Marcus Garvey: A Giant of Black Politics

Marcus Garvey: A Giant of Black Politics

Directed by Howard Johnson (2008)

Film Review

This film is about Black journalist, entrepreneur, and activist Marcus Garvey, as remembered by those who worked with him in the Universal Negro Improvement Association.

Garvey was born in Jamaica in 1887, 50 years after slavery ended in that country. Sharing his father’s love of books and learning, he played an important role in educating Blacks in Jamaica and the US about advanced civilizations in ancient Africa.

Essentially the first Black nationalist, Garvey played the dual role of teaching former slaves (in Jamaica and the US) self-love and racial pride and campaigning to create a homeland in Africa for the African diaspora.

He ran into major resistance in Jamaica, where British colonists granted lighter skinned “mulattos” with special status and authority. The latter, direct descendants (usually via rape) of white slave masters, preferred to identify as “British,” rather than Black, and viewed Garvey’s teachings as a threat to their privilege.

In 1916, Garvey left Jamaica for the US, where he also received a mixed reception. African Americans who saw no future for themselves in the US championed his campaign for a new African homeland. Other Black leaders, driven by a deep seated desire to “be white,” viewed native Africans as “savages” and favored integration into mainstream society.

In Harlem, Garvey who was dark skinned faced the same bigotry of light skinned descendants of plantation owners as he did in Jamaica.

In the early 1920s, J Edgar Hoover’s newly formed FBI began investigating Garvey with a few to deporting him. They eventually charged and convicted him for mail fraud (over the failed Black Star Line*) and tax evasion. After 2 1/2 years in US prison, he was deported to Jamaica, where he quickly rebuilt the Universal Negro Improvement Association.

He had a massive following among poor Jamaicans, even after he left Jamaica for England. He died there in 1940.


*Garvey envisioned the Black Star Line as a Black owned shipping company to facilitate the transportation of goods throughout the African economy. Garvey’s initial arrest and conviction centered around the distribution (by mail) of a photo of a ship the company had yet to purchase.

New Film Exonerates Michael Jackson

Square One: New Witness in Michael Jackson Case

Directed by Danny Wu (2019)

Film Review

This documentary concerns the mainstream media’s misportrayal of the late Michael Jackson as a Caucasian wannabe and pedophile. The new witness is a New York acquaintance of Jordan Chandler, the alleged victim in a civil lawsuit Jackson settled in 1993. The woman reveals Chandler, still a major Jackson fan, considered him incapable of the predatory behavior he was accused of.

It was only in viewing this film I learned that Jackson suffered from lupus, a serious autoimmune disease responsible, not only for his vitiligo,* but for the complete erosion of his nasal cartilage, requiring numerous reconstructive surgeries.

The video also details the extensive police and FBI investigations of the star’s alleged pedophilia. He was totally exonerated of all criminal charges against him in 2005.

Despite these facts, a quirk in California law forced Jackson to settle a civil lawsuit pertaining to the same victim a year earlier. In 1994, an unconstitutional judicial ruling allowed the civil lawsuit to proceed before the criminal case was resolved. Concerned Jackson’s deposition in the civil case would give criminal prosecutors an unfair advantage (by revealing the defense strategy), Jackson’s lawyers advised him to settle.

The documentary also reveals the blackmail/extortion scheme Jordan Chandler’s father subjected Jackson to prior to going to the police (and filing the lawsuit). Chandlers’ parents were divorced, and his dentist father Evan illegally took custody of Jordan and gave him to sodium amytal  injections, presumably to pressure him to incriminate Jackson. The full amount of the settlement was (subject to a non-disclosure agreement) was covered by Jackson’s insurance.

Following his acquittal, Jackson successfully defended a second lawsuit (for child sexual abuse) in 1995. He also won a $2.7 million defamation suit against Victor Gutierrez, for his 2007 Michael Jackson Was My Lover.

Following his death in 2009, there would be two further lawsuits filed against his estate. They were dismissed in 2017.

 

 

The Mysterious Death of JFK Assassination Witness Dorothy Kilgallen

 

Denial of Justice: Dorothy Kilgallen, Abuse of Power, and the Most Compelling JFK Assassination Investigation in History

by Mark Shaw

Post Hill Press (2018)

I found this book a big disappointment. Over the last decade Shaw has compiled a massive amount of evidence related to journalist Dorothy Kilgallen’s suspicious 1965 death (see The Dorothy Kilgallen Story/). His evidence includes the complete transcript of Jack Ruby’s trial, which mysteriously went missing for 50 years. That being said, Shaw sorely needs a  editor. The style in which Denial of Justice is written is extremely convoluted, repetitive, and filled with maudlin, hyberbolic and sensationalist prose that has no place in an investigative expose.

One of the main weaknesses of the book is its failure to incorporate the immense body of academic research into the JFK assassination. Calling Kilgallen’s investigation into the JFK assassination “the most compelling in history” is pretty silly, when you contrast it with New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison’s efforts to prosecute CIA co-conspirator Clay Shaw in 1967.  Kilgallen was essentially a gossip columnist who covered Broadway stars, murder trials, celebrity weddings, and political scandals.It wasn’t her investigative prowess that posed a threat to the who assassinated JFK – it was her prominent public profile and influence over popular opinion.*

Nowhere in the book does Shaw provide a clear timeline of events immediately following Kilgallen’s death on Sept 17, 1965. This is divided up between four long rambling chapters dedicated to the the personal history and psychological motivations of potential suspects.

There is no question the actions of the NYPD, FBI and New York medical examiner’s of the day of Kilgallen’s death were highly suspect. As best as I can reconstruct, Kilgallen’s butler James Clement was the first to discover Kilgallen’s body a little before 9 am. He found her, still dressed in the cocktail dress she wore the night before, in the third floor bathroom. We know this indirectly from information he related to his wife and daughter.

By 9 am, someone had moved the body from the bathroom to the master bedroom. This is where her hairdresser, who had come to do her hair for an appointment at her son’s school, found her. By this time, her dress and underwear had been removed, and she was dressed in a fancy peignoir. However she was still wearing her hairpiece, false eyelashes and full make-up.

For some reason, the police weren’t notified until 12.30. The FBI barged in before the police arrived, seizing multiple boxes of files that included her notes on Jack Ruby’s trial, her two interviews with him, and the information she obtained from sources in the Dallas police and a recent visit to New Orleans. Random House had agreed to publish a book she was writing about her investigation, which she claimed would “crack the case wide open.”

The NYPD detective assigned to investigating her death wasn’t notified until 3 pm

Her autopsy report concludes she died from “accidental overdose,” despite blood tests revealing she had ingested the equivalent of 15-20 100 mg tablets of Seconal, in addition to the presence of alcohol, Tuinal and Nembutal.


*This related mainly to her 15-year stint on the TV game show “What’ My Line?”

 

 

Black Lives Matter vs The Ku Klux Klan: Racial Tensions Spark Pain and Anger in the US

Black Lives: Deadlock. Black Lives Matter vs the Ku Klux Klan: Racial Tensions Spark Pain and Anger in the US

RT (2019)

Film Review

The eighth episode of Black Lives concerns the Ku Klux Klan and the deleterious effect of the white supremacy on Black Americans. It includes a very strange interview with Chris Barker, the KKK Imperial Wizard and his family, as well as a cross burning ceremony with the ritual language that accompanies it. According to Barker, the KKK is praying for a race war, in the hope African Americans will be annihilated or forced to go back to “their country.”

Barker boasts that presidents Warren Harding and Harry Truman were both KKK members.

The filmmakers also interview a Black Lives Matter leader from New York. He questions why the FBI still allows the KKK, which they designate as the most terrorist organization in the US, to operate – after 150 years. He contrasts their treatment of the Black Panther Party, which the FBI had infiltrated and decimated within 15 years.

 

Why Civil Rights Aren’t Enough to Make the American Dream Come True

Black Lives: Trap, Why Civil Rights Aren’t Enough to Make the American Dream Come True

RT (2019)

Film Review

This video is the second of a series of nine exploring life in inner city African American communities. The first looked at life in Ferguson Missouri four years after the police murdered Michael Brown – which sparked the formation of the group Black Lives Matter (see Still dreaming of racial justice in St Louis Black neighborhoods). Clearly little had changed.

The rest of the series looks at other decaying urban ghettos, as well as examining problems unique to poor African American communities (the absence of decent jobs or housing, failing schools, teen pregnancy, gangs, and drug dealing). My first reaction on viewing the series was to question why the US media rarely reports on these issues – or efforts by local African American leaders to address them.

The second film focuses on poor Black communities in Baltimore and Washington DC. Despite the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in the 1960s, the bleak living conditions poor Black Americans endure remain virtually unchanged.

The most interesting interviews in this episode are with two activist religious leaders organizing their communities to improve living conditions..

One makes an interesting observation about the determination of the FBI and CIA to infiltrate and destroy any grassroots movement that takes serious strides towards improving African American living conditions.*

He also believes the two major political parties exploit racism to win votes. Republicans provoke anti-Black and anti-immigrant sentiments among white males who feel excluded from the massive economic transformation occurring in industrialized society. Democrats use racism to line up black votes, while making notoriously empty promises to improve their lives.


*Which corresponds with my experience in Seattle’s African American community, while working with a prison reform committee and Seattle’s African American Heritage Museum.

 

 

The Police War Against Move

Move: Confrontation In Philadelphia

Directed by Karen Pomer and Jane Mancini (1980) and Ben Gerry and Ryan McKenna (2004)

Film Review

This documentary is the most comprehensive I’ve seen on the African American group Move and the brutal campaign against them by the FBI and Philadelphia police. This would culminate in a police helicopter dropping a bomb on them in 1985. The resulting fire destroyed 61 homes adjacent homes. This documentary an amalgamation of a film Karen Pomer and Jane Mancini produced in 1980 and one Ben Gerry and Ryan McKenna put out in 2004.

Narrated by the late Howard Zinn, it begins by exploring Move’s philosophical beliefs, which led them to opt out of the capitalist white supremacist political/economic system by growing their own food and living in a nonviolent way that honored all the life.

The home the police bombed in 1985 wasn’t the first destroyed by the Philadelphia police. The first police assault against Move (in 1978) followed a long period of police brutality that caused two pregnant Move members to miscarry and the death (by blunt force trauma) of a Move infant.

The police allegedly laid siege, with tear gas, water canons and live ammunition, to Move’s first residence after neighborhood complaints of excessive noise, compost smells and stray animals. One cop died of gunshot wounds during this first assault. Nine Move members were charged with his murder, despite the absence of a weapon linked to the group (the police bulldozed the home before any forensic evidence could be collected).* All nine were convicted of third degree murder and conspiracy and sentenced to 30-100 years in prison.

Allegedly the second police siege, on May 13, 1985, also resulted from neighbor complaints. Although several Move members tried to escape the fire, were driven back into the flames by police gunfire. Eleven members, including five children, died. The sole surviving adult member, Ramona Africa, was arrested and served a seven-year sentence for inciting a riot.


*Several reporters and sources within the Philadelphia police department assert the shots killing Officer Ramp came from behind, ie he was killed by a fellow cop.

 

The video can’t be embedded for copyright reasons but can be seen free at the following link:

Move – Confrontation in Philadelphia (1980 – Karen Pomer – Jane Mancini)

Open Science and the Citizen Science Movement

Solutions: Open Science

Directed by James Corbett (2019)

Film Review

This documentary evaluates potential solutions to the problems with shoddy and fraudulent research Corbett identified in his prior documentary The Crisis of Science (see Why Most Published Research Findings Are False).

Among the reforms Corbett notes are growing pressure by scientific journals for researchers to publish raw data and negative results and the formation of an entity known as Redaction Watch. The latter closely monitors studies that are retracted for fraudulent data or questionable methodology.

However the most important solutions, in Corbett’s view, are the Open Science and Citizen Science movement. The former campaigns for free public access to scientific research, which until a decade ago was locked away behind costly paywalls.*

The most well known Open Science activist was Aaron Swartz, who published the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto in 2008. The FBI arrested Swartz in 2011 for using an MIT server to upload thousands of academic papers to a free Internet site. His legal problems allegedly prompted Swartz to kill himself two weeks before he went to trial. However numerous factors suggest he may have been “suicided” (see The Mystery of Aaron Swartz’s Alleged Suicide).

Like Swartz, Corbett argues that allowing freer public access to scientific research allows the public to monitor what scientists are up to. The Open Science movement has led to a substantial increase in research available for free on the Open Source PLOS (Public Library of Science).

Citizen Science refers to the growing participation of amateur scientists in the collection, storage and, in some case, analysis, of scientific data. Examples include projects in which scientists use citizens to collect migration data on butterflies and songbirds.

In another model, ordinary citizens set up their own projects to solve specific problems. The best example is Safecast, created by anti-nuclear  activists when it became clear the Japanese government was lying about radiation levels resulting from the Fukushima meltdowns. In this project, a network of activists created an automated Geiger counter to collect radiation counts every five seconds and upload them to an online database. They then recruited thousands of Japanese volunteers to attach them to their cars and bikes (see The Citizen Science Movement).


*Revenues resulting from scientific journal subscriptions accrue mainly to for profit publishers (like Elsevier) rather than researchers who write scientific papers.

 

 

Leonard Peltier: Political Prisoner

Incident at Olgala: The Leonard Peltier Story

Michael Apted (1992)

Film Review

This documentary, narrated by Robert Redford, describes the framing of American Indian Movement (AIM) leader Leonard Peltier for the murder of two FBI agents. Essentially a political prisoner, Peltier is currently serving two consecutive life sentences.

The charges arose out of a June 1975 firefight in Jumping Bull on the Pine Ridge reservation in North Dakota. The film portrays quite vividly the regime of terror gripping Pine Ridge between 1973-75. It was overseen by corrupt Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) appointee Dick Wilson, with the support of BIA police. In 1973 Lakota elders, who were the primary targets of Wilson and his “goon squads” approached the national American Indian Movement (AIM) leadership for support.

By mid-1975, the reservation was in a state of virtual war, with more than 60 unsolved murders and frequent firefights like the one that occurred in Jumping Bull.

Based on this background, Pelter’s co-defendants Daryl Butler and Bib Ribideau won acquittal on their first degree murder charges. Given the two FBI agents were in civilian dress, unknown to the defendants and drew their guns on them, the jury found Butler and Ribideau were merely defending themselves in firing their weapons.

Peltier, who had to be extradited from Canada, was assigned a different judge. By the time of his trial in 1997, the FBI had clearly doctored the ballistics evidence and browbeat and intimidated two eyewitnesses into changing their statements.

Peltier’s arrest and trial occurred during a period when the FBI  see The FBI’s War on Black People) was hoping to kill off both AIM and the Black Panther Party by decimating their leadership – through covert assassination and arresting as many as possible on phony charges.

The film can’t be embedded for copyright reason but can be seen free at Incident at Olgala

The FBI’s War on Black People

The FBI’s War on Black People

Directed by Deb Ellis and Dennis Mueller (1990)

Film Review

This 1990 documentary is based on interviews with Black Panther Party (BPP) activists who directly experienced Cointelpro. The latter was a secret FBI counterinsurgency program created and run by late FBI director J Edgar Hoover. Allegedly shut down in the mid-seventies, there is strong evidence it continues to operate under a different name.

The film begins by quoting directly from secret FBI memos (released under the Freedom of Information Act) detailing the official purpose of Cointelpro – namely to “neutralize: charismatic Black leaders capable of organizing effective resistance to the white supremacist power structure.

The film then explores the suspected Cointlpro role in the assassination of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King* and the proven Cointelpro role in the murder of Chicago BPP leader Fred Hampton. The latter was shot in his sleep by Chicago police with the help of an undercover FBI infiltrator who provided a layout of Hampton’s apartment.

The documentary also covers the less publicized FBI role in the Klan murder of southern civil rights leaders. During the sixties, again according to FOI documents, 25% of Klansmen were FBI informants or agents. Although the FBI nearly always had foreknowledge of these murders, not only did they fail to prevent them – but in many cases FBI plants pulled the trigger.

Surviving Panther members also speak bitterly about the role of FBI infiltrators in fomenting rumor campaigns and factional fighting within BPP groups and between the BPP and other activist organizations. Hoover was also directly responsible for the media’s negative portrayal of the Panthers as dangerous people who hated whites and wanted to hurt them.

In my view, the most powerful weapon Hoover deployed against the BPP was to deliberately frame and imprison their leaders on false charges.

The film contains rare footage of late political Geronimo Pratt describing attempts to frame him for one of Charles Manson’s murders before they framed him for the “Tennis Court” murder.

Pratt served 27 years until the phony charge was vacated in 1997. He died in Tanzania in 2011.**


*In 1999 the jury in a civil case brought by the King family, found the US government responsible for King’s 1968 murder. See The Truth Behind the Assassination of Martin Luther King

**See Geronimo Pratt

The 1968 Global Revolt and the Brutal 1969 Global Crackdown

1968 Global Revolt – Part 3 The Explosion

DW (2018)

Film Review

Part 3 focuses on 1969 and the extreme police and military violence directed at anti-government protests in the US, Japan, Italy and Germany.

In the US, 1969 saw the occupation of derelict University of California-Berkeley property for the formation of a People’s Park and the formation of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. The latter would be destroyed by heavy CIA/FBI infiltration and assassination and false imprisonment of many of its leaders. 1969 also saw the sidetracking of many US antiwar protestors into environmental activism, women’s and gay liberation and alternative lifestyles (the hippy peace, love and truth movement, Woodstock and communal living).

In Germany, the students rejecting bourgeois capitalist lifestyles formed the Kommune movement. The filmmakers erroneously describe the Baader-Meinhoff Gang (aka the Red Army Faction), responsible for setting fire to department stores and warehouses, as a fringe offshoot of the the Kommune movement. The Baader-Meinhoff Gang was exposed in the early 90s as a CIA/NATO-driven product of Operation Gladio.*

The filmmakers also mischaracterize Italy’s Red Brigades as a violent offshoot of the Italian antifascist movement that mobilized tens of thousands of workers and students. The Red Brigades, responsible for tens of thousands of false flag bombings and assassinations, was also created and run by Operation Gladio. The Italian government used the Red Brigades “terrorist” activities events to justify the adoption of extreme repressive measures, including the imprisonment of 30,000 antifascist activists.

Also disappointing is the filmmakers’ failure to identify the root cause of Japan’s anti-American protests (ie the CIA funding of their single party government). In his book Blowback, Chalmers Johnson compares Japan’s US-controlled post-war government to East Germany’s dictatorship. Also see CIA supported Japan’s ruling party during Cold War era

*Operation Gladio is the code name for a CIA/NATO backed paramilitary network that carried out thousands of false flag terrorist operations to justify repressive government legislation to suppress grassroots anti-capitalist organizing. It was exposed in a 1992 BBC documentary.