Black is Back Coalition: Defining our own place in the 99%

It's been two years since the formation of the Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations. The original coalition of fifteen organizations was formed in the close quarters of a Washington, DC, apartment in late September 2009, and in just seven weeks pulled together the first national Black march and rally against President Obama, at the White House.

Back then, the Black Is Back Coalition occupied a very lonely place, not just in Black America, but in the larger spectrum of the U.S. Left. Sisters and brothers who had long opposed U.S. imperial wars and the rule of the rich, who had for decades proudly proclaimed themselves fighters in the Black liberation struggle, turned their backs on their own lives, their own words, their own experiences and on the historical wisdom of our greatest leaders, to become apologists and cheerleaders for a Black corporate Democratic warmonger. It was, possibly, the lowest point in Black political history, a comprehensive collapse of the last remnants of what had once been a mighty movement.

Twenty-four months later, the Black Is Back Coalition prepares to hold its national conference, on November 5, in a vastly different political environment. The Obama delirium has broken, like a fever that has spent itself. The First Black President has proven with sickening consistency to be a tool of Wall Street and the Pentagon, and as contemptuous of Black people in word and deed as any president in modern times. His verbal attacks on Black culture and Black character have been vicious in the extreme, a series of egregious, hurtful harangues cynically designed to signal to whites that he, too, rejects the legitimacy of Black grievances – both historically, and in the here and now.

Those of us in the Black Is Back Coalition have a right to say "I told you so" – and we do. But it takes more than just being right, to win the battle. One must constantly take advantage of changes on the battlefield.

"The Obama delirium has broken, like a fever that has spent itself."

The political terrain has changed, decisively. People's “occupations” are the watchword all across the nation and the world, there is a general disgust and rejection of the rule of finance capital, and for the first time in four decades the word “revolution” is heard outside the context of the newest consumer product. There is a ferment, a great stirring, that has Black Americans speaking in a language that was once so familiar we thought we owned it: “All power to the people!” Variations of the old war cry are on everyone's lips. But achieving the meaning of the phrase “Power to the people” requires new strategies and tactics to suit new conditions on the ground.

The sudden appearance of a still very amorphous movement under the loose heading “Occupy” presents a huge challenge. That is especially true for those of us at the Black Is Back Coalition, whose analysis was essentially correct in 2009. We should be a lot smarter now, and share our insights and experiences with the new forces that have suddenly emerged. The slogan “the 99% versus the 1%” is fine and catchy and quite effective, for now, but real revolutions are made up of their constituent parts. In the United States, especially, homogenization always tends, in practice, to result in a whitening of the process. And that would be a tragedy for the emerging movement.

The Black Is Back Coalition's responsibility, on November 5 in Philadelphia, is to put forward a strong, unabashedly Black analysis and program for the world revolution, and share it with everybody.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to


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