August 11, 2020

Important and useful explanation of De-funding from the Abolitionist Alec Karakatsanis:

ATTN: Chicago Educators and Citizens

August 10, 2020

REMOVE POLICE FROM Chicago Public Schools –

At the August 2020 meeting the Chicago Board of Education will – again – vote on whether CPS should terminate their relationship with the CPD. It is past time to remove police from schools. Please read and consider endorsing this letter that was prepared for the June 2020 meeting.

The letter also lists other actions or residents of Chicago or CPS alum – such as making a meeting with BOE members or your Chicago alderperson. Please read and consider signing, adding comments, and forwarding to colleagues.

And, most centrally, our young folks and community based organizations have been leading the way.
Follow their campaign and support their initiatives:

Abbie Speaks

August 8, 2020

“We’re headed towards the middle ages. This is the decline of the American empire. This is what decline looks like—middle class vanishes, plagues sweep the earth, droughts, locusts in Georgia, the dumbing of the country, lack of leadership at the top, unstuck youth at the bottom, high suicide rates, homeless people in the streets—I could go on and on… Maybe good riddance to bad rubbish… Somebody once asked Gandhi what he thought of Western Civilization—he said it was a good idea, somebody ought to try it someday.” ~~Abbie Hoffman 1988


August 6, 2020

75 YEARS AGO today, the US dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, followed three days later by an atomic attack on Nagasaki—the only time nuclear weapons were ever deployed against people in war. This was one of the worst war crimes in history, and surely the largest terrorist attack ever undertaken in a single day. Against all evidence and ethical considerations, US political leaders to this day justify that horrendous act as necessary, and, more alarming, the US is actively destroying nuclear arms limitations agreements, and maintains a “first use” policy to this day. Beware the “stable genius!” #hiroshima #nonukes

Congratulations, Barbara!

August 5, 2020

Professor Barbara Ransby named MacArthur Chair
July 30, 2020

Barbara Ransby, distinguished professor of African American studies, gender and women’s Studies, and history, and director of the Social Justice Initiative at UIC.
University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), has been named a John D. MacArthur Endowed Chair, University of Illinois System President Tim Killeen announced Thursday.

Ransby is a professor of History, Gender and Women’s Studies, and Black Studies, a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences distinguished professor, and an award-winning author. She becomes the first endowed John D. MacArthur professor at UIC and only the second in the history of endowed MacArthur chairs in the U of I System.

The MacArthur chairs at the University of Illinois were created in 1981 through a gift from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which also sponsors the well-known MacArthur Fellows or “Genius Grant” program. Prior to his retirement in 2019, Urbana-Champaign Physics Professor Emeritus and Nobel laureate Anthony Leggett was the only MacArthur chair.

MacArthur chairs are nominated by their chancellors and awarded by the president of the U of I System after a review by the MacArthur Chair Review Committee. Chairs are faculty members who are internationally recognized scholars and who “give promise of making a substantial impact” on their department and university. The chair includes $65,000 in funding for salary and research.

Killeen praised Ransby and called her an influential scholar whose work has documented the racial inequity and divisions at the heart of much of the current American discourse.

“It gives me great pleasure to recognize Professor Ransby and her work with this richly deserved honor,” Killeen said. “She is an accomplished historian and writer whose voice has long helped shape our understanding of issues around race, class, justice and fundamental civil rights. And today, her scholarship is ever so vital in helping us move toward structural and systemic changes at the state and national levels.”

Ransby said she is both honored by the recognition and eager to use it to magnify the impact of her work.

“I am appreciative of this recognition and the resources that come with it,” she said. “In these precarious times, I intend to lend these dollars to the collective social and racial justice projects that I am a part of.”

Ransby is an asset to UIC, and to Chicago and the state of Illinois, UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis said.

“This honor recognizes the profound impact of Professor Ransby’s work and her stature in her field,” Amiridis said. “As Chicago’s largest and only public research university, with one of the most diverse university communities in the nation, UIC has a unique responsibility to drive meaningful change that lifts up African Americans who remain underserved and under-represented in nearly every aspect of their lives. During this difficult moment in history, when we are witnessing the greatest social upheavals in half a century, Professor Ransby’s scholarship will continue to inform our path forward, and we are immensely fortunate to have her voice guiding our efforts.”

Ransby has published dozens of articles and essays, in both popular and scholarly publications, part of a career-long commitment to reaching audiences beyond the academy.

“My research focuses on African-American women’s political and intellectual history and the creation of archives that tell their stories,” she said. “I am also deeply committed to engaging a larger public, and providing scholarship that contributes to the ongoing struggles for greater freedom and justice in the world.”

Ransby is also the author of three books, including an award-winning biography of civil rights activist Ella Baker, “Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision.” The book, published in 2003, has been recognized with eight national book awards, including the Liberty-Legacy award from the Organization of American Historians; the Joan Kelly prize from the American Historical Association (AHA); and the James A. Rawley Prize (also from the AHA). In 2018, The Chronicle of Higher Education called the book “one of the most influential books of the last twenty years.”

Ransby’s most recent book is “Making All Black Lives Matter: Reimagining Freedom in the 21st Century.” It was published in 2018 and touches on themes behind some of the most urgent issues of 2020. In the book, Ransby weaves together the common threads behind the Black Lives Matter movement.

She also is the author of the 2013 award-winning book “Eslanda: The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson,” which explores Eslanda “Essie” Cardozo Goode Robeson’s career as an anthropologist, journalist and advocate for women’s rights, as well as her influence on her actor, singer and activist husband’s early career. The book received the Letitia Woods Brown Memorial prize for the best book in African American women’s history from the Association of Black Women Historians.

In addition to the book awards, Ransby has been widely recognized for her scholarly leadership.

This year, she was elected as a fellow to the Society of American Historians.

In 2017, she was honored as “one of the top 25 women in higher education” by Diverse Issues in Higher Education. She is also a recipient of the 2018 Angela Y. Davis Prize from the American Studies Association for scholarship in service of the public good, and was also honored that year by the Society of Professors of Education with the William H. Watkins award. And in 2016, Ransby was elected to a two-year term as president of the National Women’s Studies Association.

In 2015, she served on a three-person jury for the Pulitzer Prize in biography.

Ransby has also published and lectured widely at conferences, community forums and on more than 50 college campuses.

Outside of her academic work, Ransby was an initiator of the African American Women in Defense of Ourselves campaign in 1991, and a founder of Ella’s Daughters, a network of women working in Ella Baker’s tradition. She is also a co-founder of Scholars for Social Justice, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Woods Fund of Chicago.

A native of Detroit, Ransby earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Columbia University and a master’s degree and PhD in history from the University of Michigan.


August 3, 2020

John Robert Lewis—Rest in Power

July 31, 2020

“Democracy is not a state,” John Lewis wrote in his last essay, published in the NYT on July 30. “It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.”
John was a field organizer and leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)in the 1960s, the New Left organization that led direct actions, including lunch-counter sit-ins and freedom rides, designed to confront injustice, break the back of Jim Crow, and build a true democracy, that Beloved Community. SNCC fought against racial capitalism, what the Reverend James Lawson called “plantation capitalism.” SNCC was also a militant anti-war organization: during the height of the invasion and occupation of Vietnam, SNCC urged Black men to resist the military, arguing that no Black man should go 10,000 miles away to fight for a “so-called freedom” he didn’t enjoy in Mississippi.
An inside joke: Field Secretaries sometimes referred to their organization as the “non-student, non-non violent, non-coordinating, non-committee.” A few useful books to read right now: the historian Barbara Ransby’s Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement; SNCC veteran Charles Cobb’s This Nonviolent Shit’ll Get You Killed; SNCC leader Rap Brown’s Die N**** Die, A Political Autobiography of Jamil Abdullah al-Amin.
SNCC fought for and practiced PARTICIPATORY and DIRECT DEMOCRACY. John Lewis understood that formal democracy is not the beginning nor the end, an important piece surely, but a piece built on a spirit of democracy, a deep regard for humanity in all its forms, a sense of mutuality and authentic dialogue. He knew that democracy is a verb and not a noun.
We are fortunate to be alive to witness and to participate in the latest upsurge in the centuries-old Black Freedom Movement—BLACK LIVES MATTER! Join in, rise up, build the Beloved Community.

Rest in power, John Lewis. Thank you for your service.

Under the Tree: A Seminar on Freedom

July 30, 2020

Op ed from the NYT this week:

And Chesa Boudin on the Inaugural Episode of “Under the Tree: A Seminar on Freedom” Subscribe to the podcast!

They are Losing

July 28, 2020

View at blog

July 26, 2020

There is plenty to worry about in the escalating government attacks in Portland and other cities. Certainly it portends a new level in the escalating Trump drive towards fascism. Who would not be alarmed at those weapons, those drones, those kidnappings? It’s no joke.

The situation is not good. No revolutionary welcomes the arrival of fascism as some kind of trigger leading to “the revolution.” No, we don’t want that. But we can’t be surprised by the escalating violence of the state. It simply means that they are losing. I don’t want to be naively sanguine about the situation, it is terrifying, but please let me suggest a different spin on the situation.

What is happening is that special federal forces are being deployed to US cities, ostensibly to quell uprisings but really to terrorize and intimidate. The creation of a special Department of Homeland Security (DHS) portended such a development. These armed men have been shooting demonstrators with “rubber” (still lethal) bullets, tossing tear gas and flash bang grenades, clubbing, and kidnapping protestors. The videos that go up show a pretty frightening sight – guys in so much body armor that they look like robots, which indeed they are, violent robots of the state.

The DHS was formed shortly after 9/11 – invoking an aggressive sense of the nation, homeland, similar to the Nazi term “heimat.” The goal of DHS was to “fight terrorism” but the war spear was pointed inward, to a war inside US borders. And indeed this is an important way to define fascism, the methods of colonial/imperial violence brought home.

I would caution us to remember, however, that we have experienced this before. During the 60’s-70’s, the militarization of domestic repression was intense, even beyond what we are seeing in Portland. During the Detroit uprising of 1967 the United States Army’s 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions invaded, killing over thirty Black people. Soldiers from Ft. Carson and Ft. Hood entered Chicago to quell demonstrations in 1968. And soldiers used real, not rubber, bullets to kill students at Kent State and Jackson State in 1970. The FBI’s COINTELPRO was an ongoing government military assault on the Black Panther Party and other Black liberation forces, resulting in assassinations, kidnappings and jailings.

The important point is that all of these measures of repression were indications of the weakness of the imperialists. They were desperate flailings, attempting to use brute force to demoralize and deter the protests. But the opposite happened. The demonstrations in May 1970 brought the war machine to its knees and inspired thousands of GIs to lay down their weapons (see Winter Soldier investigation). The Portland horrors have only sparked a more determined and sophisticated resistance movement.

The imperialist state has nothing but its ability to deploy violence – and it is constantly inventing new and gruesome ways to maim, injure, and kill people. But it never understands the backlash, never understands the weakness of its only recourse. Hell, the US dropped 100,000 bombs in North Vietnam during the Christmas bombing of 1972. During the war, they dropped 400,000 tons of napalm and 11.2 million gallons of Agent Orange on that country. And they lost.

I’m not saying people didn’t suffer. People suffered horribly under this inexcusable display of genocidal hatred. A dying imperialism is the most dangerous. But these pathetic tin soldiers, all decked out in their body armor and covered by spy planes and drones, only reveal their weakness.

This country was born and nurtured on white supremacy and imperialism, racism is baked into the foundation of the US, so Black Lives Matter is actually a simple slogan which demands fundamental change. We never thought this country would change into something peaceful, humane, and loving without a paroxysm of hatred and violence, did we? Right now, military leaders are telling Trump they do not need to go all out because it is “not yet an insurrection.” But before significant change is made, it will be something they see as an insurrection and the military will escalate. So it’s best we be ready for the long haul, the protracted struggle.

We may still see the day that Chad Wolf, the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security, goes on trial, if not in the US then in the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Justice will win in the end. Pay attention. We are all getting the political education of our lifetimes right now.

Slavery and the Republican Party

July 28, 2020

If chattel slavery — heritable, generational, permanent, race-based slavery where it was legal to rape, torture, and sell human beings for profit — were a “necessary evil” as @TomCottonAR says, it’s hard to imagine what cannot be justified if it is a means to an end.
— Ida Bae Wells (@nhannahjones) July 26, 2020