Book Review: I Mix What I Like: A Mixtape Manifesto by Jared Ball

Taken together, “I Mix What I Like’s” jewels represent a compelling assessment of the status not only of African America, but also of its colonial master.* – Dr. Brian Sims

Expecting there to be a sanctioned press from among the colonized that poses journalistic challenges to established power is simply irrational.” – Jared Ball

*This review originally appeared in HipHopDX and was written by Dr. Brian Sims of North Carolina A&T.

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The Corporate King Memorial and The Burial of a Movement

The Dr. King Memorial and The Burial of a Movement

Jared A. Ball

Dr. King and the liberation movement he represents will again suffer a brutal blow this week when all are permanently entombed under the violent euphemism of “memorial.”  The dedication of this $120 million stone sculpture is to be a national tribute to a man whose entire body of work was designed to destroy the very structure that now claims to honor him.  It is no honor.  It is a burial.  The very entities against which the movement that produced King have struggled for centuries have now attached themselves to him as if to claim victory over, rather than along with, that man and that movement.  This memorial should be seen as the hostile, disingenuous aggression against Dr. King that it is and should continue to be a reminder of the absolute absence of sincere change in this society.

Deborah Atwater and Sandra Herndon have written about the meaning of memorials and museums saying, in part, that they serve the “nation-state” by communicating an “official culture” whose job, “through sponsorship,” is to “retain loyalty” and the “virtue of unity.”  Atwater and Herndon describe memorials as helping the state develop a “ collective American public memory” and a “shared sense of the past.”  Museums and memorials become “the spaces in which that [public] memory is interpreted.”  Perhaps most importantly is that memorials are said to also “give meaning to the present.”  But given the vicious re-imaging King suffered before his assassination, the vitriol he withstood from a nation determined to resist the change he represented, and given the post-assassination routine destruction of his advancing radical politics, it is simply not hard to determine just what this memorial intends to convey or the present meaning it intends to define.

The collective which has formed to create the memorial seems to be a marriage of the exact forces King spoke most aggressively against; White liberals, corporations and the Black petite-bourgeoisie.  The “leadership” team consists of Andrew Young and two current and former executives from General Motors.  Their support leadership group consists of people like, Russell Simmons,  J.C. Watts and Earl Graves, but of course Tommy Hilfiger, football team owner Daniel Snyder and NBA commissioner David Stern.  But better still is the “major contributor” list which consists of such leaders in the march toward peace and equality like defense contractor Boeing and the media empire Viacom.  Certainly Disney and Coca-Cola have, when not producing drawn racism or supporting the assassination of laborers, been among the brightest beacons of freedom.  Of course, there are others like JP Morgan, Murdoch’s Direct TV, Exxon, Target and Wal Mart – other bastions of workers’ rights and liberty.  All have come together to assure that King be forever separated from himself; from his anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and anti-patient work for a genuine revolution.

It is fitting that this memorial is placed so as to sit “along the axis of the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials” permanently fixed between two of this nation’s greatest representatives of enslavement and anti-Blackness.  It is fitting that this memorial is being established by the very segments of this society King worked strongest against and to which he offered his most biting criticism.  And it is fitting that this memorial be established at a time when King’s words and deeds are least known or followed, while a Black president presides over the falling conditions of Black Americans and the falling bombs over African homes.  And it is fitting that the dedication of the memorial will come 48 years after his most famous speech and 44 years after he would call his dream a “nightmare.”

For when we see the dedication ceremony and as we look upon the sculpture itself what we will see is not a true dedication to a great man, instead we will be witnessing the funeral and headstone of a movement.


Mass Media and African Sovereignty

Mass Media and African Sovereignty
Jared Ball

It is always appropriate for a people to question the status of their sovereignty.  It seems especially timely during the month of August, or as some refer to it, Black August; the time when we commemorate the Black liberation struggle, prison reform movement and political prisoners.  This past week the question of African sovereignty was again raised during a panel hosted by the Association of Black Psychologists.  It is an important question, one of sovereignty, for as Lia Bascom said recently, the powerful battle over nationalism has largely subsided while the liberal politics of assimilation have simply taken over.

The panel touched on any number of vital elements all of which currently work to inhibit the sovereign aspirations of anyone – and especially Black people – around the world.  Culturally, economically, politically and psychologically African people are under assault, and in new ways, some never-before experienced not the least of which is the damaging presence of Barack Obama as an imperial president.  My own focus remains and is at times myopically focused on media, communications, propaganda or simply put; psychological warfare.  For how are a people to be free if oppositional ideas are so easily and powerfully disseminated among them?

This question of communication forced Huey Newton to amend his ideas of nationalism recreating these into the internationalist perspective he called “intercommunalism.”  His concerns included the ability of imperial powers to control mass communication and, therefore, to have inordinate ability to breakdown nearly all tendencies of colonized people to be sovereign.  The single super power dominance of the United States which wields its media intentionally as a militarized weapon with atomic capabilities to dominate the globe renders all other claims to nationalism meaningless.  Decades later his political opposite would agree. Zbigniew Brzezinski would write that this country’s imperial reach will outlast other pretenders to that throne precisely because of its control over “popular entertainment and mass communication.”  And he may have been right.  Perhaps, given today’s small but important shifts in state power our understanding of imperial power may need to be disassociated from any particular state and be seen more as an amorphous international elite.  But the point remains that an ability to be sovereign requires an ability to communicate that need, to make it a popular idea among a given community, and to protect against the psychological assaults from hostile entities.

And just where are we with that today?  As we have routinely reported here, in the United States, from within the seat of global power, we have very little room for these discussions to occur.  Worsening the already horrific state of media affairs for Black people here is the recent sale of legendary Black radio network Inner City Broadcasting to a private-equity firm headed by White male billionaire Ron Burkle, just after, of course, the move of even the liberal and bourgeois Johnson Publishing Company to the JP Morgan empire.  And even my beloved mixtapes, hip-hop’s original mass medium, are becoming more and more the source of promotional work for record companies as opposed to the liberated medium they once were and still are in their many varied but lesser popular forms.

Our current ability to defend against the media weaponry of imperialism is as weak as at any point in our history.  Just consider for a moment the ability for major imperial media to immediately assign blame for the recent massacre in Norway as an Arab/Muslim “terrorist” attack and then upon learning of the killer’s super Whiteness redefined him as the “lone wolf” which, particularly for young men of similar origins, has been video-gamed into a powerful compliment.  Remember the “Army of One” campaign?  It is practically code for “hero” or “thank you!”

But this poor state of media power is only the reflection of an equally poor state of nationalist organization or of even nationalist fantasy.  Fanon once wrote that, “The settler’s work is to make even dreams of liberty impossible for the native.  The native’s work is to imagine all possible methods for destroying the settler.”  It would certainly seem they have done their part but as for us… ?

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Jared Ball.  On the web visit us at BlackAgendaReport.com.

Dr. Jared A. Ball is an associate professor of communication studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore and is the author of I Mix What I Like! A Mixtape Manifesto (AK Press).  He can be found online at: IMIXWHATILIKE.COM.

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