Redefining Black Power: Reflections on the State of Black America

Redefining Black Power: Reflections on the State of Black America

by Joanne Griffith
     
 

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"This slim volume packs a punch as it unpacks uncomfortable truths, and the provocative voices here do not mince words."—Publishers Weekly

The Obama presidency represents a major milestone in black history and the struggle for political, economic and cultural equality in the United States. But how—if at all—has the first black presidency

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Overview

"This slim volume packs a punch as it unpacks uncomfortable truths, and the provocative voices here do not mince words."—Publishers Weekly

The Obama presidency represents a major milestone in black history and the struggle for political, economic and cultural equality in the United States. But how—if at all—has the first black presidency helped move things forward for people of color? Has it delivered the "change we can believe in" and "deepening of democracy" that communities of color organized around? How has the reality and image of a black First Family impacted American culture? What lessons from past struggles can be applied to this unique historical moment to advance multicultural democracy in the U.S.?

Starting the exploration of these questions with the voices of past civil rights and black power activists held in the historic Pacifica Radio Archives, BBC journalist Joanne Griffith traveled the country to interview black intellectuals, leaders and activists.

The result is a rich and wide-ranging exploration of the hot-button issues facing African Americans today, from religion, law and media to education and the economy, to the ever-shifting meaning of Obama's contribution and impact. Both timely and rich in personal wisdom, Redefining Black Power connects the dots between past civil rights struggles and the future of black civic and cultural life in the United States.

Featuring Van Jones, Michelle Alexander, Julianne Malveaux, Vincent Harding, Ramona Africa, Esther Armah and Linn Washington Jr.

Foreword by Pacifica Radio Archives director Brian DeShazor.

Praise for Joanne Griffith:

"Joanne Griffith is a superb journalist! She writes, speaks, and interviews with great skill, sincerity, and sensitivity to those she covers. Joanne has made it in a tough journalism world—one where the white males, working for wealthy news organizations, have the advantages. Her writings and insights are a lesson to all. She reflects President Obama's spirited call of 'fired up, ready to go!'"—Connie Lawn, Senior White House Correspondent (since 1968)

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Few were more galvanized by the election of Obama than African Americans. But four years after the first black president moved into the Oval Office, the excitement has been supplemented by the sober realization that no single individual can tackle the major civil rights challenges that remain. BBC journalist Griffith interviews activists, scholars, and others, including Obama's former Green Jobs Advisor Van Jones, to delve into the psyche of African Americans during the Obama years. This slim volume packs a punch as it unpacks uncomfortable truths, and the provocative voices here do not mince words. Some, like Ohio State University law professor Michelle Alexander, fault Obama for not doing more for blacks, going so far as to declare that "there really is no point in putting black and brown faces in positions of power if they aren't actually going to make much of a difference." But others say African Americans slipped into the trap of seeing Obama as a "saviour" and failed to understand that the president is head of state, not the leader of a new civil rights movement. Consequently, according to Jones, expecting Obama to "fix black America" is a mistake; if anyone is going to do that, it will be some person or group outside the political realm. Operating as he does within the constraints of Washington, the president's greatest triumph is perhaps more psychological, as Obama, his wife, and daughters have provided a much needed emotional boost for blacks as the country's First Family.
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From the Publisher
"Griffith's stellar introduction places Obama's rise in the historical context of previous generations' struggles for equality and a seat at the table of American power, recounting the emotional heft she and other African-Americans felt at Obama's victory. The interviews that follow are never less than fascinating; they are lively, engaging give-and-takes on the Civil Rights Movement, poverty and under-employment in America and on Obama's place in history. … This book displays a full, rich range of responses from America's black intelligentsia, cultural icons, artists and activists who at times question the meaning and the motives of the president rather than simply assume he offers a panacea for issues that have plagued this country since its inception."—Shelf Awareness

"Redefining Black Power is an important, historical rumination on race, class, power and politics in the Age of Obama. The conversations with such figures as Van Jones, Michelle Alexander and civil rights icon Dr. Vincent Harding are thoughtful, probing, nuanced insights into the state of African-American political power at this historic moment. The book raises challenging questions, but rather than offer definitive answers, it provokes the reader to personally define 'Black power' and inspires all of us to continue the work of 'deepening the meaning of democracy.'"—Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

"I agree with economist Julianne Malveaux, who says the notion that Obama's election made America 'post racial' is utter nonsense, when you look at current rates of poverty, income and unemployment among black people. Van Jones, former Green Jobs Czar at the White House, intrigued me when he claims that the youth who believe that electing a black president changes nothing were right. Joanne Griffith, of the Pacifica Radio Archives, interviews these and other long distance runners for justice to provide a lively array of conflicting, complex and critical attitudes the first black U.S. president has evoked, to answer the question of whether it’s time to redefine Black Power."—Kathleen Cleaver

"Griffith concludes by wondering if progressives have been 'lulled into a satisfied slumber' by Obama’s election, and whether Dr. King’s ambitions have been betrayed by this complacency. Multifaceted discussions regarding the challenges faced by African-Americans during the Obama presidency."—Kirkus Reviews

"International broadcast journalist Griffith draws on the archives of radio interviews with black intellectuals to offer a perspective on how the election of the nation's first black president has changed notions of black power and ideas of a multicultural democracy. … Griffith provides context for each excerpted interview, adding to the texture of the analysis of changing perspectives on contemporary black power."——Booklist

"Joanne Griffith's journalism gets to the story behind the story. President Obama, are you hearing me?"—Dotun Adebayo; Broadcaster and Columnist with the Voice Newspaper(UK)

"Joanne is the consummate professional, who, when she researches something, leaves nothing left to the imagination, no stone unturned."—Tony Cox, public radio talk show host

"Joanne Griffith is a journalist who brings a wealth of vision, a global world view, a traveler's spirit for curiosity, meticulous detail and a talent for excellence to her work. Through her powerful and informative projects, Joanne maintains persistently high standards and reminds us of the power of great journalism to offer fresh insight, wrap language in a unique world view and open our eyes to fresh possibility."—Esther Armah, host Wake Up Call, WBAI, New York

"In this book, radio-journalist Joanne Griffith travels the country to interview leading black intellectuals, educators, authors and organizers about the state of Black America. … She talks with Vincent Harding about the deepening of democracy in America, with Julianne Malveaux about race and economic inequality, with Michelle Alexander about law in the age of Obama, with Ramona Africa about revolutionary struggle, with Linn Washington Jr. about the media's inability to earnestly analyze government, with Van Jones about green activism; and with Esther Armah about the emotional impact of the first Black First Family."—Eithne O'Leyne, Book News Inc.

Kirkus Reviews
Anthology of interviews with notable black scholars, focused on the prospects for social justice in the age of Obama. The book is a companion volume to the Pacifica Radio Archives, which has long documented "voices from the black freedom movement." Journalist Griffith, who has been researching and presenting this material on BBC since 2007, describes the archive as containing "stories of African American struggle and triumph…for those who wish to listen and learn from the people who defined a movement," including Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, James Baldwin and Martin Luther King Jr. Here she presents seven interviews with community organizers, legal scholars, academics and activists, attempting to capture a moment in which Obama's presidency arguably obscures ongoing racial inequities, exacerbated by a weak economy and continued discrimination by law enforcement. Griffith provides historical context in her conversation with Dr. Vincent Harding, a theologian best known for co-authoring Dr. King's famous antiwar speech of 1967; Harding observes that the civil-rights movement was more accurately concerned with "the expansion and deepening of democracy in America." Legal scholar Michelle Alexander offers disturbing thoughts regarding policies of mass incarceration and the "War on Drugs" that visit disproportionate (and hypocritical) harm on black communities. Dr. Julianne Malveaux probes the racial aspects of the ongoing recession, grimly noting that "[Obama's] employment legislation is just pathetic, frankly…they tiptoed around issues of black unemployment." Ramona Africa, one of two survivors of the notorious 1985 bombing of the radical MOVE compound in Philadelphia, provides a unique perspective on police brutality toward African-Americans. Other notable participants include Temple University journalism professor Linn Washington Jr. and one-time Obama appointee Van Jones. Griffith concludes by wondering if progressives have been "lulled into a satisfied slumber" by Obama's election, and whether Dr. King's ambitions have been betrayed by this complacency. Multifaceted discussions regarding the challenges faced by African-Americans during the Obama presidency.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780872865464
Publisher:
City Lights Books
Publication date:
02/28/2012
Series:
City Lights Open Media
Pages:
208
Sales rank:
1,207,855
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author

Joanne Griffith: Joanne Griffith is an award-winning international broadcast journalist who has reported, produced and hosted programs for the BBC, NPR and Pacifica Radio. She has spent her 15-year career telling the stories of tragedy and triumph throughout the African Diaspora. Based in LA, Griffith hosts a weekly radio program for BBC Radio.

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