power (the socialist state). In any event it won’t be and has never been a ‘peaceful’ process, simply because the bourgeoisie will never relinquish its power without the most violent resistance; which is the very reason it maintains its armed forces.

Well, we’ve had both urban and rural models of such transition. Russia was the first urban model (although subsumed in a rural society), China was the first successful rural one. There were many other attempts, but few succeeded however.

What proved necessary in the successful cases is foremost there must be a vanguard party organized under the ideological and political line of the revolutionary proletariat. This party must work to educate and organize the masses to recognize the need, and actively take up the struggle, to seize power from the bourgeoisie.

In the urban context, (especially in the advanced capitalist countries), where the bourgeoisie’s armed forces are entrenched, this requires a protracted political approach focused on educating and organizing the masses and creating institutions of dual and alternative collective political and economic power, with armed struggle prepared for but projected into the distant future (likely as civil war).

But in the rural context, where revolutionary forces have room to maneuver because the bourgeoisie’s armed forces are much less concentrated, the masses may resort to relatively immediate armed struggle, with political work operating to keep the masses and the armed forces educated and organized, and revolutionary politics in command of the armed struggle. This was Mao Tse-tung’s contribution to revolutionary armed struggle called Peoples War, and with its mobile armed mass base areas these forces operated like a state on wheels.

But the advances of technology since the 1970s, have seen conditions change that require a reassessing of the earlier methods of revolutionary struggle and transition of state power.

The rural populations (peasantry) of the underdeveloped world who are best suited to Mao’s PW model have been shrinking, as agrobusiness has been steadily pushing them off the land and into urban areas as permanent unemployables and lumpen proletarians, where they must survive by any means possible. Then too, with their traditional role as manual laborers being increasingly replaced by machines, the proletariat in the capitalist countries in also shrinking, and they too are pushed into a mass of permanent unemployables and lumpen.

So the only class, or sub-class, whose numbers are on the rise today are this bulk of marginalized largely urban people who don’t factor into the traditional roles of past struggles, with one exception. That being the struggle waged here in US the urban centers under the leadership of the original BPP, which designated itself a lumpen vanguard party. As such the BPP brought something entirely new and decisive to the table.

As the BPP’s theoretical leader, Huey P. Newton explained this changing social economic reality and accurately predicted their present development in his 1970 theory of “Revolutionary Intercommunalism,” and met the challenge of creating the type of party formation suited to meeting the new challenges of educating and organizing this growing social force for revolutionary struggle.

The BPP was able to create a model for developing institutions of dual and alternative political and economic power through its Serve the People programs creating the basis for transition of power to the marginalized under a revolutionary intercommunalist model instead of the traditional national socialist model.

The challenge in this situation where such work has been met with the most violent repression by bourgeois state forces is developing effective security forces right under their noses to protect the masses and their programs.

This is the work we in the NABPP are building on and seek to advance.


For one, the masses are our best and only real protection against repression. So in all the work we do, we must rely on and actively seek and win the support of the people, which is the basic Maoist method of doing political work and is what the imperialists themselves admit makes it the most effective and feared model of revolutionary struggle.

I’ve also learned that a lot of very important work fails because many people just don’t attempt it, due to policing themselves. Many fear pig repression and think any work that is effective must necessarily be done hidden out of sight, fearing as they do being seen by the state.

Essentially, they don’t know how to do aboveground work, and don’t recognize the importance of it, especially in these advanced countries. They think for work to be ‘revolutionary’ it must be underground and focused on armed struggle. And even those who do political work they stifle it by using an underground style which largely isolates them from the masses.

I think Huey P. Newton summed it up aptly when he stated,

“Many would-be revolutionaries work under the fallacious notion that the vanguard party should be a secret organization which the power structure knows nothing about, and that the masses know nothing about except for occasional letters that come their homes in the night. Underground parties cannot distribute leaflets announcing an underground meeting. Such contradictions and inconsistencies are not recognized by these so-called revolutionaries. They are, in fact, afraid of the very danger they are asking the people to confront. These so-called revolutionaries want the people to say what they themselves are afraid to say, to do what they themselves are afraid to do. That kind of revolutionary is a coward and a hypocrite. A true revolutionary realizes if he is sincere, death is imminent. The things he is saying and doing are extremely dangerous. Without this … realization, it is pointless to proceed as a revolutionary.

“If these impostors would investigate the history of revolution they would see that the vanguard group always starts out aboveground and is driven underground by the oppressor.”


It can be a disadvantage, because it slows down development. But it is also an advantage, and our party is an example of this.

Historically, most revolutionary parties began on the outside and ended up targeted with repression, which included imprisonment of its cadre and supporters — fear of repression served as a deterrent for many would be revolutionaries as it was intended to do. For the NABPP, we developed in exactly the opposite direction. We began inside the prisons and are now transitioning to the outside.

Our cadre are getting out and hitting the ground going directly to work for the people. Look at our HQ in Newark, NJ where our chairman got out and has in less than a year led in developing a number of community STP programs, organizing mass protests that have shut down a prison construction project, given publicity and support to the people facing a crisis with lead in the water systems, etc.

So unlike the hothouse flower we’re already used to and steeled against state repression. The threat of prison doesn’t shake us — we’ve been there and done that. Like Huey asked, “Prison Where is Thy Victory?,” and John Sinclair of the original White Panther Party said, “prison ain’t shit to be afraid of.” And it was Malcolm X who was himself transformed into the great leader that he was inside prison who called prisons, “universities of the oppressed.”

All of my own work has been done from behind prison walls, and I have the state’s own reports and reactions of kicking me out of multiple state prison systems to attest to the value of what I’ve been able to contribute.

So, I think that, yes, some of our best leadership is definitely behind these walls.

Consider too that some of our best leaders developed inside prison: Malcolm X, George Jackson and Atiba Shanna aka James Yaki Sayles, for example. Which is something our party has factored into its strategy from day one. We’ve recognized the prisons to be potential revolutionary universities. Since our founding the NABPP has actively advanced the strategy of “transforming the prisons into schools of liberation,” of converting the lumpen (criminal) mentality into a revolutionary mentality.

In fact we can’t overlook remolding prisoners, because if we don’t, the enemy will appeal to and use them as forces of reaction against the revolutionary forces. Lenin, Mao and especially Frantz Fanon and the original BPP recognized this. What’s more, with the opposition’s ongoing strategy of mass imprisonment, massive numbers of our people have been swept up in these modern concentration camps. We must reach them with the politics of liberation. They are in fact a large part of our Party’s mass base.


Ideally this is determined by their ideological and political development and practice. But we expect and give space for people to make mistakes, although we also expect them to improve as they go. So we must be patient but also observe closely the correlation between their stated principles and their practice.


Underground work serves different purposes and needs. One of which being to protect political cadre and train cadre to replace the fallen. Also to create a protective network and infrastructure for political workers forced to go to ground in the face of violent repression.

In whatever case the aboveground forces should actively educate the masses on the role, function and purpose of underground actions while ensuring that the clandestine forces consist of the most disciplined and politically grounded people. It must also be understood that these elements do not replace the masses in their role as the forces that must seize power.


What shifted, but I don’t think is generally recognized by many, is the PW theory is today too simplistic. Today we must organize and create base areas under the nose of the bourgeoisie with the growing concentration of marginalized people in impoverished urban settings. As I noted earlier the traditional mass base of rural peasants who feature in the PW strategy is shrinking. And Maoist forces in rural areas have been pushed to the furthest margins of those areas unable to expand.

There is little opportunity for New Democratic revolution in these countries, which calls for alliances with the native national bourgeoisie who are now being rendered obsolete by the rise and normalization of neocolonialism and virtual elimination of nation states.




Panther Vision: Essential Party Writings and Art of Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, Minister of Defense New Afrikan Black Panther Party

“The original Black Panther Party for Self-Defense challenged the prevailing socio-political and economic relationship between the government and Black people. The New Afrikan Black Panther Party is building on that foundation, and Rashid’s writings embrace the need for a national organization in place of that which had been destroyed by COINTELPRO and racist repression. We can only hope this book reaches many, and serves to herald and light a means for the next generation of revolutionaries to succeed in building a mass and popular movement.” –Jalil Muntaqim, Prisoner of War

Available from leftwingbooks.netAK Press, and Amazon


Defying the Tomb: Selected Prison Writings and Art of Kevin ‘Rashid’ Johnson
With Russell ‘Maroon’ Shoats, Tom Big Warrior & Sundiata Acoli


“Your mission (should you decide to accept it) is to buy multiple copies of this book, read it carefully, and then get it into the hands of as many prisoners as possible. I am aware of no prisoner-written book more important than this one, at least not since George Jackson s Blood In My Eye. Revolutionaries and those considering the path of progress will find Kevin Rashid Johnson s Defying The Tomb an important contribution to their political development.” –Ed Mead, former political prisoner, George Jackson Brigade

Available from leftwingbooks.netAK Press, and Amazon


Rashid has been transferred out of state yet again, this time to Indiana. He is currently being held at:

Kevin Johnson
D.O.C. No. 264847
Pendleton Correctional Facility
4490 W. Reformatory Road
Pendleton, IN 46064

Reparations & Black Liberation

Reparations & Black Liberation

Workers World first published this article on June 6, 2002. 

Lawsuits have been filed in New York and New Jersey targeting corporations that profited from the slave trade. These class-action lawsuits name three companies: Fleet Boston Financial, Aetna and CSX.

Fleet Boston grew out of a bank established by a merchant whose ships transported African slaves.

Aetna is an insurance company that encouraged slave owners to insure human property — not to protect their slaves, but to protect their investment in case of the slaves’ deaths.

CSX emerged from another company that used slave labor to build railroad lines.

The lawsuit estimates that the wealth in the United States created by the unpaid wages of slave labor is today worth $1.5 trillion.

Deadria Farmer-Paellman is the lead plaintiff and initiator of this suit. At a recent press conference, she stated, “My grandfather always talked about the 40 acres and a mule we were never given. These companies benefited from working, stealing and breeding our ancestors, and they should not be able to benefit from these horrendous acts.”

Political activist and attorney Roger Wareham filed this lawsuit on behalf of all African Americans. According to Wareham, the lawsuit is not about demanding monetary compensation for the descendants of African slaves in the U.S. Any money won from the lawsuit would go to a collective fund to help improve the housing, health care and education of African Americans.

Wareham, in an interview on the Black-oriented WABC-TV show “Like It Is,” told host Gil Noble, “Our strength is that the reparations lawsuit is part of a movement. The stronger the movement, the greater the possibility of the success of the suit. The most important thing is the success of the movement. The suit is just another part of that river of struggle that we are involved in.”

The December 12th Movement and the National Black United Front have called a “Millions for Reparations” national rally to take place in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 17, 2002 — the 115th anniversary of Black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey’s birth. The National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America is also building the demonstration.

Gov’t fears exposure of slavery’s legacy

The U.S. government has a despicable history of downplaying and outright dismissing the issue of reparations. To grant compensation to millions of descendants of African slaves would expose the institutionalized racism that African Americans and other people of color still suffer today.

The disproportionate number of African Americans populating U.S. prisons is just one glaring example of the legacy of slavery.

Back in 1989, Congressional Black Caucus member John Conyers from Michigan introduced bill HR 40, the “Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act.” Conyers said: “African slaves were not compensated for their labor. More unclear, however, is what the effects and remnants of this relationship have had on African Americans and our nation from the time of emancipation through today. I chose the number of the bill, 40, as a symbol of the 40 acres and a mule that the United States initially promised freed slaves.”

Conyers cited a number of objectives of the bill — including setting up a commission that “would then make recommendations to Congress on appropriate remedies to redress the harm inflicted on living African Americans.”

Malcolm X also raised the question of reparations in a speech on Nov. 23, 1964, in Paris. “If you are the son of a man who had a wealthy estate and you inherit your father’s estate,” he said, “you have to pay off the debts that your father incurred before he died. The only reason that the present generation of white Americans are in a position of economic strength . . . is because their fathers worked our fathers for over 400 years with no pay.”

The reparations struggle intensified with the military defeat of the Confederacy at the hands of the Union Army at the end of the Civil War. The victorious Northern government promised the newly freed slaves in the South “40 acres and a mule,” in effect acknowledging that brutal slave labor had not only greatly enriched the coffers of the former slave masters but also the emerging U.S. capitalist economy.

This just compensation for the freed people never came to fruition due to the counterrevolution that destroyed Reconstruction. In the “Compromise of 1877,” the Union Army abandoned the freed slaves, who had tried to bring about real social equality in the South by establishing their own institutions for political empowerment and elevation of their living and educational standards. For 10 years, the Union Army had played the role of a buffer between this progressive, democratic process and the former Confederate forces, who regrouped during Reconstruction.

The counterrevolution then evolved into a bloody terrorist campaign that drove the freed slaves to accept semi-slavery conditions. Under sharecropping, which still exists today, the former slaves went back to tilling the land of their former owners. They weren’t owned outright anymore, but had to work on the plantations for slave wages.

In 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court legally sanctioned segregation as “separate but equal.”

Reparations struggle has taken many forms

In his 1903 masterpiece, “The Souls of Black Folks,” W.E.B. Du Bois wrote, “The problem of the 20th century is the color line.” Many Black activists and writers have looked to Du Bois’s words for inspiration in the continuing fight for Black liberation. Reparations became a very important focus in the Black struggle for the right to self-determination.

The Back to Africa mass movement in the 1920s and 1930s, led by the charismatic Marcus Garvey, was in its own way a demand for reparations. When the Black Panther Party created free breakfast programs and free access to clinics in the inner cities during the 1960s, this was another unique call for reparations. Affirmative action programs are also a form of reparations.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., leader of the traditional Civil Rights Movement, made a plea for reparations in his 1964 book, “Why We Can’t Wait.” He wrote, “No amount of gold could provide an adequate compensation for the exploitation and humiliation of the Negro in America (or the Caribbean or Brazil) down through the centuries. Not all the wealth of this affluent [U.S.] society could meet the bill. Yet a price can be placed upon unpaid wages. The ancient common law has always provided a remedy for the appropriation of one human being by another. The law should be made to apply for American (Caribbean and Brazilian) Negroes.

“The payment should be in the form of a massive program by the government of special, compensatory measures, which could be regarded as a settlement in accordance with the accepted practice of common law. Such measures would certainly be less expensive than any computation based on two centuries of unpaid wages and accumulated interest. I am proposing, therefore, that just as we granted a G.I. Bill of Rights to war veterans, [the U.S.] launch a broad-based and gigantic Bill of Rights for the Disadvantaged, our veterans of the long siege of denial.”

The struggle for reparations received a tremendous boost at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa [in 2001]. The call for reparations, along with equating Zionism with racism, compelled the U.S. and Israeli governments to withdraw their high-level delegations from the conference. The Durban conference helped to provide worldwide exposure about the long-term, devastating impact of Western imperialism and colonialism on nationally oppressed people everywhere.

(WW graphic)