Socialist commentator, activist succumbs
ATLANTA – Black Agenda Report (BAR) managing editor Bruce A. Dixon, a lifelong and unapologetically Black community activist, died June 28 as a consequence of a multiple myeloma, a rare blood-borne cancer. He was 68.
Dixon was “a real soldier in the sense that he was willing and eager to take on any aspect of the liberation struggle and to explore all of the questions that face us, with the aim of creating the most efficient mechanisms for movement politics,” said BAR executive editor and co-founder Glen Ford.
“Bruce Dixon was a fearless leftist commentator who wrote with an analytical rather than an emotional or politically partisan edge,” Florida Courier Publisher Charles W. Cherry II stated. The Courier has consistently re-published Dixon’s BAR column since 2007.
“His love for Black people was evident in every column he wrote. His voice and analysis will be missed not only on the Florida Courier’s commentary pages, but as we head into the 2020 political year while wrestling with issues like reparations, third-party politics, and American foreign policy – especially regarding Africa – among other things.
“He wasn’t afraid to be called a socialist, of calling out phony ‘American exceptionalism’ and militarism, of criticizing ‘Black Misleadership,’ – including the Congressional Black Caucus – and what he saw as weak-kneed, corporately-owned Democratic Party leadership that is in lockstep with Republicans, and that ignores America’s middle class.”
High school activist
Born to working-class parents raised on the south side of Chicago, by 1967, Dixon was involved in the citywide organizing effort among Black high school students demanding the first Black history courses and opposing the war in Vietnam.
“In the fall and winter of 1967 we hooked up with young Marine and Army veterans just back from the war. We took them to nine or ten Black high schools… (in) Chicago where we conducted teach-ins at which they recounted stories of rapes, murders and war crimes they either took part in or witnessed but were powerless to stop.
“They told us we had a political and moral obligation to resist the war and the draft and not allow us to be used in the shameful way they had been used,” he wrote in a recent biography.
Joined Black Panthers
In 1969, Dixon joined the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party conducting political education classes and as a patient advocate in the party’s free medical center.
Four years later, he campaigned and trained other campaign workers for Bobby Rush, the Illinois Panthers’ former deputy minister of defense, when Rush ran for Democratic ward committeeman. Rush is now the longtime congressman from the First Congressional District of Illinois.
Organized ‘project’ residents
In the 1970s, Dixon helped organize Chicago’s Cabrini-Green public housing project around issues affecting public education, police practices, jobs, the corrupt practices of the Chicago Housing Authority, and more. He was part of highly visible protests over the fact that Chicago residents could not register to vote except weekday business hours downtown in non-presidential election years.
“I was arrested a few times, but we embarrassed the city into allowing Chicago’s first off-site voter registration drives, and signing up about 60,000 new voters in time for the 1980 Illinois gubernatorial election,” he wrote in his bio.
In the 1970s and ‘80s, he worked with rank-and-file steelworkers to gain control of their union to prevent a shutdown at Chicago’s Pullman passenger rail car plant, then on political campaigns against Mayor Richard J. Daley’s political machine in Chicago, including the 1983 and 1987 mayoral campaigns of Harold Washington, the city’s first Black mayor.
In 1984, Dixon worked in the congressional campaign of Danny Davis, who now represents the Seventh Congressional District of Illinois, and the Jesse Jackson presidential campaign. He also recruited and trained the first Local School Improvement Councils for five Chicago Public Schools in the Cabrini Green neighborhood from 1988 to 1991, where he gained a reputation for running successful voter registration drives and field operations.
Trained Barack Obama
“In 1992, I was tapped to be one of three field organizers responsible for the summer and fall voter registration drive leading up to the general election that year. Our director that year whose chief responsibility was fundraising was a guy fresh out of Harvard Law with no political experience, but a quick study and a great fundraiser,” Dixon’s bio states.
“We took him around to the people we’d organized in our previous 15 years, our union folks, our people in public housing, in neighborhood organizations and the like. His name was Barack Obama.
“We signed up 133,000 new voters in four months and chased them out to the polls. Afterward, I took a job in the Elections Department of the Cook County Clerk’s office responsible for registrations and elections in the suburban half of Cook County, where my responsibilities included training deputy registrars and prospective candidates for local office.”
Dixon left Chicago in 2000. In 2002, he worked on the congressional campaign of Rep. Cynthia McKinney, and afterward published a critical assessment of the effort online.
“The article attracted the attention of Glen Ford and we began collaborating with Margaret Kimberley to produce an online journal called the Black Commentator, and in 2006 we founded Black Agenda Report, a weekly journal of news, commentary and analysis from the Black left published each and every week,” he wrote.
In 2009, Dixon joined the Georgia Green Party, which he called “a journey of several years here in Georgia.” He also was a staff person in the 2016 presidential campaign of Jill Stein before leaving due leave because of illness.
His ultimate goal was to transform the Green Party into a dues-paying membership organization, the model followed by successful opposition parties almost everywhere in the world except the U.S.
Memorial services were held on July 6.