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 In announcing Artest's suspension for the rest of the season (and Pacer players

Jermaine O'Neal for 25 games and Stephen Jackson for 30 games) NBA commissioner

David Stern said that Artest had broken the social contract between players and fans. 



Ron Artest Ain’t the Problem!

A Revolutionary Take on “Fight Night in the NBA”     

By Carl Dix


The replays have been run so many times the scene has become etched in my brain.  The Indiana Pacers' Ron Artest laying a hard foul on Ben Wallace of the Detroit Pistons near the end of the game.  Wallace coming back at him with 2 hands to the throat, and Artest walking away from this potentially explosive situation and laying down on the scorers' table.  (I'm told this is an anger management tactic.)  Then a cup full of some liquid comes flying out of the stands onto Artest and the brawl is on.  Players going into the stands, fans running onto the court.  Beer, chairs and punches being thrown.  Endless video replays accompanied by seemingly endless articles and panels of talking heads supporting the suspensions NBA Commissioner David Stern hit Artest and several other Pacers with and talking about Artest as a troubled young man who needs to do to deal with his problems.

And I'm thinking what problems are they referring tofans who douse you with beer?  NBA big wigs who, with their eyes focused on their bottom line, make an example out of you?  The talk about Artest's  problems or his previous run ins with basketball's authorities is a lot of crap.  Bush took the US to war in Iraq based on lies about weapons of mass destruction and Saddam's ties to Al Queda.  Before that as Texas governor he presided over a record number of executions, including some where the person put to death was innocent.  But news reporters don't link this to his past problems with alcohol or to his current addiction to Pat Robertson style Christian Fascism.

In announcing Artest's suspension for the rest of the season (and Pacer players Jermaine O'Neal for 25 games and Stephen Jackson for 30 games) NBA commissioner David Stern said that Artest had broken the social contract between players and fans.  What is this social contract he's talking about here?  It's doesn't include a clause saying fans shouldn't abuse players.  Some NBA teams institutionalize such practices.  The Washington Wizards (formerly the Bullets) had a designated heckler who was seated behind the visiting team's bench.  This guy would do research to determine the best way to get inside the heads of visiting players and coaches.  He'd recite rewritten versions of Shaq's rap lyrics, read sections of Phil Jackson's autobiography and run down any run ins players had with the law among other things.  In places like Boston, instead of having a designated heckler, the whole crowd is encouraged to get into the act.

This social contract rests on the way the NBA has approached dealing with a problem central to its marketing strategy.  The NBA is serving up a sport dominated by Black athletes and featuring the edge and attitude that Black youth bring to the game, and to life.  But they are marketing that sport to a fan base that is largely white.

The league knows the game minus the power, speed, aggression and agility these players bring to it would be a pale imitation of what draws the fans out to the arenas and into the stores to buy jerseys and other paraphernalia with players' names and numbers on it.  To deal with this contradiction, players are allowed, even encouraged, to show that spirit in competition, and even somewhat in combat, among each other.  (Think of how much less a story this would've been if Artest had responded to Wallace's blow by throwing punches at HIM.  Both of them would've gotten suspended for one or a couple of games at most.)  But never, ever, should a player even think about responding to anything done to him or his team by a fan.  Think of the gladiators in the Roman Coliseum, cheered or jeered for what they did against each other, but never allowed to respond to directly to the crowd for anything it said or did.

The racism embedded in this approach rests on a lot of history.  I'm not mainly talking here about how this country's dragged Africans to these shores in chains and stole the land from the native inhabitants.  Although I could talk about that because it's still very relevant today.  I'm more speaking about basketball history.  Blacks were barred from the NBA till the 50's.  The best Black ball players in the country were limited to playing for the Harlem Globetrotters if they wanted to play ball for a living.  Most NBA teams refused to even play the Globetrotters.  (The Minneapolis Lakers, who dominated the NBA in the late 40's and early 50's, did agree to play the Globetrotters.  They ended up splitting several games with them.)

Coming closer to today, the NBA publicly agonized in the 1980's over the growing numbers of Black players in the league and wondered whether and how it could sell a Black dominated game to white fans.  Out of this agonizing came 2 things:  1) A search for and promotion of "white hopes"--white players talented enough to stand out in a game dominated by Black players. (Sometimes this worked, e.g., Larry Bird, and sometimes it flopped, like with Danny Ferry.)  And 2) Attempts to moderate the edge and attitude of the Black players.

I'm not exaggerating when I speak of them trying to moderate players' attitude.  During the 1984 NBA Finals, the LA Lakers began one game by giving each other low fives instead of high fives.  League officials were horrified and quickly told them not to do that again.  Laker Michael Cooper said the word to not do another low five came from someone "higher than the team and lower than God."  All this forms the backdrop for the widespread condemnation of Ron Artest for his role in his incident.

Let me be real clear.  This incident didn't happen because of Artest's problems.  Nor did it become a major story for that reason.  Brawls at  hockey games involving one or several of its mostly white players fighting with some of its mostly white fans occur so often they're treated as normal occurrences.  Something for some sportscaster's plays of the week list.  There have even been incidents where fans who ran onto baseball or football fields, interrupting games, were beaten by players, and it didn't get treated as major stories like this did.  But this was basketball, with it's mostly Black players fighting with it's largely white fans.

Artest walked away from a punch to his face and ignored a towel thrown at him.  But this largely gets left out of the talk about this incident. Instead the discussion begins with Artest's "hard" foul on Wallace even tho' the game was all but over and skips to him going into the stands after the fan who hit him with the cup.  As for the foul, the game was all but over, but Indiana's coach still had his starting line up on the floor.  So he seemed to want his players to keep playing intensely.  And in going into the stands after whoever threw beer on him and punching a fan who ran onto the court and got in his face, Artest was responding to what people did to him.  This is what gets talked about and analyzed, or mis-analyzed, in commentary on this incident.  He was defending himself, and for that he becomes the NBA's public enemy # 1.

When David Stern and others say that no matter what was done to him, Artest never, ever should have gone into the stands, they are applying to him a standard that doesn't get applied much in US society--turn the other cheek.  Artest grew up in the Queensbridge projects in New York City.  You don't turn the other cheek there unless you want to get hit again.  Artest's shot to get out of the projects was thru basketball, and he succeeded at it by turning himself into one of the best players in pro ball at his position.  The heart of his game is giving his all every minute he's on the floor, on offense and defense.  His competitive style has led to clashes with the NBA's hierarchy and to a number of suspensions.  This itself got turned into more reason to punish him harshly.  David Stern noted that his previous suspensions by the NBA were taken into account in determining what punishment to give him in this case.  This comes down to a retroactive repeat offender policy that has only been applied to Ron Artest.

In commenting on all this, Charles Barkley said, "These guys (referring to NBA players) have to understand the racial undercurrent in the NBA.  The fans look at this stuff as Black millionaires acting stupid."  This was a theme that came up often in discussion of the brawl--fan resentment of wealthy Black athletes who lack the proper gratitude or humility for their situation.  A number of newspaper articles even noted the growing number of NBA stars wear their hair in cornrows as something that contributes to this resentment!  (The authors of the articles bringing up cornrows could add that they are adding to and whipping up such resentment.)  There is a large gap in income between the fans and NBA players.  But there's an even larger gap between the economic status of the fans and that of the almost all white NBA owners.  Yet the media, sports or otherwise, doesn't work to whip up the kind of resentment against them that's its pumping up in relation to Black players.

This theme of resentment and hostility to Black people who don't know their place fits right in what's being brought forward in society overall.  Black youth are treated like criminals in US society, guilty until proven innocent.  This has gone so far that recent studies report that 1 in 10 Black men in the US are in jail!  Widespread resentment among whites towards uppity Black people helps justify outrages like this.

And we've just been through a presidential election where the party in power tried to keep as many Black people from voting as they could.  I know the Republicans are denying this, but the stuff is pretty much out in the open.  Florida's Attorney General drew up a list of "felons" who would be denied the right to vote.  This list consisted overwhelmingly of Black people, and it was full of people who had never even been charged with a crime.  Again in Florida, Black people were visited by armed police investigating their involvement in registering people to vote.  Flyers were circulated in Black communities in Maryland and Michigan telling people they should vote the day after election day.  And I could go on and on.

The NBA suspended Ron Artest for the rest of the season with an eye toward shoring up the league's bottom line thru reinforcing a "social contract" that rests on keeping the Black athletes that give their sport its heart and soul in their places.  The intense debate this incident has generated thruout society is having the effect of giving added weight to the justifications used for all the ways this society acts to keep Black people in their place overall.  Some reality needs to be injected into the discussion around this, and the terms of the debate around it need to be changed.

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CARL DIX is a longtime revolutionary political activist. Carl is the National Spokesperson of the Revolutionary Communist Party USA, and a cofounder of the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality. A Vietnam-era veteran, Carl was one of the Fort Lewis 6–active duty GI’s who refused orders to Vietnam. To contact Carl, e-mail him at: or call (866) 841-9139 x2670.]

Carl Dix, National Spokesperson, Revolutionary Communist Party

P.O. Box 380548, Brooklyn, New York 11238 / 866-841-9139 x2670

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LA Lakers

Champions of the NBA 2010

Defeat Boston Celtics in 7


Official video: Ron Artest "Champions"

Black Scholars in Crisis?: A Conversation with Asa Hilliard  / Britannica Negro 1910

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Henry Louis Gates' Dangerously Wrong Slave History—Professor Gates’ selective storytelling and slanted use of history paints a very different picture than does the collective scholarship of hundreds of historians over the last fifty years or so. A learned man who commands enormous resources and unparalleled media attention, why would Gates put this argument forward so vehemently now? It is untimely at best. At a time when ill-informed and self-congratulatory commentaries about how far America has come on the race question, abound, Gates weighs in to say, we can also stop “blaming” ourselves (‘ourselves’ meaning white Americas or their surrogates) for slavery.

The burden of race is made a little bit lighter by Gates’ revisionist history. It is curious that the essay appears at the same time that we not only see efforts to minimize the importance of race or racism, but at a moment when there is a rather sinister attempt to rewrite the antebellum era as the good old days of southern history. Virginia Governor Bob McConnell went so far as to designate a month in honor of the pro-slavery Confederacy.—Barbara Ransby 

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Marvin X—White Supremacy / Marvin X Tribute sponsored by The Oakland Post  / Marvin X and His Parables

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Take This Hammer

KQED's film unit follows poet and activist James Baldwin in the spring of 1963, as he's driven around San Francisco to meet with members of the local African-American community. He is escorted by Youth For Service's Executive Director Orville Luster and intent on discovering: "The real situation of negroes in the city, as opposed to the image San Francisco would like to present." He declares: "There is no moral distance ... between the facts of life in San Francisco and the facts of life in Birmingham. Someone's got to tell it like it is. And that's where it's at." Includes frank exchanges with local people on the street, meetings with community leaders and extended point-of-view sequences shot from a moving vehicle, featuring the Bayview and Western Addition neighborhoods. Baldwin reflects on the racial inequality that African-Americans are forced to confront and at one point tries to lift the morale of a young man by expressing his conviction that: "There will be a negro president of this country but it will not be the country that we are sitting in now." The TV Archive would like to thank Darryl Cox for championing the merits of this film and for his determination that it be preserved and remastered for posterity.

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Straight Outta Hunters Point  / Malcolm X Birthday (1970)

KQED News report from May 19th 1970 on the Hunters Point community of San Francisco's celebrations and remembrance for what would have been the 45th birthday of political and human rights activist Malcolm X. Features scenes of local residents describing the personal impact that Malcom X had on their lives and people enjoying live music. Ends with views of public speakers addressing crowds outside the Federal Courthouse in downtown San Francisco, including the Reverend Cecil Williams who explains that: "We are talking about the liberation of the people! And that's what we want at this particular time."

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Amiri Baraka's "Something In The Way Of Things (In Town)"

A visual adaptation of Amiri Baraka's scathing and foreboding social commentary (music by The Roots.) Shot on three different types of film and two different types of video over three months with at least fifty actors/extras in about twenty-five locations in the West Philly area by one guy. (Bryan Green, 22, senior film & video major at Drexel University)

Wake Up Everybody—Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes (1975)

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#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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The Last Holiday: A Memoir

By Gil Scott Heron

Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King's birthday ended up becoming a national holiday ("The Last Holiday because America can't afford to have another national holiday"), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered. Gil uses Lennon's violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King's assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong. —Jamie Byng, Guardian / Gil_reads_"Deadline" (audio)  / Gil Scott-Heron & His Music  Gil Scott Heron Blue Collar  Remember Gil Scott- Heron

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 2 November 2007 




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