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Giving Thanks For Our Whistleblowers, Our Leakers, Our Old and New Maroons

Black Agenda Radio Commentaries

Release Date: 11/27/2013

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Giving Thanks For Whistleblowers, Leakers, Old and New Maroons

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

There are selfless and courageous people, and representing precious historical traditions for which we ought to pause and be thankful. In early 21st century North America, these brave souls are whistleblowers and leakers, the spiritual and sometimes the literal descendants of maroons.

Maroons were the scourge of slaveholding societies in the New World from Brazil and Surinam to Colombia, Cuba and all the West Indies. Maroons were slaves who resisted by escaping, remaining at large and wherever possible, forming communities to actively resist their recapture. In Brazil, one community of maroons called Palmares remained independent for nearly a century, repelling dozens of raids and incursions by Dutch and Portuguese slavemasters. Black Brazilians still celebrate the life of Zumbi, the last leader of Palmares every November. There were armed maroon uprisings and sustained maroon wars throughout the Caribbean. In Haiti it was maroon uprisings, in conjunction with competitions between colonial powers which ultimately led to the world's first republic established by former slaves. There were maroons in the United States as well, though roads and railroads and free back country whites, things that existed nowhere else in the slaveholding Americas, made sustainable maroon communities immensely more difficult, but not impossible.

Today's whistleblowers and leakers, like the resisting slaves of two and three centuries ago, are the bravest and most selfless among us. Like the maroons of two centuries ago, they risk their careers, their and what personal freedom they do have to tell the truth about corporate and government wrongdoing, for which they often pay heavy prices. Our own Marsha Coleman-Abedayo is one of these courageous souls.

No US administration has been more vicious in its efforts to pre-emptively clamp down on government employees and contractors than that of our First Black President. Unaccountable private corporations are every bit as savage in the pursuit of employees and journalists who expose their practices. Corporations like Amazon and many Big Ag firms have bribed state and federal officials to enact a wide range of gag laws forbidding former employees to write or speak about working conditions and practices in warehouses, factories, farms, pharmaceutical plants and laboratories to name just a few places under pain of years in state or federal prison. Corporations have used their influence in government to label some of these truth tellers as “terrorists”, exposing them to a galaxy of extra punitive measures.

The fates of Private Chelsea Manning, of fugitive Edward Snowden, and dozens or hundreds of well-known recent political prisoners are also eloquent testimony that the tradition of individual modern maroons is alive and well. And though WikiLeaks, an international newsgathering collaborative, analogous to a global maroon community has been severely weakened by illegal financial maneuvers endorsed by hostile governments, it still releases important new information like recent details of the secret negotiations of the so-called Trans Pacific Trade Partnership.

You won't find the tradition of the maroons in the black church today, or in black businesses, or among blacks in public office. You'll find it among those who stand up for the poor against corporate and government abuse – among our whislteblowers, our leakers, our maroons. For this, we should pause and give thanks.

For Black Agenda Report, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. He can be reached via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.