Hang the Banner

Last week we witnessed the rebirth of the Bay State Banner, Boston’s only Black newspaper, after it was thrown a life-line from mayor Tom Menino to stave off its abrupt demise. The lifeline, however — which might as well have been a noose — seems to have exposed Banner executive editor Howard Boy-ly, er, Manly, and owner Melvin Miller as pathetically selfish and money-grubbing, shamelessly selling out Boston’s Black community ostensibly for personal gain.

Never mind Howard Manly’s self-serving response to the Boston Globe’s Adrian Walker that “This is not a question of integrity [but] a question about the state of the newspaper industry . . . and the black press.” He clearly thinks Black folks are stupid.

No, we’re not fooled, but “sshhhhh…don’t say nut-in’ ! ”

The simple truth is, whenever a newspaper, whose primary function in a free society is to be the watchdog of government (nowhere more important than in the Black community, given our history of subjugation and oppression in America) is directly financed by the very government it’s supposed to be holding accountable, there is a per se compromise to its integrity. Period! Not to mention the historical mandate of newspapers, with Freedom of the Press protection under the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution. . . .

And, just what is it the Founding Fathers wanted the press to be free from, you ask ? . . . Well, government . . . .

Yet, Adrian Walker maintain’s, “I’ve known Miller and Manly for years, and I would never question the fierce integrity of either of them,” unwittingly calling his own integrity into question.

No, taking the money is not preferable to letting the paper go out of business, as Dan Kennedy intimated. But, in any event, there are other options. . . .

For example, when I was in the Ballet and pay contracts were threatened from a budget shortage (just about every year), dancers were ordered into the streets, cup in hand, so they could continue to be paid. It wasn’t glamorous, but it reminded the public that the ballet was solely for their benefit and without their support it would disappear. But it also served to hold dancers accountable, so that they might never shortchange the public on a performance, no matter how many, or few, were in attendance.

Why, indeed, weren’t Miller and Manly out on the corner with cup in hand raising the funds and rallying Boston’s Black community behind them? And, as media-blogger, John Carroll, asks:

Why – given that Boston is a majority minority town – doesn’t the black community have a stronger power base here? Why do Boston’s prominent African-Americans routinely rise to the top of charitable groups and non-profit organizations, but rarely attain political power either locally or statewide? And why, in the end, does the paper have to rely on the white mayor of Boston – instead of the black community – to rescue it?

But having Manly and Miller on the street raising the necessary money would be Mission Impossible, because the Banner has never been The Voice Of The People in anything more than name only.

To be fair, the Banner is certainly not alone in lining up at the trough to offer itself as a tool of White supremacy, as evidenced by Rev. Jeffrey Brown’s Ten Point Coalition, Boston’s Police Review Board, the so-called Institute for Race and Justice (housed at Harvard, no less), and the African American Historical and Cultural Museum (not to mention the National Association for the Acceptance of Corporate Profits — the NAACP), all of whom must necessarily defer to the sensitivities of their benefactors, or risk the cessation of funds and, in most cases, unemployment. The interests of these benefactors, being wealthy and well-to-do, will almost always conflict with the interests of the masses of the Black community, providing us the answer to the question posed by John Carroll.

These erstwhile Black institutions want us to believe their missions are newly empowered by the money they take from Whites. But the agents of White supremacy know all too well that as long as they control the money, they have the real power, exercised to it’s full effect in bringing the civil rights movement to a screeching halt. Although assassination, to be sure, was quite an effective weapon against civil rights advocacy in the ’60’s. Yet through control of the purse strings, no one’s hands need get dirtied, except, of course, the Blacks accepting the money. . . . But, with this we can at least see why our oppressors and enemies work so assiduously to keep Black folks unemployed and underemployed: aside from the barrel of a gun, real power in a capitalist democracy can only spring from the pocketbook (the “Billfold or the Bullet,” if you will).

So, I say, let the Bay State Banner execs choke on mayor Menino’s lifeline, and hang like Strange Fruit from a tree — as their prize for selling out Boston’s Black community!

–Ron Peden


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