Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
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Revolution #232, May 15, 2011
Ask yourself: Which country in the world, from its beginning to the present time, has the bloodiest history of genocide... slavery... invasions... coups, installing and backing brutal regimes... bombings... massacres and mass destruction—including the use of nuclear weapons?
Yes... when it comes to terror within its borders and around the world...
What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these "outmodeds," you end up strengthening both.
While this is a very important formulation and is crucial to understanding much of the dynamics driving things in the world in this period, at the same time we do have to be clear about which of these "historically outmodeds" has done the greater damage and poses the greater threat to humanity: It is the historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system, and in particular the U.S. imperialists.
Bob Avakian, BAsics 1:28
Send us your comments.
Revolution #232, May 15, 2011
Excerpts from a poem by Abiodun Oyewole, of the Last Poets. We would like to thank Abiodun for permission to reprint.
America is a terrorist killing the natives of the land
Killing and stealing has always been America's master plan
To control the earth and everything on it
To divide and conquer is all they wanted.
America is a terrorist killing the buffalo that roam the plains
Killing and slaughtering animals was turned into a game
Giving blankets contaminated with small pox
The natives were killed, the beginning germ warfare
The beginning of white fear.
No respect for the land, the trees, or the air we breathe
And Christianity was an excuse to bring others to their knees.
America is a terrorist with a slave system in place
To take away the humanity of a darker race
Put people in chains, then beat them with whips
Made them give up their names
Those who survived the slave ship.
America is a terrorist with a Howdy Doody grin
Using the Bible to keep others in check
While America commits all the sins
Thou shalt not kill, that's not part of the American dream
For to kill is a thrill they love to show on your TV screen
Romance the gun just for fun.
Drop a bomb just for charm.
This is the American Way.
And all of this talk about equality, justice and peace
Spewing out of the mouths of these governmental beasts.
But every time Blacks tried to find a way to do for self
The American terrorist wasn't having it
And fear was all Black folks felt.
America is a terrorist feeding off racism and greed
Not caring or sharing, but enjoying watching people bleed.
For over 400 years Blacks have lived in fear of the vicious cruelty of the racists.
They tried to march for justice and civil rights to be treated fair
Attacked by dogs and fire hoses, beaten by police, forced to live a life in total despair.
They bombed the church in Birmingham while the children were in Sunday school
Took the lives of four little girls, yes this terrorist was just that cruel.
American terrorism is like a virus that's home grown and spreads across the planet too.
Selling guns and chemical weapons, gift-wrapped in red, white, and blue.
Soldier boys selling guns for hard drugs in exchange
It should be obvious by now that this country is deranged.
America is a terrorist and no one wants to admit
And pointing the finger at others is the ironic part of it.
Drop a bomb in Philadelphia to wipe out an organization called MOVE.
Killed unarmed women and children because the police had something to prove.
And all the Black Panthers who were trying to help their community
Wiped out by the FBI for trying to create Black unity.
Put drugs in the hood, set folks up for no good.
Kept unemployment high, education is laced with lies.
Turn the people against each other.
Made money more sacred than your mother.
Cause an avalanche of grief by trigger happy police.
Locked the Black man up in jail, made him think he was born to fail.
And no place are you safe if you have a darker face.
Henry Dumas, Amadou Diallo, Yusef Hawkins, Michael Griffith, Anthony Báez, Eleanor Bumpers, Emmett Till, James Byrd, just to name a few
Died at the hands of American terrorists.
Terrorism here ain't nothing new.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #232, May 15, 2011
The following list of terrorist crimes is only a short selection from the history of the United States and its acts around the world. The fact that this history is not taught in schools, or acknowledged in acceptable discourse, does not mean these things didn't really happen. Readers are challenged to look these up for themselves.
Genocide of Native Americans: From the time the founders of the United States arrived in North America to the present. Genocide of Native Americans and the theft of their land, including the "Trail of Tears" where tens of thousands were driven off their lands in the Southeastern U.S. and forced to march to Oklahoma—of 15,000 relocated Cherokee, 4,000 died on the march.
Invasion of Mexico 1846-1848: U.S. forces invaded Mexico, blockaded Mexican ports and occupied Mexico City, forcing Mexico to turn over much of its territory to the U.S. including what is now New Mexico, California, and parts of what is currently northern Mexico.
Spanish-American War, 1898: Under the pretext of supporting Cuban independence from Spain, the U.S. attacked and defeated Spanish forces in the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean, seizing and dominating Spanish colonies—Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines.
Invasion of Philippines, 1899: U.S. troops brutally crushed Philippine anti-colonial forces. In the words of Mark Twain, the U.S. "buried them; destroyed their fields; burned their villages and turned their widows and orphans out-of-doors; furnished heartbreak by exile to some dozens of disagreeable patriots; subjugated the remaining tens of millions..." Among torture techniques the U.S. used against the Filipinos: waterboarding.
Invasion of Haiti, 1915: The U.S. invaded and occupied Haiti. U.S. Marines went straight to the Haitian National Bank and removed its gold reserves to New York City. The U.S. military ruthlessly crushed resistance, murdering leaders, burning villages to the ground and killing 15-30,000 Haitians.
Tulsa Massacre, 1921: Tulsa police, KKK, and racist mobs rampaged through the Black community in Tulsa, Oklahoma, killing hundreds and looting. Law enforcement agencies dropped bombs from six airplanes on the Black community which was burned to the ground.
Atomic Bomb Attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Firebombing of Tokyo, 1945: 200,000 civilians died, some burned to death on the spot, others of radiation poisoning.
Korea, 1950-1953: Of the U.S. invasion of Korea, U.S. Air Force General Curtis LeMay boasted that U.S. planes "burned down every town in North Korea." The U.S. used more bombs and artillery shells in Korea than in all of World War 2, and used napalm against military and civilian targets. An estimated 5 million people were killed in the war, 3 million of them civilians.
Vietnam, 1965-1975: The U.S. dropped more than seven million tons of bombs on Vietnam and the neighboring countries of Cambodia and Laos before being driven out in 1975, killing an estimated 3 million Vietnamese.
Dominican Republic, 1965: 20,000 U.S. Marines invaded to suppress a revolutionary uprising. An estimated 6-10,000 Dominicans were killed.
Guatemala, 1978-1984: The U.S. sponsored death-squad regime in Guatemala destroyed 400 Mayan villages carrying out the most depraved torture and brutality, killing tens of thousands of villagers.
Panama, 1989: Panamanians estimate between 2,000 and 6,000 people were killed in a U.S. invasion, with much of the death toll in poor and working class neighborhoods. Many of the dead were dumped into mass graves.
Operation Desert Storm, 1991: The first U.S. invasion of Iraq killed or injured hundreds of thousands—over 25,000 civilians and fleeing soldiers were killed in 48 hours on the "Highway of Death."
Somalia, 1993: U.S. Army missiles fired into a crowd from a helicopter killed 100 unarmed people. Villagers' huts and crops were burned, their livestock killed, bodies of the dead mutilated.
Shooting Down Iranian Airliner, 1988: The United States military shot down an Iranian civilian airplane over Iranian territory (Flight 655), killing all 290 people on board, including 66 children. The U.S. government never apologized for the incident—George H. W. Bush said, "I'll never apologize for the United States of America. Ever, I don't care what the facts are."
Afghanistan, 2001-present: Thousands of civilians have been killed directly by U.S.-led invasion and occupation forces who have bombed wedding parties, humiliated Afghans with house-to-house searches, and locked people up in U.S.-controlled dungeons where many are tortured.
Invasion and Occupation of Iraq, 2003-present: Iraq Body Count estimates over 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed in the 2nd Iraq war and occupation. Over 4 million were driven from their homes.
Haiti, 2004: On February 29, 2004, the U.S. military kidnapped elected Haitian President Aristide and his family and put him on a plane to the Central African Republic. By March 1, hundreds of U.S. Marines controlled the Haitian capital.
Torture Chambers: People around the world are kidnapped, tortured, raped, and killed without trial at U.S. torture chambers at Abu Ghraib (Iraq); Guantánamo (Cuba); Bagram (Afghanistan); secret prisons in Europe, and "renditioning" sites in the Middle East and elsewhere (outsourced torture).
Drone Attacks: In the three years leading up to and during 2009, U.S. drone attacks—from unmanned planes—killed over 700 people, overwhelmingly civilians killed when targets were missed or as "collateral damage." The attacks continue in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen.
Selected U.S. invasions including via CIA-armed and trained proxies or at the "invitation" of client regimes: Argentina 1890; Chile 1891; Haiti 1891; Hawaii 1893; Bluefields, Nicaragua 1894 & 1899; China 1894-95; Korea 1894-96; Corinto, Nicaragua 1896; China 1898-1900; Philippines 1898-1910; Cuba and Puerto Rico 1898-1902; San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua 1898; Samoa 1899; Panama 1901-14; Panama Canal Zone 1914; Honduras 1903; Dominican Republic 1903-04; Korea 1904-05; Cuba 1906-09; Nicaragua 1907; Honduras 1907; Panama 1908; Nicaragua 1910; Cuba 1912; Panama 1912; Honduras 1912; Nicaragua 1912; Mexico (Veracruz)1914; Dominican Republic 1914; Mexico 1914-18; Haiti 1914-34; Dominican Republic 1916-24; Cuba 1917; Soviet Union 1918; Panama 1918; Honduras 1919; Guatemala 1920; Turkey 1922; China 1922; Honduras 1924; Panama 1925; El Salvador 1932; Puerto Rico 1950; Guatemala 1954; Egypt 1956; Lebanon 1958; Panama 1958; Cuba 1962; Dominican Republic 1965; Guatemala 1967; Oman 1970; Iran 1980; El Salvador 1981; Nicaragua 1981; Grenada 1982; Lebanon 1982; Honduras 1983; Bolivia 1986; Panama 1989; Yugoslavia 1992; Haiti 1994; Liberia 1996; Sudan 1998; Afghanistan 1998...
Send us your comments.
Revolution #232, May 15, 2011
"People in this country are educated to be ignorant—especially about the actual history and reality of this country and its role in the world."
—Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
In these days of blind patriotism and confusion, when the worst are celebrating mindlessly and far too many others are disoriented and immobilized... there is a special urgency, and, yes, opportunity: to challenge the lies, coverups, and distortions that people are indoctrinated with, and to open people's eyes to the actual history and reality of this country and its role in the world.
This issue of Revolution is a critical tool in doing that. And there is a particular urgency to use it to help radically transform the atmosphere on college campuses. This is a generation of students who have grown up with a mis-education that rules out of order critical exploration of history and the bigger picture and context within which world events took place. An "education" that portrays America as the "good guy" in the world. This issue of Revolution provides important tools to challenge that systematic mis-education with reality. It can give people who are upset about the atmosphere of mindless patriotism the facts, analysis and method to challenge and change the situation. And getting this issue of Revolution out very broadly on campuses can change the thinking of those—even of students caught up in the mindless celebration of "USA #1"—who can and must be challenged to confront basic facts about the history and present day reality of the USA and what it really brings to the world.
In doing this, we should say to students: Don't take our word for it—look this stuff up for yourself! Let us know what you find. And have the intellectual integrity and moral honesty to think through and act on what you learn.
Let's think big here! If this issue of Revolution becomes a big deal on college campuses, then there is the potential that current events can be a transformative moment for a new generation of students. And that in turn can be a very positive factor in the process of building a movement for revolution.
To be part of making a powerful impact on campuses with this issue of Revolution, contact your Revolution distributor, the nearest Revolution Books, or write or email RCP Publications (see page 15) to order bundles of this issue. Make big plans as soon as you read this: Think about people with whom you can team up—even people who do not normally help distribute Revolution. Help them find creative ways to be involved in having Revolution appear in classrooms, departments, cafeterias, dorms, sports events, club and organization activities... along with big scenes in common areas on campus using the posters and graphics in the four-page pullout in the center of this issue.
Send us your experiences, questions and insights.
Note to Readers and Distributors:
In the spirit of the editorial in this week's issue of Revolution calling on distributors and readers to make a big deal of this issue on campuses, a specific suggestion: Get the paper out real big in quads, cafeterias, dorms, large classes, events—anywhere students are gathered. Pass the paper out to everyone AND call on people to make donations to the paper.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #232, May 15, 2011
Pick up a copy of BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian... flip to any page and you will read a quote or an excerpt of a short essay that speaks to a burning question about today's world and what it means for people and society to be radically, radically different. You will read something that speaks to questions that people who want a better world are losing sleep over and answers to questions people didn't even know they had, answers that can change how people are looking at the world today and the potential for a whole other way for humanity to think, feel and be. You will read from over 30 years' worth of work from Bob Avakian pulled together in a comprehensive but succinct way that as a whole speaks to the essential questions of revolution and human emancipation. And you will find out what Avakian stands for and what kind of leader he is.
Photo: Special to Revolution
May 1, 2011, New York City
BAsics can play a unique role as a handbook for a new generation of revolutionaries, puncturing through the deadening and putrid culture of lies, degradation and me-first consumerism... and it can speak to those who have no future under this system besides criminalization and commodification. Very broadly, it can inspire people to look critically at the world around them, to think beyond the world as it is, and it can introduce millions to the unique and essential work of Bob Avakian, making him a reference point among people who are disturbed about the state of the world and seeking another, better world.
Flip to any page in this book or go through it cover to cover, and you'll see why the back cover states, "You can't change the world if you don't know the BAsics!"
On April 11, a range of artists came together on the occasion of this book's release in a cultural celebration of revolution and the vision of a new world. What came into being that night—through the combination of the artists' work, a range of perspectives, and Avakian's words—was electric, and gave the hundreds in attendance an all too rare taste of a whole other way the world could be.
Now, we are announcing a 30-day plan—to start Monday, May 23—to raise $30,000 plus 100 new Revolution sustainers, for beginning but bold promotional plans for BAsics to have a societal impact, for covering the remaining small debt incurred in the production of April 11 and the very initial production costs to make a documentary about this event, and for the critical functioning of RCP Publications. In addition, thousands of dollars are needed now by the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund to make important initial headway in their goal to get BAsics to 2,000 prisoners.
Each copy of BAsics sent to prisoners costs $10. Help PRLF and Revolution newspaper raise the $20,000 needed to send 2000 BAsics to prisoners in the hellholes across the country.
To those inside prison walls:
To those outside the prison walls:
Donations can be made online at
PRLF is a project of the International Humanities Center, a non-profit public charity, exempt from federal income tax under section 501 (c) (3) of the IRS code.
While the program for buyers of BAsics to also buy a copy for prisoners has been successful and is continuing, an immediate additional infusion of funds is needed to begin to cover all the BAsics and Revolution subscription requests by prisoners.
RCP Publications is the publisher of BAsics, as well as the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), and many other important works. And it publishes Revolution newspaper in print and online, in Spanish and English. This newspaper plays a pivotal role in the strategy for revolution. It enables people to really understand and act radically to change the world and it is the scaffolding for a movement for revolution. Building up the newspaper's fund base and regular sustainers is necessary for the functioning of RCP Publications and it is an essential part of accumulating forces for revolution.
$7,000 plus 100 new sustainers will enable RCP Publications to begin to meet important overhead costs while expanding the donor base, including a significant change in what can be relied on regularly.
"On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World." What was brought into being on April 11 has to reverberate beyond the walls of Harlem Stage. In a professional documentary of what this night was, footage of the performances would be interspersed with interviews of the artists who took part and people on the host committee who lent their name. These interviews could focus in on a few individuals and the development of their thinking, what Avakian's work spoke to in them, how they were changed through this and their overall thoughts on the need to celebrate revolution and the vision of a new world, including through their art.
See "And Now...A Glimpse of Spring" in #231 of Revolution and the interviews with some of the artists in this issue of Revolution and online at revcom.us, to get a sense of the depth and range of voices. This film would be a project of those who helped make April 11 happen and beyond, and when completed, could be circulated in many different ways... submitted to film festivals, airing on public television, at independent theaters, high schools and colleges, libraries and housing projects.
$10,000 would eliminate debt and pay for the initial production and editing costs. Then this film project will be in a position to raise what will be a much larger amount for further production, promotion, and distribution.
Accomplishing these financial goals is a real necessity that provides an opportunity to involve many, many people in the movement for revolution. It is an opportunity to introduce people very widely, including those with more resources, to Avakian's work and this powerful book. This is an opportunity to build long-term strategic ties and connections, accumulating forces for revolution... of varying levels and views. And it is an opportunity for them to be part of having a meaningful impact on the world... something many, many people would like to do.
Making these needs known—boldly and broadly—is an opportunity to create more buzz about the book and its author. And when we accomplish these fundraising goals, it will enable us to make this book known and get it into many more hands in U.S. hellholes and more broadly in society, put RCP Publications in a stronger position and begin the process of making this important film. Then the movement for revolution will be standing in a different place... with stronger ties and connections, and on a bigger and broader platform from which to catapult this book even further. And we will have learned a lot and had a great deal of fun in the process.
You have two weeks to get into position for May 23, which should begin with a running start. This means you have to start right away—pulling together lists, making a phone banking schedule and organizing volunteers, strategizing with all kinds of people in different spheres about what plans you should make, who you should reach out to and how they would want to be involved... including connecting you with others who might be able to contribute financially and with their ideas.
Some ideas might include working with a group of people in a housing project to fund one radio spot (one 30-second spot in the evening is about $250). Meanwhile, you can find someone with more means to match that group. This is both a way to raise the needed funds, and to forge the connections between different strata of people today. Are there mass forms that would be good... fundraising salons, learning from people in a neighborhood what they might want to do (in one neighborhood, someone cooked and sold fish and chicken dinners).
What teachers and college professors can you reach out to, asking them to contribute and asking them who they might reach out to... Find out what progressive theater is being done in your town and reach out to the producers or the philanthropists who contributed to that theater company... Talk with artists who are doing important and provocative work... ask if they can give, and if they know art buyers and donors who you can reach out to. Do some quick research on the Board of Trustees at a nearby progressive institution, think about who might be good to approach... and approach them!
Fundraising materials will be available at revcom.us soon, but in the meantime, there are plenty of materials you can use to go to people—BAsics itself, which includes the RCP's statement, "On the Strategy for Revolution," the editorials from Revolution newspaper on BAsics (which can be found at revcom.us/avakian/About-Basics-en.html), interviews with the artists who participated in April 11, statements from the host committee members and others and interviews with attendees from April 11.
There is an overall, initial leap being called for with these four discrete projects. Some people might be unleashed by the whole picture being painted here, others might want to focus on one aspect and run with it. There are actually five ways people can give: earmarked for one of these four projects or they don't have a preference. We should make a lot of space for all this.
Write in with your ideas, suggestions, experiences and questions. Revolution newspaper will be a center of activity on this drive, so write in regularly, including with your plans and ideas before May 23.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #232, May 15, 2011
Cornel West and Carl Dix Dialogue Comes to UCLA:
On April 29 the dialogue between Cornel West and Carl Dix came to UCLA: In the Age of Obama... Police Terror, Incarceration, No Jobs, Mis-education: What Future for Our Youth?
The response was extraordinary, a sign of how broadly this event was resonating with people who share a thirst and hunger for answers to the question "What Future for Our Youth?"; and more fundamentally, "Why is the situation today the way it is, and how could it be changed?" Over 700 people, the great majority students, filled the auditorium and overflow room, while another 400 had to be turned away. There were a significant number of Black students in the audience, together with students of other nationalities and people from different communities.
After giving the speakers a standing ovation when they first entered the room, for the next several hours people listened closely and reacted repeatedly to the searing exposure of the crimes being committed by this system against the youth. They wrestled with the challenge the speakers put to them to get involved and dedicate themselves to building resistance against these crimes, and to putting an end to them. And a great many students left changed by the experience; inspired by a new sense of possibilities for making fundamental change, and feeling compelled to reconsider what they want their lives to be about.
The following quotes from the beginning of the presentations give a taste of the event.
"UCLA is a crucial site of contestation, of critical reflection, of having your soul and your mind and your heart and your body reoriented in such a way that you don't end up well-adjusted to injustice. That's the last thing we need. The last thing we need is folks walking around wanting to be the smartest one in the room but cowardly when it comes to telling the truth about poor and working people. That's the last thing we need. The last thing we need are highly sophisticated folk obsessed with their achievement and their accomplishments but they're well-adapted to indifference when it comes to poor and working people. We don't need that. Grandmomma and granddaddy and Martin Luther King and Fannie Lou and Stokely Carmichael didn't die so young people could be well-adapted and well-adjusted that way."
"The campus of UCLA is an excellent place to have this discussion. Now, it is an excellent place to have this discussion because young intellectuals like a lot of the folks that I see in this room today have always had great influence and great responsibility in determining the future direction of society. Look, I'm from the 1960s. That's when powerful movements developed that rocked this country back on its heels. Who was in the middle of pulling those movements together? Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee; Students for a Democratic Society. Even the Black Panther Party was started by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, two college students. See, young people and young students can play this role because you are up here grappling with these complex ideas and you can look at and see the gap between the way the world is and the way it should be. And then also being young, you ain't yet locked into that there is nothing to bridge that gap. Well, I'm here tonight to tell you that this gap can and must be bridged. And I'm also here to challenge you to get with the movement for revolution that the Revolutionary Communist Party is building because we are aiming to bridge that gap to making revolution and getting rid of this system. Now let's get started."
Full coverage is coming in the next issue of Revolution.
Revolution interviewed people before and after the program. Go to revcom.us for excerpts.
Associate Vice Provost
Professor Cheryl Harris
Chante Henderson, Assistant Director, Academic Advancement Program
High Quality Speakers Bureau
Jasmine Hill, President USAC
Professor Darnell Hunt
Professor Edmund Keller
Professor Claudia Mitchell Kernan
Vice Chancellor Janina Montero
Tierra Moore, Chief of Staff for USAC President
Professor David Myer
LaMonica Peters, President, UCLA Black Alumni Association
Professor Juan Gómez Quiñones
Reverend Meri Ka Ra
Vice Provost Judi Smith
Professor Brenda Stevenson
Professor Abel Valenzuela
Professor Paul Von Blum
Clyde Young, Initiator of the Dialogue at UCLA
Academic Advancement Program
The Graduate Division
Undergraduate Students Association Council (USAC)
Black Alumni Association
Black Male Institute
Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies
UCLA History Department
Chicano Studies Research Center
Critical Thinking at UCLA
Political Science Department
Cesar E. Chavez Department of Chicana/o Studies
Office of Residential Life
Writing Success Program, Incarcerated Youth Tutorial Project (IYTP)
Send us your comments.
Revolution #232, May 15, 2011
Revolution Interviews at Cornel West and Carl Dix Dialogue Comes to UCLA
On April 29, 700 people attended the dialogue between Cornel West and Carl Dix at UCLA: "In the Age of Obama... Police Terror, Incarceration, No Jobs, Mis-education: What Future for Our Youth?" The following are excerpts from interviews Revolution did with people, before and after the program.
What people said about why they came:
Black woman who is a UCLA student, majoring in parenting:
Well there's all sorts of publicity, flyers on the campus. Police brutality was on the flyer. I've been a subject of police brutality and wanted to see what these guys had to say about it.
Black man who is a UCLA student, majoring in philosophy:
Because of Cornel's involvement with trying to bring some of the issues to the forefront and he does it in a way that younger scholars, potential scholars can get involved. I like this topic particularly because the debate about communist views and how we can fix society. That's probably the main reason I came. I wanted to hear the debate and see if we can start thinking about new ways to achieve society.
White UCLA student, theater major:
What made me more interested in wanting to come to this event was when he [Cornel West] was on Bill Maher and they were talking about the Tea Party and this new movement that's happening and how there's a lot of—fear of race is really embedded in some of these ideas, like Ron Paul... one of these congressmen that was elected for Kentucky or Tennessee I'm not sure. He has these views that like a business should have the right if they don't want to serve someone based on the color of their skin, they should have that right. Just these insane ideas and it's like, these people are now running our country and it's so scary and no one knows about it so he [Cornel] was just commenting on that and had some really interesting views that I had not known before. I also have some friends at Princeton that I went to high school with that have taken his class. And I thought the other speaker, Carl Dix, he seemed very interesting too and his bio was really intriguing and made me want to come as well.
Black woman UCLA Student:
I know one of the things he's going to be talking about is the youth in the age of Obama, the economy and how the youth are faring and stuff like that, so I'm pretty interested in knowing what he's going to talk about concerning that because I really want to know not only things that are wrong but things that we should change.
Black man who came with a few other people from a town two hours away:
Dr. West is the most intelligent man in the country, probably in the world. How can we not? He's a phenom. He impacted my life many, many years ago and he's one of those brothers that keeps it real and he is an intellect. It is about time for America to embrace the intellects. We find a lot of criticism. Especially I remember during the election, they kept talking about Obama was too professorial in his responses. Well I want the president to be smarter than me. I want—the man I want to speak to, the man I want to listen to, needs to be smarter than me. I absolutely respect the words that Dr. West has put out... He doesn't compromise and he doesn't apologize for having an insightful idea about life and how we should be living it. And I think one of the profound things that he said was about loving the people. If you can't love the people, you can't lead the people. And I think that's one of the things that resonates today.
Fourth-year student in political science and Chicano Studies:
I saw flyers up. The topic is an interesting topic. It's something that needs to be talked about. This needs to be brought up, the thought of race in general, race conflicts, needs to be talked about. Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson, Tim Wise, these guys are doing an excellent job opening up conversation about race...I love what they say, not post-racial, post racist. Not being a society that is post racial because we don't need to forget where we came from but we need to move on from the racist ideologies that exist.
We always need this dichotomy of the far left and the left and the central because without Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, it's the same thing. You have one left leaning like King himself and then you have someone far more left like X. Without both of them you wouldn't have accomplished. You need both sides to really accomplish, that's what I think. I just think to get a better grasp of race issues in the United States and open up a dialogue on campus and around the community of what's going on—what needs to be done and what these two intellectual individuals believe is the right movement for the United States and the world as a whole.
I am not so much expecting to learn anything, I am expecting to really find my place in how I feel about revolution and the youth and what they're doing in today's future. But more than anything I expect to hear knowledge and I expect an unbiased opinion from two people that have been in the game way longer than I have.
High school student:
No future..."what future for our youth" part of the title—because that's something that I've struggled with that made me become a revolutionary. The system we live under now has no future for the youth. As a high school student I can really look at that and see that. You can go on and you can become part of the system, but oppression of people will always be there unless we make revolution and get rid of it. I think we need a communist revolution in this country and a revolution that is so liberating that we don't have to worry about the oppression of women, the oppression of different races, that has a great culture.
Black electrical engineering major:
Since 2008, we've been really happy that Obama is president. But even then there have been problems. The thing that's most pressing to me is that I'm an electrical engineering major and my major doesn't quite lend itself to keeping up with politics... And as a Black person, I see no other Black people and it's really difficult to find other Black people to dialogue with about these things...To listen to their analysis of what is going on is a really good opportunity for me to really catch up with what is going on with our people and see how Obama's been doing from Cornel West's perspective; just the state of the country from their perspective.
Young Black man:
Cornel's a philosopher and he's talking about pertinent issues that are relevant to our lives such as police brutality. I've been a subject of police brutality so what he's talking about is very relevant to me. Police are racist, they racially profile young Black men in the street. I got into a motorcycle accident. After the accident, the police treated me as though I committed a crime. They denied me ambulance service even though I was bleeding and in shock. And they handcuffed me. I had to call my lawyer to come to the scene so I could get un-handcuffed. I was subjected to police brutality by UCPD [UCLA campus police]. Fuck UCPD.
From interviews done after the program:
I thought the dialogue was so inspiring and they created a spot, a living example of the type of political spaces that are all too few, where we can make [it] happen between revolutionaries and radicals and everybody, like they were saying, who wants to see a different world, to come across the aisle with love for one another, with respect, with principle, with a challenge to each other and a challenge for the new generation. I've come to a lot of political events at UCLA, I've never seen something on this level and of this quantity. And I was so proud of how many people [came]... It shows the potential. It shows things don't have to remain the way they are. Things can radically change if we get out there and do this. That's what I thought of the dialogue.
I thought it was really interesting. I feel that they backed each other up a lot. And they also brought up points where they didn't agree. But I think the attitude, the dialogue, they both brought up interesting points and they were very engaging and I think they inspired the audience to actually do something to make a change.
Woman UCLA student:
I thought it was really, really good to get the different perspectives from people that have been around for a long time and have seen the transition from the world how it was 20, 30 years ago to now and to be able to relate to the different issues, but coming from a very revolutionary standpoint. Cornel West, his words are so powerful. You can tell that he's been in a lot so to get words of wisdom from him it was really powerful. It made my experience at UCLA a really cool circle, because I'm a senior now and I'll be graduating so it kinda inspired me to make sure I'm checking my privilege and make sure I'm always thinking of others in poverty and not me, to hold up my career and make sure I'm thinking about the overall, like humanity, I guess.
Black student (not at UCLA) studying physical therapy:
I'm glad there's somebody who's not afraid to say what needs to be said no matter what society or mainstream media or politicians up in the capitol think of it. I'm glad there's somebody in [Cornel's] position, not just a small person blogging about it, that somebody in his position at the top who's not afraid to speak the truth and it's refreshing. It's the fact that we're living in quote/unquote, the greatest nation in the entire world but we're still dealing with poor people and people in the lower economic brackets not being helped the way they should be helped. We have people living in Third World conditions. I would venture to say Detroit, not to the level of some other Third World countries, but Detroit is America's Third World country... there's pretty much a police state there, where police beatings and other acts of pretty much terrorism against citizens are going uncalled and there's no consequences for them.
I think the whole socio-economic point of it is the biggest thing here and that's bigger than race, that's bigger than sexual orientation, that's bigger than religion, because in the end, in a capitalist country, your money talks and your bullshit walks. At the end of the day, I'm a Black man, not really religious, but at the end of the day people are going to look at my paycheck and that's going to be the prevailing factor of how they treat me....It's about our generation and the next generation, driving them away from the superficialism that we've been taught through watching TV and music videos, it's about getting away from trying to be like that guy on TV who's like, "I've got $50,000 on my wrist." It's about actually teaching them that getting to know what's going on in the world and letting them know and encouraging them that they are an active vessel of knowledge that they can change the world forever if they actually took an active interest in it other than the superficialism—all about the money, all about all the other BS. It's about letting them know it's bigger than what these guys—what the athletes, what the music stars and what the actors have now—they're not going to leave a mark on the world forever because you score 33 points in a game.
Like you can leave a mark forever by facilitating a paradigm shift in the thinking of people that's going to eventually lead to a better world for everybody in the world, not just people in America, not just middle and upper class people. You have to get people to care about other people because we're too self-centered—especially in this country we're too self-centered, we want what's best for us and our own, not for everybody else. That other person can be struggling, but as long as I'm fine, as long as my kids eat, I'm good, I'm doing my part, I'm doing my job and it should be everybody's job to help everybody. That's what a country is, as well as a world population, it's supposed to be all people helping other people.
Black student (not at UCLA) studying psychology:
I'm just glad that there's somebody who came out to a campus that's not usually associated with people of African-American descent, of Black history, coming on campus...where we're a vast minority. I think it's for students everywhere. The issue that struck me as extremely important is the issue of education and saying how certain things that were learned and were taught to us or that aren't taught at certain schools in certain areas are due to knowledge which is based and which is handed down based on my skin color or cultural background. We need to focus on imparting knowledge instead of testing the ability to regurgitate information given to students, so actually give students something to learn and have them retain the information as opposed to they get tested on it, they write the information down on paper and then it's out of their heads forever...
Some of the statistics that Mr. Dix was throwing out as far as these issues with police beatings, how we see one on the news, but for every one there's ten that happened that same week in the same area or 100 that happened nationwide. That's some of the things we need to definitely get a cap and get control on. Like he said there is a group that patrols the police, we need to do more stuff like that because as the majority we hold the power but we're scared of that vast minority whether it's economics or whether it's law enforcement. Even though we outnumber them, we feel just that just because they have given themselves a certain status and because we don't know any better that we have to buy into it and fall in line, instead of us doing our own thing and taking control.
Asian high school student in LA:
It was amazing. What they said about capitalism and socialism. I think it's true how in previous years, Bush the Republican failed as a president, and then we voted for a Democrat and the nation turned upside-down again and that failed and probably the citizens should take power into their hands and make a third party. In the beginning when Dix said how the cops came to a child's apartment and killed the daughter and then later on put her father down on the ground in their daughter's blood—really striking, everyday occurrences are just like that. That was surprising to me. Everything is controversial—everything that the Democrats, liberals say is controversial, about Republicans, gay marriage, and stuff like that and the whole capitalism vs. communism and socialism. And I guess I'm for those controversies because as Cornel said, "I'm a misfit." The future for youth is very messed up because we're left with what other generations just passed down to us; the whole war between Iraq and Afghanistan has totally messed up our economy. I believe there is money laying around but they don't want to invest money on youth or more importantly they don't want to invest money on Latino, minority, Black youths and youth in poverty. I think the future for the youth is very low, but there is hope around that we could make a difference and change that around. There's a catalyst for that and people will wake up those sleep-walkers then there's definitely a potential for youths and I've seen youths taking action and I feel like there is hope. It's a phenomenon being here. It's great.
Chicana student from Mission College in LA:
Very interesting, learned a lot, a lot of stuff that a lot of people try to say but they stay quiet about. Probably one of the best things I could describe about tonight, [they were] very open-minded and they spoke about what I really wanted. We are hungry and we are ready for a change, it's just in getting to know and understand what we could do. That's a big thing.
Third-year Black UCLA student:
Amazing. The second thought is Amazing. And the third thought is Amazing as well. I'm just very deeply inspired by the tenacity of the speakers—Carl Dix and Mr. West. I think Carl did a great job of bringing a new light to the idea of communism. It's often painted as this radical thing and we're taught to be afraid of that type of revolution, but I think he did a good job of painting it not only in a positive light but positive in an objective way as well. So yeah, I loved the program. I'm very inspired. Definitely my first time ever hearing him and I'm very deeply impressed and inspired. We're taught to believe in the idea of the "American Dream" in America but the American Dream is also the capitalist dream, I think. And we don't have as many negative connotations to capitalism as we do I guess, [of] communism. So, even for people like me who don't know a whole lot about it, even if you don't know a lot about it you still think it's a bad thing and it's just I think we're kind of encultured to think that. So, definitely he brought an idea of equality and social justice that there is no room for in capitalism. So, I mean I'm not saying, "Oh my god I'm going to go switch to communism now," but I definitely think that is a good way to show the flaws of the capitalistic society.
One of the key things for me was the police system. And I love the whole movement of policing the police because it's ironic in nature but it's come to be expected the way we are treated by the police—and by that I mean Black people or the underclass or people who are not from affluent societies—so that was definitely something that stuck out to me. I'm not against policing or anything but we need to be checked by the government on an equal level and I think what Carl Dix said tonight did a good job of exposing how much the legal system is failing and it's failing Black people very heavily, so that was one of the key issues to me. The way in which minority communities are policed and imprisoned as opposed to the country on an equal scale.
The difference between the youth of now and the youth of past generations like the 60s and 70s is the apathy is so strong, the level of indifference and apathy. Even the people who are on the receiving end of a lot of these social injustices are not just reserved but resigned—yes, resigned to the idea that's just the way it is and that's the way it's going to be. I envision a better environment for the youth, a better political and social and racial environment for the youth if we're able to mobilize and as they were saying, come together and organize ourselves and move together to fight these injustices as opposed to being the apathetic youth that we largely are, myself largely included. Our culture now is more about being comfortable and I think we're so comfortable, myself personally I'm very comfortable, and I'm definitely bothered by these issues, but we need people like Dr. West and Mr. Dix to come and plant those seeds in our minds. Because we're not taught from the education system to challenge critically our environment, so the more I listen to people talk like that, the more I feel challenged and I feel like it's going to be a challenge for me to rise up and try to make some type of difference, but I'm definitely more inspired now than ever. But at the same time there's that whole trend of comfortability, that personally I'm used to for my entire life, chilling, instead of being radical or revolutionary about the things that are plaguing our society, so it's definitely a challenge, but a do-able challenge.
I thought it was a great event and I can't wait to do something... Personally I haven't attended anything like this at UCLA and I'm glad I did. So I definitely think that there can be change if the people who were at this event rise up and try to spread the information to people who are largely apathetic and unaffected or think they are unaffected by the issues that were discussed. I think honestly it could go either way.
Black woman student:
I'm not so sure I'm on par with how to change the system, but I agree with them the system needs to be changed. In that respect I thought it was very refreshing and I hope they continue to speak out and get that point of view out there, it's really important. I guess the whole idea of revolution is maybe a little extremist, I think, which is OK, I'm not anti-extremism, so that was controversial to me. I also felt there was a lot of talk and in the question and answer time people got to ask what can we do, and I didn't feel like they gave very much input on things that can actually be done very practically. I think they tried but maybe missed the mark. I think there were a lot of young people here wanting to know—hands on, on a daily basis—what we can do to support the revolution, what we can do to make change to our current system and I don't think they gave enough of that and I think that would have been really nice.
Senior philosophy student:
I didn't come in with any specific expectations so it's hard to contrast to something. But I guess, some of the statistics about the relationship of incarceration rates and specifically race were pretty surprising. And also I was kinda surprised by I guess the big love thing coming through from Cornel West. I haven't heard him a lot, but I guess I was expecting something more academic, totally academic. I have a tendency to want to work inside systems with specific rules, that's kinda like what I do well... It felt like a personal call to me to continue to work on that aspect, of like trying not to get caught inside the system with the rules, trying to see the broader picture. It encouraged me in my already kind of nascent quest to gain a critical perspective.
Senior in Women Studies and Chicano-Chicana Studies with minors in Labor and Workplace Studies and Geography
I thought everything they said really rings true to me. I really believe that dismantling the current system is the only way to really go forward as a people. I really liked it when Cornel West mentioned indigenous and native people because I feel they are left out a lot of a lot of discourses. But I especially liked the mention of education, the prison-industrial complex, the military-industrial complex. I'm interested in those in particular and how they work together to oppress youth and everything. I liked what they said. They spoke about a lot of the same things but they had different views. I'm really interested in gaining different perspectives. And I really appreciated that they had that in mind too, gathering everyone's different standpoints and being able to come together and figure out things. I think the take home message is pretty much how everyone can do something, everyone has a part... I don't think we can just overthrow. But I think if we can all come together and all do our small part in the movement, like whatever fits our passion...mobilize, organize.
I subscribe to Revolution newspaper. We actually met up with [newspaper distributors] in Arizona last summer [at SB1070 protests] who gave us a stack of newspapers that we passed out here in Orange County, California cuz they're so conservative there. I think more people should know about this publication. A lot of people hear the word communist and get scared, but it's really for equality and for everybody. I thought Carl was a good speaker. I liked his perspective as well. They're both very different people. And its good to see that even though they have those differences, the ultimate goal is the same. It's true equality. That's how I see it. I appreciated Carl's outlook on everything and the things he was saying, to get change you really do need to make a commitment. It's not a weekend warrior thing. You need to make it part of your life, a lifestyle. That's the only way a change will come. We can't just sit around waiting for it. We have to get out there and really act. That's what I got from him. I feel that a lot of people feel that's a thing of the past—oh you know revolution, that idealistic thing. And you know, it's not at all. I think it's very much alive and I think that I admire when I see people that, yeah, you have to die to be able to get things to change too. You have to be willing to make those sacrifices. I really believe in that for sure.
Student from community college outside of LA:
You almost have a Malcom X and Martin Luther King—Malcom X is "you hit me, I'm a hit you back." Martin Luther King is "turn the other cheek." I think it was really a good dialogue. Dr. West was more focused on the poor and the working class, whereas Carl Dix was more on the revolution, how to get rid of this capitalist system... I have to think about it a little bit now. I don't agree with there's no god thing but his views were interesting. Something to think about.
Owner of real estate company:
I thought it was inspiring. It shed a lot of light on things that are not talked about in our society that need to be talked about. And I was interested to hear what Dr. West had to say about Barack Obama because I'm a supporter like he said he was. He did answer my question by saying he is in support of brother Barack Obama, but that in the right frame and the right situation and the right form you can express your criticisms. This was my first exposure to Carl, Mr. Dix and his background, I understand how that transformed him into the person that he is. Although I didn't agree with everything, I felt a lot of relation to how Cornel West feels because he expressed the same that just because he's an atheist and doesn't believe in god, I'm a Christian Jesus believer, we have a lot of commonalities and that's what we have to concentrate on and look towards in order to really do something around here. So I thought they were both good. If you can come to UCLA and do this, then you did a good job.
Grad student in social welfare program:
It was incredible. It was good to have their different perspectives on it. I really enjoyed it... wonderful, both of them.
Librarian originally from Rwanda:
[Found out about this from] Revolution bookstore. My thing is really our people have to be inspired by the two speakers. I listen to Cornel West and try to listen to NPR and it's a challenge, especially for countries like my own—how people can find the common ground, how they can go beyond the division. People ask me are you Hutu or Tutsi or anything. I tell them there are only two tribes in Africa or anywhere, in America, the have and the have-not tribes. And if you can bridge those two you will be alright. As long as the gap is between, and it's big between the have and the have-not, we're going to have trouble. We're going to have trouble in America, trouble in Libya, Rwanda and Sudan. Those two existing tribes have to find a way to negotiate and maybe live together.
Somewhere down the range two decades from now, someone's going to say, hey I remember that night we came to UCLA. It's transformative. I mean goose pimples. I mean they were talking the truth. I mean they were telling it like it is. And two very gifted speakers. And from opposites, they enhance each other, they complement each other. I think we have a very volatile, incredible pair there. It will really push the movement a lot farther. They both had a lot of good things to say and I think this team is unbeatable. This is a perfect team. They connected with all the masses. I don't think they left any stone unturned. Brother Avakian has been ahead of the curve for many, many years. And we need to keep this going. We need to transform this world. The future of humanity depends on us getting this right. Because we either come together as a species and solve these problems or we become an extinct species like millions of species who have become extinct on this planet and we're real close to that right now. We cannot continue to use things on this planet at millions of times the rate that they reproduce. We're going to end up as cannibals, eating each other. We really have to do something, humanity depends on this.
I thought it answered a lot of the questions I had.
Two youth who drove down from Berkeley:
First youth: At the beginning, all those facts they were throwing out about people that had been killed by the police, I didn't know about that. I think I was the most important part for me. One of my favorite parts was how we all have to be ready to die for the revolution. And I firmly believe that and I been believing it since I even thought about being a revolutionary. And it just resonated with me because that's what people need to know, why we're here. That's something you have to die for. It definitely gave me more confidence. What I take back is that, yeah we need to be ready for whatever, whenever, and that this isn't a game, you know what I'm saying. And for me, before I came here I was really on the fence about it, but now I really know what I really want to do... Like he said, it's a legacy. We live on an inheritance of people who fought for our rights and I feel like I'm standing on the shoulders of my ancestors and they do look down on us and ask what are you guys doing? And I can't leave this world without knowing that I changed it for my grandkids or my kids. It really moved me.
Second youth: I'm in the Bay Area Revolution Club. I think the very last part was the most moving for me because it really showed, it brought the image to people's minds like to be a revolution, to stand up for what's right, stand in solidarity with all oppressed people, with what they are and no matter who you are. I think that's too little thought about. Most people when they think about what would I be like as a revolutionary they think about preexisting stereotypes like leftists or communists or this or that. No, you can and should defy all of that and bring out the best in everyone. What I want to know is will there be somebody that will bring the celebration of revolution that happened in New York [April 11 at the Harlem Stage] to the West Coast? If you thought this was moving. If you had been there, man... I was there. It was incredible. The feeling, the whole vibe of it. They have different roles right? That was more a celebration. While this here was definitely more an intellectual kind of thing. Both things are needed.
It was real inspiring. It was great. As I say, I agree with most of the things that they were saying. It's difficult still to imagine a revolution. But it's kind of a belief that you need to have to carry on... Yeah, it give me more hope because you see a lot of people who are involved and you see the faces, the emotions so this give you some hope, makes you actually believe that something could blossom. The connection is fantastic. There should be more events like that and it should last longer.
Third-year UCSB student in global studies:
Carl Dix is extremely concise, eloquent, very blunt. It's all this beautiful mix. I was in line outside and they told us that they wouldn't let anybody else into the hall whatsoever so hundreds of people just left because the line was still going all the way outside and down the way and around the corner when they told us that. I was by myself because I lost my group and I came in my car separately. I met another girl who was alone in front of me and two behind me and I said, I'm not giving up, you guys want to get in, we're going to get in. And they're like, "really are you serious?" and I said, yeah. So we just came up here. We were warned that there was security at the doors and we walked around and found a stairwell that had an open door and snuck in. There was a bunch of people in there already so we snuck in and we were really quiet and there was this awesome solidarity of silence so that we could take part in the program that was going on. It was awesome, and then we were able to get into the hall to watch the question and answer part.
I thought it was great, because a lot of people get put off by revolutionary dialogues because of their religiosity. I think a lot of times that dogmatic rhetoric is confused with spirituality, and I think what Dr. West was talking about is spirituality with god and his relationship with Jesus Christ and how he does not need to degrade his brother for not believing in the god of the oppressors. I thought that was a beautiful statement. Because oftentimes people are put off and oftentimes dismissed as sinful or something because it's blasphemous. And Dr. West was able to clarify those expressions and stuff. That resonated, not just with me but with other people in the stairwell as well. It was good. And then obviously their dialogue about prison systems, the military-industrial complex and all those truths that continue to be denied by the Obama administration. It was just great.
Being in a university setting, these are the kinds of things that you hope to be hearing on a regular basis but unfortunately that's not the truth. It's not what you hear and it's not what we're reading. And I really thank UCLA and the organizers of this event for facilitating it. Because I drove [over 100 miles] to sit in a stairwell and would do it again. Absolutely. I just wish I could have brought more people. I honestly didn't anticipate to hear so much revolutionary talk. It's not something I was disappointed in hearing but I was really excited about the reactions that I was hearing to that dialogue on the other side of the door. Because often times it's hard to identify other individuals that might be of like minds. So to be able to attend an event like this, like I said was max capacity and then some, and to know that the majority of the people here share the same hope. Not how hope is regularly perceived but as defined by Dr. West this evening, I think that's a beautiful thing. It's beautiful for humanity. It's necessary. I read Revolution newspaper and I'm reading BAsics. I'm reading the Constitution [for a New Socialist Republic in North America (draft program)]. And I have read many essays. Oh and I watched the [Revolution talk] DVD. [Avakian] tells it as it is. He says what people are afraid to say. It's interesting because I was watching the DVD over several days and different people were around. The reactions are not anything that I agree with but it's like Dr. West said, people are complicitly ignorant. You have to be an example to others in order for them to realize the mistake and error in their ways.
I really enjoyed it, especially because I'm an exchange student here. I'm French. So it was really a great insight into Black American politics and an inner view of Black American issues and broader issues, of course, such as gay rights.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #232, May 15, 2011
When Cornel West and Carl Dix entered DeNeve Auditorium on the UCLA campus Friday evening, April 29 to begin their dialogue, the anticipation that had been building for days burst into a boisterous standing ovation.
Word of the event had criss-crossed the campus and beyond in a matter of days, carried across many different social networks, through faculty e-mails and student organizations' Facebook pages; through announcements in classes, flyers posted on bulletin boards and passed out on campus at Bruin Walk and other locales; through ads in the Daily Bruin, UCLA's newspaper, and radio announcements on Pacifica's KPFK.
The excitement and anticipation from diverse sections of people was a clue that something unique was happening; that this event was resonating with a wide breadth of people who shared a thirst and hunger for answers to the question posed in the title of the dialogue—"What Future for Our Youth?"—and more fundamentally, why the situation today is the way it is, and how it could be changed.
UCLA students and many others lined up hours before the start of the program, determined not to miss it. By the time the doors opened and people were let in, the atmosphere was electric. The 700 or so seats in the main hall and overflow rooms could not hold all who'd come, and an estimated 400 people had to be turned away. The bulk of the audience was UCLA students, with some faculty, staff and alumni, and people from the community mixed in. More than half of those who heard the program were Black students and Black people from the community, along with many Latino and white students and others.
There were brief introductions by the Chairwoman of the African Student Union; the Associate Vice Provost Charles Alexander; and by Darnell Hunt, Director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies. And finally, two UCLA students came forward and each did a spoken word piece. The second one so powerfully and dramatically touched on all of the questions that would be addressed it brought the audience once again to its feet and added to the electricity in the room.
For the next three hours the audience found itself wrestling with the same questions the speakers were grappling with, coming away amazed, angered, challenged, and inspired by what they heard and learned from these two speakers, and by what it meant to have been a part of it. Carl Dix characterized the challenge before the two speakers this way: "...coming from our different perspectives, talk about what actually created this situation; and what needs to be and can be done to transform it."
This was principally an audience of university students, and both presentations spoke directly to the challenge before their generation to step forward and build resistance to the crimes of this system. Dix explained that "young intellectuals as many of you are here, have always had great influence, and great responsibility, for determining the direction of society. Young people, and young students, can play this role 'cause you grapple with complex ideas, and you can look out and see the gap between the way the world is, and the way it should be. And being young, you ain't yet locked into thinking there's nothing that can be done to bridge that gap." The students responded knowingly as he spoke about the powerful movements of the '60s and the crucial roles played by SNCC (Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee); SDS (Students for a Democratic Society); and the BPP (Black Panther Party), which was founded by two college students—Huey Newton and Bobby Seale.
Dix powerfully exposed the brutality of the system towards millions of Black and Latino youth, from police murder to the way in which the drug laws have been consciously used to criminalize and incarcerate, and essentially write off an entire generation of inner-city youth.
Many people after the program said they had been deeply affected by learning about the blatant racism expressed in the statistics about the relative rates of incarceration for white youth and Blacks and Latinos, and the use of the stop and frisk laws in New York City to intimidate, threaten, and criminalize Black and Latino youth.
Dix said his principal message was that things don't have to be this way; that revolution is both urgently necessary, and possible. During the rest of his talk he spoke to what people need to be doing today to make revolution. He explained how "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution" was an important aspect of the Revolutionary Communist Party's strategic approach to building resistance to the crimes of the system, transforming conditions and people. To give concreteness to this, at one point he drew from the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), contrasting the educational system today with the way it will be when we have state power.
At crucial points Dix opened up and read quotes from BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian. This gave people a glimpse of the method and approach of Avakian applied to critical questions, and what it means for revolution and the emancipation of humanity to have this revolutionary leader. And it gave people a sense of the importance of getting their hands on BAsics as a crucial way to get introduced to Avakian and the re-envisioned communist revolution he has brought forward.
For most of the students this was their first experience hearing Carl Dix, or any revolutionary communist. You could tell by the applause, the laughter, the shuddering at the crimes of the system, that the audience "felt" him on it. When he took on the reactionary nature of theocracy, patriarchy, and the attacks on gays and lesbians, a number of African American women students clearly welcomed it. At the same time you could tell that people's low dreams were being challenged, as when he said the crimes against the youth were reason enough to make revolution, though far from the only reason to want to do so.
Woven through West's speech was a powerful and poetic critique of the "lies and mendacity" of this system, and the way in which it has marginalized and written off "poor and working people," and especially the youth. He has become even more critical of the way in which Obama has ignored the worsening conditions of Black and Latino people, while catering to the powerful financial interests. People gasped when he said that Obama's recent State of the Union speech was the first time poverty had been completely left out since 1948!
West's presentation really went after the question of morality—in struggling with the students before him. What kind of morality, what kind of society do you want to live in? While expressing his deep feelings towards them, he challenged them to see that "there's only one way out—the courage to think critically." He said they had to "learn how to be maladjusted to a mainstream that stays at a superficial level." And that they were not going to find the truth beneath the superficial by going to either the Republican or the Democratic parties.
He challenged them to recognize their responsibility to be a part of building resistance to this system's crimes; and to resist being bribed and bought in the pursuit of a career.
There was controversy as well, especially when Carl Dix read the quote in BAsics that "Oppressed people who are unable or unwilling to confront reality as it actually is, are condemned to remain enslaved and oppressed" [Chapter 4, #1], and said bluntly, "There is no God," while Cornel West describes himself as a "Jesus loving Black man." West and Dix come from different starting points; and they have clear differences over certain questions, like religion, and Obama. But there is a deep appreciation, and love, they have for each other rooted in the "heavy overlap," as West described it, of their common dedication and determination to challenge the way things are, and to change the world. And that was in full evidence throughout the evening.
The audience came away with a deep appreciation for both speakers. There was no "lobbing volleys" at each other, but instead they were deeply engaged with what the other was saying.
After their presentations the audience had its chance to engage the speakers. People were wrestling with the theme, and the answers provided by the speakers. Dix was asked to elaborate on the idea of "daily resistance" to the system. Another student asked "how do those of us with callings and majors that do not lend themselves to political discourse and revolution, for example engineering, mathematics, etc., contribute to these necessary changes?" Both speakers were asked about their position on the right to marry someone of the same sex, and their responses were welcomed by the crowd. And then the question was posed by someone who is gay—"Do you think it's fair when people in the gay and lesbian community compare our struggle for equal rights with that of Black folks?"
There is something about this dialogue that made it possible to come out of it with something really different; changed. There was a way in which it punctured the toxic atmosphere that is so prevalent on the campuses. One student said afterwards, "Being in a university setting, these are the kinds of things that you hope to be hearing on a regular basis but unfortunately that's not the truth. It's not what you hear and it's not what we're reading."
* * * * *
A graduate student said afterwards, "It was incredible. It was good to have their different perspectives on it. I really enjoyed it. They were wonderful—both of them."
One of the things you couldn't help noticing as the evening unfolded was a feeling of excitement and growing confidence people were getting at discovering that they were in a room full of like-minded people. Afterwards, a student who'd traveled a long way to get to this dialogue remarked: "I was really excited about the reactions that I was hearing to the dialogue. Because oftentimes it's hard to identify other individuals that might be of like minds. So to be able to attend an event like this, which like I said was maximum capacity and then some, and to know that the majority of the people here share the same hope. Not how hope is regularly perceived, but as defined by Dr. West this evening. I think that's a beautiful thing. It's beautiful for humanity. It's necessary."
* * * * *
A significant aspect of this event is that it punctured the atmosphere that is strangling students and faculty who refuse to accept the "official narrative" about this country's history, and its dominant place in the world. It gave you the sense that people who have been suffocating were able to come up for air. And it has contributed to changing the discourse, a process which needs to build on what has been accomplished through the work to bring this event to UCLA.
There is still a great deal more to learn about the impact of this event from those who attended, and this needs to be taken up in a systematic way. Many students expressed that this evening had changed them. And some came up to the speakers asking how to get involved, and to learn more about how to actually organize resistance. There is an opportunity now to build on what was brought forward and in a beginning way transformed, and to discover together the forms to "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution."
Send us your comments.
Revolution #232, May 15, 2011
Interviews from "On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World"
April 11, 2011—Harlem Stage, NYC. It was a night like no other. The Host Committee for "On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World" promised a taste of a new world, a few precious hours in the future. From the sense of camaraderie in the lobby and the stunning exhibit of visual art all the way through to the closing jam of Ain't No Stopping Us Now that had the audience dancing in the aisles, the promise was more than fulfilled.
Something very special came together, you could feel the electricity afterwards as people poured into the lobby, talking, reliving the night and looking to the future. A woman from the projects in Harlem who I met the day before, rushed me after the concert, gave me a big hug, and with an ear to ear smile said, "I thought it was fabulous. I thought it was fabulous and for me being a new person, dealing with the revolution, actually I've been listening to the revolution, reading things about Bob Avakian and the revolution, and I'm a firm believer now. The system has to change and Bob Avakian and the revolution is the ones who are offering our children a change. Without them we have nothing."
But it was more than that. I've been to a lot of concerts and talked with a lot of artists over the years. The whole scene on April 11 stands out. I had the opportunity to talk with many of the artists who performed that night. Here too was a taste of a new world. Celebrating revolution and a vision of a new world gave everyone a different kind of high. It meant different things to different people. Many were deeply moved by what they saw in Bob Avakian and his work—they talked about a sense of hope and possibility—and they wanted to get this out as far and wide as possible. Others were plugged in on and coming from a broader tip, wanting to pierce the clouds with loud and joyous shouts for revolution. And running through it all, there was a shared sense of purpose and community—among the artists and with the audience—and a gut deep hope that this was just the beginning.
The following are excerpts from interviews I did on this amazing evening with artists and others who participated in the program.
I'm a comedian, actor, writer, playwright. And I am here on the celebration of revolution and a vision of a new world celebrating the premiere of Bob Avakian's book BAsics, and more than anything, I think, raising consciousness about the reality that revolution and the need for a new world is tangible. So I'm just here lending my talents in supporting and rallying everyone here to join the cause.
MS: You were talking earlier about how you got into this, and you said you usually talk pretty blunt, and you were looking at the situation in the world today as, how do you wake up the dead? How do you see this event fitting into that?
A: I think everyone in the era of Barack Obama, we have burn-out in that we feel that hope has not been achieved. So you're trying to talk revolution to the disenchanted, and when you speak of revolution, people are just going to dismiss you. So to try and make the cause of revolution to be realistic, is to kind of really have a game plan. And each time I speak to everyone at the bookstore, it's always, "What is the plan? What is the plan?" And one of the things that I really believe, what moved me through the arts, is that when you have an event, the event really inspires. An event can really just catapult people. It's not going to necessarily change the world, but what it does is a good way of agitating the complacent.
And what I think we're trying to do tonight, is to kind of inspire people to look at another way of attacking a situation that may seem dire, but there is a way out. And I think revolution, and a lot of what Bob Avakian speaks about, is realistic, and isn't, you know, radical in that it seems like something that's just unrealistic. I think on the other hand, I think it's very realistic. So I think what Avakian is talking about is the kind of direction we should go towards, which is question the corruption, and give the voices of people who aren't heard a chance to be spoken.
MS: In this show tonight, to be frank, there are a lot of people who have just heard of Bob Avakian, or have a passing familiarity. And then there's others who have a deep familiarity with him. And you're someone who actually has been involved with getting Avakian's voice out for quite some time now.
A: I always make the joke that I don't know anything about communism. I can't even spell it. But, you know, when Avakian talks about challenging corrupt governments and corrupt systems, and helping out the poor, and find a way for the people who are poor and the prole who are working class to come and mobilize and fight for their rights, that's a cause I, as well as I'm sure many would be a part of. So when Avakian speaks of these things, it caught my attention. I just feel like most of the leaders in America, their agenda really isn't to help. It's for personal power and, you know, alternative reasons.
I think with Avakian, you can kind of sense that he's very sincere. So I don't know the man personally, but I felt that what Avakian, and what the people who have surrounded him in this movement are trying to do is help those who are being oppressed and to really rally and try and fight for justice. And being that I totally support that, I think it's a movement that you don't have to be of any denomination or any group. You just have to believe that people are suffering and you want to join this cause to help them. It's really that basic—no pun intended [Laughing].
It's really as simple as helping people who are suffering and trying to assist them and give them help wherever they can and support them. It's really as basic as that. No pun intended! [Laughing again.]
MS: This program has brought together a tremendous mix of artists. What do you think about all of this coming together?
A: I've always felt that art really is a way to inspire people. The beauty of art, whatever the genre, whether it's music, theater, film, dance, spoken word, art has a way of just really connecting with an audience, especially live performance. Live performance, the audience is really sharing that moment with the performers. Tonight is a very diverse, eclectic group of performers. And I think one thing these performers have in common is that we have a burning desire to really communicate with our audience and really express their frustration, and the pain and the suffering. And all good art really comes from that. So to really have a group of artists come together to express that is—it's amazing!
MS: There's the other aspect of this, which is the vision of a new world. To me that's a critical point. People may get a taste of what it's like to live in a whole different place.
A: Yeah, I think the key of tonight is saying that the world is at a place where it may seem as hopeless, but we're offering you something that's beautiful. We're offering the audience to feel that there is hope, that there is a way out of this, that it doesn't seem as dire as it is. I think what Avakian and the rest of the people involved in this movement are saying is there is a game plan. There is a way to approach the situation. And by acknowledging that it is corrupt, and by acknowledging that our leaders, whatever they are doing is not working, that's the beginning. And then I think we go to a place where we say, "You know what? The people are the ones that can really make the difference. The people are the ones that can really voice their opinions and challenge the corruption."
I think it's really as basic and simple as that. The history of this country is that it has been based on exploitation and corruption, but the people have mobilized and overcome. Every uprising has come through the people. And I think today's movement is basically a continuation of that, that it's really in the hands of the people and that there is a way out of this dire situation.
MS: Anything else?
A: I hope people will continue to support what Avakian is all about and support the bookstore definitely. It's the best bookstore on the planet, Revolution Bookstore. And just keep on questioning, keep on believing.
MS: What would you like to see come out of tonight?
A: Oh, wow, what I would like to see is a lot of especially young people really look at the world differently and not feel that they're powerless, to feel that they can come out of tonight and feel like their voice and their words and their feelings and their actions really, really can inspire and really make a difference. And that we all united can really challenge the corruption and revolution is something that is possible.
I'm a singer, songwriter, actress, activist, spiritualist in many ways. And I'm here representing truth and love with my beautiful brothers in the struggle, Outernational. I'm playing some guitar, and I'm singing some music.
MS: What made you want to participate?
BB: Because I feel in my heart and soul I've always been a revolutionary, and I feel more connected to that movement than to most other things that are moving. Although at times I feel like I approach things from a more spiritual standpoint in terms of evolution, and revolution in the spirit self, self-evolution, I believe it's really important to question everything and I really respect people that take action and keep people aware, that want people to be aware and have information and be educated about what's really going on in the world.
MS: Do you know much about Bob Avakian or the RCP?
BB: I actually don't know a lot about him. I have heard him speak. I think he's very visceral and raw and inspiring. I wouldn't say that I'm a Bob Avakian supporter. I don't know enough about him to truly take that standpoint. But definitely because my friends are so involved, I always love talking to them about it. But I love people's desire to question and to change the way the world is.
So if it's about positive change then I'm about it. It's like, I'm for anything that is truth and justice.
MS: What do you think of the lineup?
BB: Well, I think art is revolution. And I think art molds and takes the shape of many forms, with words, with music, with dance. And I think that the people like reg e. gaines, here tonight, who I've met over the years. Actually I don't know all the other people who are on the list tonight because I haven't seen the program yet. I'm being real straight up. See? I told you I was for truth.
I think it's really exciting to be involved in anything that is artistic and revolutionary, because that is where I believe the revolution begins, is in our art and our expression.
MS: What do you hope to come out of tonight?
BB: I guess tonight is to build a stronger community... And I love Revolution Books, and I think for me it's to inspire me again to really be more involved. I'm happy to be here because I've always wanted to be involved artistically. I've never liked the dogma of being a speaker and like—but my attention is to create unity through music. So for me being a part of something musical and communal in this way. I feel to inspire myself again, to stay on the path.
I've been on tour with a band called Scissor Sisters, and we've been opening for Lady Gaga for the past month and a half. So I've been in the machine. I've seen the machine. And she promotes a lot of really positive things. And my band that I'm with is a fantastic, fantastic group of individuals that really promote self-love, self-awareness, gay rights, all that really great stuff. But it is definitely a part of a bubble. I've been in a bubble. I've been in a world of great privilege, although we are on a tour bus a lot of the time. I wouldn't call that privilege all the time. But I'm taken care of in the world and I know so many people aren't. In my heart and my travels, every day that I'm on the road, in my spirit I always feel like I need to be giving back more, I need to be giving more. And so being here is a renewal of that, and to inspire others, of course, but we have to take ourselves into account first. Before we can feed others, we gotta grow arms.
I'm the trumpet player, keyboard player, accordion, glockenspiel, tin whistle and everything I can get my hands on for Outernational.
MS: What brought you here?
Dr. B: Well, there's a few reasons that brought me here. This is going to be a long answer. First of all, two and a half years ago I joined the band Outernational and those guys kinda turned me on to the paper and Avakian. I had not previously known anything about that—kind of what modern communism was. I didn't really know that. So I'm kind of here to insure that what that man has to say be like a part of the discussion in the world. Like I guess I feel that the media is very left- and right-sided and there's nothing else coming out that is like radically different, and I feel like this country and the world will need extreme radically-different change, not just like band-aiding the problem. We'll need real change if we're actually going to survive as a human race. That's what I believe.
MS: Avakian playing into that?
Dr. B: For me personally, I'm not really sure. I guess I feel really strongly that I want to meet the man, and that I can't make any decision about him until I meet him. I've read some of his work. I like Away With all Gods! That was one of the things I really liked about Outernational. It was like, "Wait a minute! You guys don't believe in god either? You're not down with god?" I really do feel like religion holds back humanity as a whole. Like that is preventing us from evolving as a species. Like I just think it holds us back.
MS: What about tonight's theme: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World?
Dr. B: I guess I feel like, if we continue the way we are, as a society, it seems like there's only one way we will go, down. You know what I mean? Many people will die in unjust wars. Many people will die of starvation. We kind of need to figure out a way where we can all get along that doesn't involve profit all the time, that isn't always about who's the richest or who's got the most this, but more about, hey! no one on earth is starving. That's an accomplishment. Not like, "We have several i-devices you can purchase." Not that there's anything wrong with those. Those are cool. They help people listen to the music I make.
I am a musician, percussionist, writer, singer, songwriter, electronic artist working in various domains and projects. My good friend Mike Ladd contacted me through AD and she let me know about it. I started kind of researching, asking some questions.
MS: What do you mean researching?
GB: I was really kind of intrigued that Matthew [Shipp] and William [Parker] and Mike were all people I worked with before a lot in various different ways were a part of it, and other folks that I kind of respect were at least lending their voices to it. So I was kind of interested to hear more and see what's going on here. I feel like I have some questions, and I'm always open to new perspectives about the way the world is or what different ways things can happen in the world and new ways of thinking, unlocking doors and locks and crossing boundaries. I'm way into that so I'm always wanting to be part of a discussion and check things out.
MS: What else attracted you to this event?
GB: I feel like there's just a big question about what's supposed to happen in the world right now. And just from my perspective as an artist and performer trying to make a living and trying to think about the future, or just living day to day, the day-to-day challenges. Maybe there's several other possibilities for figuring out a way to live and a way to be. So that's kind of why I'm here. Just to kind of hear other voices, to be inspired, to learn to see some different perspectives, to disagree and to kind of hash it out: another chance to hash it out and hear and be part of something and get in touch with an energy, of people who I don't know and then some people who I do.
MS: You've captured something about the purpose of the event.
GB: It's just about being open for me, right now. I'm not a follower of Bob Avakian, I'm not a follower of the Revolutionary Communist Party. I'm a human being living in the world today, trying to do my part to be able to be a positive force in the world, a positive force for change, and a positive force for understanding and supporting other humans and being part of a larger system that's beyond me. So I'm here to be part of the discussion.
MS: What do you hope will come out of tonight?
GB: I hope that I learn and I hope that I'm inspired and that I can inspire others. I hope that we get some clarity on what needs to happen and maybe some more ideas or some light bulbs go off about what I can do and what others can do and what we can do together to change things just a little, step by step.
I am a singer, a vocalist, a performing artist, a little songwriting. I'm an educator, though. And I think of myself as an activist, using my voice and my art and talents in order to change things. There was a quote that Bob Avakian said about, c'mon let's stop this BS, this is ridiculous all this "ho" music. This is absolutely ridiculous. And we should stop. I have this lyric that says, "What if the words we say led to a better way of being certain our future's a brighter day?" That's what to talk about today.
That's what we should be about. That's what we should use our art and our cultural expression to uplift, to solve problems, to make it better. We need to write lyrics to increase an atmosphere of peace: make our expression bring solutions to the thing. So that's why I'm here, because I want to see a change. And I have a lofty goal of wishing I could change what we accept as entertainment in America. Because it would change how people accept it around the world.
MS: Your opening performance tonight was incredible.
MB: It was an honor, I was really glad to have been asked... please come sing, "A Change Is Gonna Come." I said, "OK, cool. I love that song." So then in our emails, it's like, yeah, it could be "Change Is Gonna Come," or "I Wish I Knew How It Feels." I've recently even done "I Wish I Knew How It Feels to Be Free," so I said, "Oh, man, I want to find a way to do both. So that's why I kind of medlied it and made it so one song came in the middle of the other, but we ended back with "Change Is Gonna Come." And you could tell by the audience, it was a nice way to slip it in.
MS: What grabbed you about this event?
MB: Really, I'm fairly easy. The person who asked me, I know what he's into. So I knew it would be deep and heavy. And then I got home and I spoke to the representative and I said, Sure, I can do it. And then I got the book and I saw what it really is about and what it's really based around. And I said, OK, deep waters, high cotton I'm stepping in, but OK. One thing my dear old dad did teach me was you can't cave. You've got to have courage. So maybe you don't always understand, or to get a certain frame. Because I came up in the time where communism was such a horrible thing and we were fighting against the Soviets and the communists. And when you hear that dogma all the time, and nothing in school is countering that. Unless you go out and get it yourself. Luckily I did have some influence because of my father and other people around him and people in my community in Chicago. That I know better than to just look at it like, "This bad. This good. Only way."
...There was something about seeing Bob Avakian speak [on video], and I never had. It's one thing to read the person's words on page. But to see them, it brings it alive. I guess there's something humanistic in seeing this man speaking.
There's just something—it's heightened, you know what I mean? I don't know if there's a sense of compassion, of human relation you feel by seeing him on screen saying the words beyond just those black letters on that white page. They jump off, they get you. You say, "Yeah, man, I feel like that. Wow he put it so articulately. I'm glad he said it like that, let me remember that, let me write it ten times so I can be able to say it." So it has such a concise meaning.
So that was one thing. And then, yeah, you know seeing people from—just diverse people and playing different types of music, and hearing what little of the poetry and stuff that I did get to catch. We need more of this. It's like we're so inundated on a daily basis with BS that's supposed to be—it's like entertainment for the sake of amusement. I don't think that's the best use of our time. I really don't. And we do have to become deeper thinkers. And we know that. After the 60s, the thinkers haven't been being raised. They've been getting us ready for consumerism, to just kind of accept things and to buy things and to pay for things and to go along with it. And they've been pretty effective in the media that has now become as mass as it is. It has a hold on us. Not just here in the United States.
So it's a tough battle but like you said, we got to do this. What are you going to fight for? I love the cancer analogy [referring to quote #18, chapter 6 in BAsics]. The fact that no, it's not cured. But that doesn't mean that it's not worth fighting against, that it's not worth seeking a cure, seeking a way of life that eradicates its existence. But the first thing is to imagine that's not the way to be, being a capitalist and feeling like, "We're America and they're not doing something over there, so we have to go in and we have to control them, and if it means killing a bunch of people with all these bombs that we've made you guys pay for and you can't even have health care, hey, that's just how it is, you know? Because we have to do this. We're protecting the world and our own interests."
But what is your interests? To be greedy. To be so greedy that you'll sell us all this shit that just poisons minds for the sake of you making money. Really? OK.
MS: In your wildest thinking, what do you hope comes out of tonight?
MB: In my wildest thinking, that there'd be a way for this to almost be like a blueprint at least for it being produced in other places, all around, kind of all-the-time-ish. That's lofty because we know what it takes to produce something like this. There could be a big one in the Midwest, one on the East Coast, one on the West Coast and just to start galvanizing people. And yes, of course, the follow-up of the emails and keeping in contact with people and letting them know what's happening. But it is lofty. I think about how things got done in the 60s during the Civil Rights Movement when somehow, without nearly the technology and stuff we have now, people came together, bus boycotted, marched on places, and really made their voices heard or sometimes just stood up against the hoses. Golly, can you imagine people doing that right now in America? I don't know. I don't know if they're willing to stand up and die for stuff. But that is what it definitely calls us on the map on that stuff.
I'm from the San Francisco Bay Area. I'm here in New York. I was invited to participate in the celebration Monday night the 11th, the Bob Avakian event. I'm a former Black Panther, a community activist and just a servant of the people. That's what I learned back in the 60s when I joined the Black Panther Party was to be here and to serve the people and that's what I still do today.
MS: What brought you to the event?
RB: Actually the fact that it's about revolution. It's about bringing people together. It's about uniting. It's about doing away with the system. Which must be done in order for people to be free and to be happy, not only here in the United States but throughout the world.
MS: What do you think about replacing this system?
RB: That's one of the things that BAsics, this book, BAsics, I'm reading that and I'm more interested in it. All I know is that people have to be emancipated, the whole world. I've always believed in freedom, justice and equality for everybody and we just have to struggle in order to bring that about. I'm not going to be the one to decide what the new world will be. In fact, that's the youth. They're going to be determining what the new world will be. I just want to make sure that it's free and that they have an opportunity to build something better.
MS: What do you think of BAsics so far?
RB: I think it's great. I have to admire Bob Avakian because of his intellect, his deep thoughts and the fact that he's been around so long doing this, just like I have. There's something to be said about people who are consistent in trying to bring something about. And he has definitely been that. I don't know if he remembers, but I think I met him back in '69 it may have been in San Francisco. Well, I saw him. We were in the same room together with a few people. We didn't actually get introduced. But he has been a person who has been consistently on the side of the people all these years, so I'm on his side. Anybody that's for the people, I'm for them.
MS: You were part of the San Francisco 8?
RB: Yes. I had the fortune and misfortune to be part of the San Francisco 8. Eight of us were indicted in 2007 for a crime that had been committed in 1971. And in New Orleans in 1973 several Panthers were tortured for four or five days, horribly, and forced to confess and implicate other people, myself included. And because they were tortured the judge threw it out. What was illegal, though, in 1973, because of the PATRIOT Act and Homeland Security, nowadays there's a question. They tried to bring back the confessions that were obtained through torture and they actually arrested us in 2007.
Because of the support of the people, not only in the Bay Area but nationwide, and internationally, we were able to beat them back and beat them off and today I'm a free man standing here today talking to you. And continuing the struggle. All power to the people!
I'm a representative of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and I'm a co-host of tonight's "Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World" happening on the occasion of the publication of BAsics, a new book by Bob Avakian.
MS: What's the relationship among the different aspects of the show?
CD: I think there's a very close relationship. First off, in today's world with many, many people here and all around the world dissatisfied with the current state of affairs, and wondering what if anything can be done to bring into being a different and better way of life for people, a celebration of revolution and a vision of a new world is definitely something that needs to be celebrated and projected much, much farther out in society. And the publication of BAsics, a new book by Bob Avakian, comprised of quotations and short essays from his writings, over the past several decades is definitely the occasion to celebrate revolution. Because this book concentrates more than 30 years of work addressing everything that stands between humanity and its complete emancipation. And it does it in ways that make it more accessible to a broad array of people. Students in colleges, high school kids, people in the projects, intellectuals can dig into this, begin to grapple with what he's bringing forward in short and concise ways, and it can be an on ramp for people to go more deeply into the kind of work he's been doing.
As somebody that was part of the generation of revolutionaries who were reared on Mao's Little Red Book, I see Avakian's BAsics having the potential to rear and sustain a new generation of revolutionaries.
I'm really eager to experience tonight's events and to help spread its reverberations to begin to realize that potential to reach out to and bring together a new generation of revolutionaries and provide them the sustenance to do what's needed, and that's transform the world and emancipate humanity.
MS: What do you think of the mix?
CD: This is just amazing. I was in the green room. You know, you've got tap dancers, you've got spoken word artists. You've got rock bands, jazz musicians, all kinds of people. You've got mostly professional artists and there are a couple people who just came in who auditioned in the projects and got a slot on this program. It's going to be an amazing evening. Some of the people are more familiar with some of the kinds of art we're going to see, but they're also going to be wowed by the other kind, and by the ensemble of it, how it all together impacts you and gives you a glimpse of a different kind of world—a different kind of culture, but also a different kind of world, that could bring into being different art, different culture, different relations among the people and even transforming humanity itself. So this is just cool.
MS: What do you hope will come out of tonight?
CD: Well, I hope to come out of tonight with a few things on a couple different levels. I hope to come out of this with an event whose reverberations can spread not only here in the New York area, but across the country, and to project out this celebration of revolution, and to project the book, BAsics, which provided the occasion, and the author of that book. I also hope to come out of this with more relations among the people who came together to put it on: The artists who are doing the event tonight, the activists, artists and educators who put it together, who worked to make this happen, and who threw in, including dealing with last-minute emergencies. We've been working together in ways that we hadn't before, and I don't want this to be that we have fond memories of a great event, but the actual beginnings of forging more of a solid core with a lot of elasticity around celebrating and promoting revolution and the vision of a new world.
MS: Also having a chance to set foot in that world.
CD: Yeah, because I'm choosing a quotation to read tonight that actually talks about imagining a different world and different art and culture. And after tonight you won't have to fully imagine it because you will have had a brief experience of it. And that can actually help motivate people to go out into this world with all its madness and degradation and BS, but work to transform it and work to bring the world that you got a little taste of tonight, into being.
MS: What compelled you to be a part of this?
reg: Well, because in a way, I don't do enough, 'cause I know this. I'm not twelve years old. I know what's going on. I seen the Panthers, I seen the Nation of Islam, I seen racism and police brutality up close. I was alive when John Kennedy got shot. I was alive when Malcolm X got shot. I was alive. Those were my wonder years. So I don't do enough. I should do more. So any time that I can do something like this, and it's based around art. Like I want to be around these people first of all. I want to hear—Oscar Brown Jr.'s daughter, right? I want to hear Matthew [Shipp]. I want to hear Mike [Ladd]. I want to hear Miles [Outernational]. I ain't seen Miles in a while, but I want to hear Miles.
So, part of it is experiencing the brilliance of the artist. You got a serious bunch of artists up in here. It's really dope because everybody's all like blasé, blasé. Then there's all the drama—where's my green room? It ain't the drama. I'm worried about trying to get me one of them sandwiches so I can take it home with me. So it's real. On top of everything else, everybody in here is real. And to see the army that's upstairs, and directing traffic, and sitting by the door. So there's an army here. So that's a positive feeling, too. So to be a part of that is wonderful, and like, do I have anything to say that could lead somebody to read that book?
So what am I going to say? So I'm like going to read a poem I constructed many years ago, alright. Because I thought it was time for me to start talking about solutions. So, for tonight, the first word that we need a) reconstruction. That's how I started the poem. But tonight I'll switch reconstruction with revolution. We need a revolution, we need a new deal, we need another flag minus stars and stripes replaced by a spoke and wheel so we can turn this thing around. I'm ready to roll.
And my sister's singing, and my sister's going to be singing "People Make the World Go Round," by the Stylistics a capella, and we gonna try to blend it and meld it together. No rehearsal. She was, "Reg, we gonna rehearse?" No, we don't roll like that. Then I go sit in the audience while Matthew and William are sound checking. They didn't rehearse, and they up there just like, boom! Four bars and they're in it. And I'm like, that's what I'm talking about. So everybody here—not everybody, I can't speak for everybody—but most of the artists here, like Miles said he got something constructive for this. Kind of like something that's really going to speak to the issues and what this event's about. But the improvisational aspect of it is all based on emotion of us being here doing this event. It isn't so much about, OK, I'm going to be brilliant tonight here, or she's going to sing this, and they're going to play that, it's going to be brilliant. But it's like, are your emotions being fueled by the theme? Can you comment on the theme in a way that's more beautiful than it is in the real world? Because that's what we're supposed to do as artists. So can we talk about revolution, each one of us in each one of these vignettes that we are involved in, can we speak about revolution in an artistic/cultural way that opens somebody's mind in the audience who's like, wait a minute, that's kind of dope. I know that song "People Make the World Go Round." I don't know what he's talking about. I kinda hear the words here and there in it, but there's got to be a connection. And it'll make them listen. So Shelly singing—if she just scatted, she would tell more of a story than I'm ever going to tell saying my words—so I'll ride the crest of her... That's what it's all about.
MS: What do you think can happen in the audience as a result of all this?
reg: People could be moved to create. Somebody who's not even calling himself an artist could leave here and go like, whoa, let me create something, paint something. Let me write something. Let me whistle a melody about us needing to get together. 'Cause if you ask me, the most powerful aspect of tonight would just be people walking out of here like, yo, let's do this again. Which means creating community, creating family. Let's do this again. Let's get together and do this soiree again. But on a bigger scale. We can do this on a bigger scale, because for all the hard work that's been done to put this together, and when I walked in here to sound check, and I'm looking at—because I've done stuff here, I directed Miguel and Amiri's Mongo Affair in here, a couple years ago. And I walk in here, and it never dawned on me then when I was directing, but I walked in and said, "The place is too small."
When I walked in I was like, there's not enough seats here. Because so many people should be up in here I'm thinking like, it may not be filled with people, but I'm saying, but even if it's not, it's still too small. It's too small for the message. It's too small for people not to come hear Matthew and William Parker. It's too small for people not to come hear all these artists—Cornel West's video, whatever, it's too small.
So what do we do, put it on the airwaves? So I'm thinking right now, when I walk through the door, this should be on TV. This should be on cable. This should be a show, an HBO show or something. They're always trying to do something that's supposedly on the cutting edge. This is cutting edge. It's definitely artistic and entertaining, not entertainment. It's not no knee dance or no wilding out. But it's entertaining because these people are all brilliant at what they do. So why wouldn't HBO kick in some money which then could go to what this is all about anyway. So how come people aren't thinking, how can we get HBO to fund this, cause they need us for their air space. Give up some money, and then the money could go to the revolution.
That's what I thought when I came in the door. There should be HBO or Showtime that's paying for this and then the money, boom, then you got some real money. And it don't take but one or two of those.
I am thrilled to be included in this exciting lineup of my fellow musicians and artists here at Aaron Davis Hall. And we've been invited here to celebrate the launch of Bob Avakian's new book BAsics. I'm getting the sense that a lot of people have traveled a very long way to come here. So this is very exciting.
MS: (theme of evening) What does that mean to you?
MPH: Revolution and a new world is to me taking whatever you have and using it to effect some kind of change. Just like moving past the status quo. So it could be like a little thing or some people devote their lives to revolution and it's a really big thing. But it can be little things too. I think I operate more on the little things level, but I definitely like to feel that in my life as a performer have been able to explode stereotypes, gender stereotypes as to who does what. I'm an instrumentalist, and sadly people still find out I'm a musician and they say, "Oh, you're a singer." and I'm like, "No, I'm not a singer." I'm a terrible singer as we just heard. I can't sing. But just on the way here I was walking to the subway with my instrument on my back and some guys on the street said, "Oh, you play that!" And of course I had to turn around and say, "Why do you think I'm carrying it on my back up a hill in the heat. I'm not carrying it so some man can play it. Yes I play it."
That's not my motivation to play it. I don't know where my motivation comes from to play this thing. It came in my life magically and I've never been able to stop so far. But that is wherein it's relevant to what's happening here at Aaron Davis Hall I think. Because at the time that I began doing this in the early 80s, there were only a handful of women playing instruments in rock bands. It was a radical thing then. It's considerably less so now, but it's still 27 years later, a little radical. And I long for the day when that's no longer the case. It's not like I'm trying to push for that. It's something I notice, that it's still an anomaly.
MS: Are you familiar with Avakian's work?
MPH: I have been given a copy [of BAsics] and I have flipped through it and it's on my pile of books that I'm struggling through to read. These days I don't read books like I used to, but it's there. I'm familiar with who Avakian is through someone I met socially and he told me about Bob and gave me the Revolution newspaper. So that's why I know who it is. And then I was invited to be part of this and heard about what it was. So I was able to say I know who that is. I know what he does. I have a general sense. I'm not deeply familiar with his work or accomplishments or writings. But in a general sense I know what he's about. Which is why I'm here because I wouldn't come if it was something that I felt that I wasn't supportive of in a general sense.
MS: You have here both people who are really familiar with Avakian and that are just finding out.
MPH: BAsics is a great book for that reason. It's introductory for a lot of people. A lot of people are not really up for starting in deep and getting overwhelmed by a lot of ideology or material. But this is kind of like pretty easy. Some of what I saw, I opened it up, looked through it and it said a lot of things that I already know to be true but that I don't really think about every day. I don't take them for granted—I don't take my life as it is for granted. I'm very caught up in music. So that's where all my energy and thinking goes. I'm not involved actively in politics, other than I go around carrying this 40-pound instrument [baritone sax] on my back, and go play it in clubs.
MS: What do you think of the mix of artists here tonight?
MPH: I was very attracted to the assortment of musicians because I'm familiar with most of them and I respect them a lot individually, the ones I know, everyone. So I was very honored to be included. And it's very impressive. I guess I wasn't really surprised that any of those were here, because it's kind of like you know who's on your same page and who's not in a basic way I think, you know, in life. So there were no surprises for me really, as for who's on the bill. And these are people I know a little bit. One person I know very well, but I don't know what their points of view are on a lot of subjects, but I'm not surprised that those guys are here. We all go through the same kind of thing and we're coming from the same planet or something. So I wasn't surprised to see who was here and like I said, they're esteemed musicians and I'm very flattered to have been invited.
MS: What do you hope to see come out of this?
MPH: Definitely the spreading thing. I feel like, as a musician who's involved in this, this is an opportunity for me to connect with these other musicians in some like-minded situation where we're all having this experience together and, you know, there is no musician on this bill that I would not be thrilled to work with in the future. And so there's a spreading kind of thing. One thing that I do always hope, I think at an event such as this is not such an issue, but one thing that I hope is that I can always reach people. It happens a lot at less specific gatherings. But it occurs to people that—I love it when someone comes to me and they say, Oh, I never saw a woman playing a saxophone before. It still happens all of the time which is kind of incredible to me but I'm like, well, women can play saxophones. You know, like there you go.
So I'm always hoping that I can change the way that somebody thinks just by being in front of them doing what I do. But I can feel like, we've been here for a couple of hours and everybody's very nice, and cool people and like connections and tomorrow we'll all be on Facebook tomorrow [laughing]. Except for the ones that are too clever to be on Facebook because it's probably some imperialist evil machine that's going to shut us all down anyway. But it's always good to meet new people and find out what they're doing and then the world world grows in that way, or one's world grows.
I'm all about making anything more fun. This is fun. So I kind of predict that everyone who's concerned is going to have a positive experience here tonight. And that will affect whatever happens tomorrow, next week, three months from now, as far as we're all concerned. I feel like a lot of serious political issues, movements, are devoid of celebration and so they get a bad rap in the world because it just seems like a drag, you know, honestly. And it doesn't have to be. People are people are people and everyone all over the planet likes to laugh and sing and dance and have music and like, you know, that's a real human thing. Throughout the ages of the human race everywhere. This thing, celebration. And maybe it's important to consider that it should always be included as the flip side of like more serious thought, as well. Because we are all humans. Everybody needs to like enjoy whatever is available to be enjoyed. Here it's so much. We're having a good life here. So I feel like it's my responsibility because it's available to me to enjoy it. I have to be out there walking down the street at night if I want to because I can. You know, that sort of thing. So I try and take advantage of all the freedoms I have and luxuries I have because I don't think that just it's a given in life that everyone just gets—I know that, obviously. It's not a given in life that everyone gets that. So I'm into spreading that, whatever I experience because of that, like if I can just kind of convey that through music and someone hears it and it makes them feel good well then that's kind of a motivation to me.
I'm the father of Nicholas Jr. Nicholas Jr. was a 13-year-old honor student from Brooklyn who was shot and killed by a New York City Housing Police officer September 22, 1994. Nicholas Jr. was playing an innocent game of cops and robbers with about seven other young children. They ranged in the age of seven to thirteen. He was shot and killed by a housing officer who was basically a rookie officer. He was supposed to have been on a 911 call from what they was telling me, men in the building with guns. He responded alone. They say that he, when he reached the landing where the kids were at he said that the stairwell lighting was dimly lit and that Nicholas came out of the darkness of the stairwell and he shot Nicholas once in the abdomen after hearing a clicking sound.
This was all told to me and basically to the public by Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes who closed the case based on those findings. About two years later in a deposition that was done on the officer, the officer made statements in that deposition that he was not on a 911 call, that the stairwell lighting was not dimly lit, and that things did not happen in a split second. All those new findings were basically Charles Hynes' reasons for closing the case in the beginning. That's why I continue my pursuit in trying to get Charles Hynes to reopen and re-investigate this case. In the deposition also the officer basically stated that he watched Nicholas jump up and down the stairs before firing his shot.
It's just been kind of critical for me these last sixteen years. I mean, this happened 16 years ago but it still seems just like yesterday, I guess because it still happens across the country. There's just too many innocent people getting gunned down by the police.
MS: What compelled you to be on the host committee?
NH: When I really look at the world. I'm 53 years old. I been around for a little while, and I've experienced quite a few things in this world myself and after actually witnessing and being around a lot of other family members who were victims, or their loved ones were victims to police murder, it just saddens me that these elected official and the system as a whole can allow this to continue in the manner in which it does. These officers are not being punished. They're getting away with murder and they're getting away with brutally beating innocent, unarmed individuals. And I listen to what Avakian is talking about. He speaks with truth and he basically backs it up with facts. He's not just someone who comes out and just say this or say that. Whatever he says out of his mouth he's ready and he's willing to back it up.
And when I look at the world, these elected officials constantly saying that we're living in this great country, and democracy is so great, but when you really, really take a look at what's going on in this world, I mean all across the world, people are suffering, suffering very badly. And I can't understand how you can have so many rich billionaires, which are basically only like 10% of the population and the mass majority of the people on the planet are poor. And it's been like that for thousands of years. It don't make no sense to me. It just doesn't.
I read a lot of Avakian's work, and he really sends a positive message and, I mean not only involving the government, the system as far as the government is, even in religion also. I be feeling a lot of the truth that he presents to the people. That's basically why I decided to be a part of this today. I mean, I really give a lot of support to them. You know, and I'm ready, as far as the new world order, and stuff like that there, I think Avakian has a better world appearing for us than these supposed-to-be people who are running the world right now.
MS: What do you think of the lineup?
NH: I think that is just great. A lot of them, the artists that are here today, I mean I really, I applaud them. I really, really do, for giving support for Avakian and the change for a new world. I really give support to them. I really wish that a lot more artists will come out in support of this. Because I always, when I speak from time to time, I would always try to reach out to the more well-known artists like Jay Z and P Diddy and guys like that there. Because I think that, you know if they would just try to give more support to the people who are really trying to make change for their people in this world in a whole, that it would be a bigger and more stronger message—artists really have a powerful message in their voice. These guys that's out here today, I just really give them a lot of support and applaud them for what they're doing.
MS: What comes out of tonight?
NH: I hope that people who are not completely sure on what Avakian is about or what he's trying to do for the mass majority of the people, that this could be a bigger eye opener for them, in that they would realize that this is really the reality for the people for a better world. That's what I'm really hoping, that they really come to terms with themselves and can really see that Avakian is the man to give their support to, as far as making a better and a positive change for the world in a whole.
I'm from the band Outernational. I'm here at the BAsics celebration, performing, gaining inspiration and try to invite as many people to come along.
I think a lot of people understand that the world is in a very bad place right now, and I don't think we have to discuss that right now. What we need to discuss is what do you do about that? Is there a way out? How does that look and what is that? I've looked at a lot of different things and Bob Avakian's ideas make more sense in the world more than anything I've ever heard before.
MS: What does the event look like to you?
LM: I hope to see the ideas in the book kind of spelled out, acted out and even felt out if I can say that, through these performances and the speakers. I know that there's jazz musicians. My group is playing. Poets, experimental music and I'm hoping that they all take the content of the ideas and weave it into their performances so that we can really have something where we get to experience it, even for a moment.
MS: Tell us about your performance tonight.
LM: We're going to perform our song "Qué Queremos?" It's a bilingual song. And for the first time we're going to be performing it as a very large collaboration with other artists dear to us. You're going to see different instruments, you're going to see and hear different sounds coming together. We're going to have surprises. We're going to have men and women together. We're going to have a lot of voices. It's really going to allow the meaning of the song to take flight and I think it's going to be—we're going to leave people something to feel, not just something to think about.
MS: What about the audience?
LM: I want to see the barriers between the people breaking down tonight. I want to see it happen in the room and I want it to happen when people leave.
MS: What do you hope will come out?
LM: I hope to see a wave of understanding and inspiration around revolution and Bob Avakian's ideas, and a whole other world and a whole way things can be different that's really understood by people as something to work towards and as something worth living for and going after.
I'm here to support the Revolutionary Communist Party, Bob Avakian, who's a kindred spirit. I don't know him personally, but after reading his book, you know, things he was talking about are similar situations that I experienced in the same area in Berkeley, California. It was also interesting that he's actually from Fresno. My people are from Fresno, too. So we share that in common. I've just seen a lot of common things with him and myself, the Bay Area, and the TOC [Tournament of Champions, a high school basketball tournament], the fact that he liked basketball, and football. He talked about the football program at Berkeley High, which I experienced a lot. Me and my brother were pretty good athletes. And the whole thing about Cal, and the whole thing about racism in Berkeley and all of that. I experienced all of that just a few years after him.
MS: You grew up in Berkeley itself?
MS: What was the scene like then?
DM: The thing that he talked about in the book, he was talking about People's Park. When People's Park happened, I was at Willard Jr. High School. The thing that was phenomenal about that was, at that time, Ronald Reagan was the governor. A friend of mine had gotten shot in the foot with one of these buckshots. They were using buckshot on people. And there was an incident that happened where they called in the county sheriffs, and they came in, they marched in our school. They tear gassed our whole school.
And they made a big mistake, in fact. People's Park is like four blocks up Telegraph towards Sather Gate from Willard Jr. High School. And the baseball field might have resembled People's Park. So what happened was, we were out having lunch, kids out in the baseball field part of Willard Jr. High School, having lunch. They tear-gassed us from the sky. We were like 12-, 13-year-old kids. You know, seventh and eighth graders. And they thought it was People's Park. They missed. And this really pissed us off. I was the president of the student body at that time. So we were talking about, well, hey, OK, they tear-gassed us, the school, we're going out to People's Park now. We had an excuse. We were all, our eyes crying.
We became revolutionaries because they struck us first. And we're kids. My son is the same age now. And I can't imagine him being tear-gassed by some county sheriffs that are so fucking stupid that they're trying to teargas People's Park, which is fairly up the street, my friend, but they get the Jr. high school. I think they turned us all into revolutionaries at that moment.
MS: You've always seen your music as having some connection with how you're shaping the world.
DM: You look at titles. That's why I think that titles are so important. Every time something would happen in the world, I would write a song. Like I remember when those Hanafi sect of the Muslims, they took over this building in Washington and I wrote a song called "Holy Siege on Intrigue." I did a little suite for that. I remember when Dart Man was on the streets of New York, I wrote a song called "Dart Man." I was always going to be writing songs anyway. So I always looked for a very intriguing title that would represent whatever was happening socially at the time. When I lived in New York especially. I don't do it so much now. But events always seem to shape the music. Because I'm going to be writing music anyway. I always thought that once I wrote a song, or once I was in the process of writing a song, something would be happening to make me start thinking about it. And then that thought process, I'd go to sleep and wake up.
It's like the way painters work. You dream what that thing is and next thing you know you find the right ways to express what that tune is, you find the right notes to express what that situation was. Next thing you know it comes together and it becomes a song. And it actually does relate to social events. I think that's important because I always thought that musicians, if we're honest musicians, we should be able to kinda be a semaphore of the times that we're living in and represent. If somebody were to come and hear a capsule of our art, music, they would know. Our music might reflect the social ramifications of what was happening in the world.
I always felt like, that's the kind of thing that I could channel through me, not particularly in a spiritual or a revolutionary way, but whatever it comes out to be, it ends up coming out to be that anyway. So it's just natural. Revolution is a natural for me. That's what I told the young people. If young people don't protest about something, then they're not even—they're like some kind of Yuppie kids or some shit. They don't have no voice. As a generation you've got to get mad about something, other than your parents.
MS: When you were invited to take part in the celebration, was there something that made you think you had to be part of this?
DM: Like I said at the beginning, what made me want to do this, is my kinship that I feel with Bob Avakian even though I don't know him. Maybe it's because of things he talks about in this book about the Bay Area [Avakian's Memoir]. I related to every word. Every word is me. I've been feeling these things for a long time, and he expressed them. And even though I don't know him, I'd like to know him, and maybe one day I'll meet him.
MS: What would you like to see come out of tonight?
DM: That people hear each other's views, and we accept each other on different terms. Everybody's valid in their way of expressing their form of revolution. I live in France. It's a country where people go in the streets and manifest. That's what they do. Me, I personally don't want to be around there because they get pretty violent up there. But I'm with the young people. We may not see it in our lifetime but maybe we're going to come up with a good idea.
I'm one of the Last Poets. I'm here mainly because for forty years, my poetry has tried to inspire and motivate a serious change, a real change, a revolution. One of my most famous poems that's known all over the world is, "When the Revolution Comes." It's a famous poem, but we haven't had that famous activity happen yet. But things are so bad now, and everybody is feeling the crunch. I think this is a great time to try to waken some people who are trying to sleep, and I think to support those who understand we need a change.
So when someone came to my house and talked to me about it, I had no choice, because I'm about the same thing. People say, "Oh, are you still Black against white?"
I say, "No, I am humanity against inhumanity. And if you're about being inhumane, I don't care what your color is, you're my enemy. There's no doubt. So, being here, having a chance to share and hang out with some other human beings who care was something that I looked forward to. I know that we got a lot of work to do. But, I'm very happy that we got some people who are willing to do the work. So let's hope it spreads.
MS: The atmosphere today is one in which this discourse, this idea of revolution—for a lot of people up in Harlem, there hasn't been a lot of talk about that, so when they saw this event, they were really moved by this, the idea that this revolution and a vision of a new world would be in the mix. Then when I showed them the list of the artists that were performing, they were really blown away. What do you think of that?
AO: It's necessary. That's basically it. It is absolutely necessary, for not only our survival, but for our living. Things are so bad in this country and other places, artists—all your art with a consciousness is like a revolutionary army. So I don't care if you're a dancer, or a singer, a poet, whatever you are, these kinds of events, all the aware artists should be at it because it's necessary. We need to show a show of strength, that we're not going to take it lying down. And the artist is the best one to articulate what the problem is, to offer solutions, and to fire you up.
MS: What do you hope comes out of tonight?
AO: Knowledge. A certain feeling of accomplishment. And I hope that it sparks some more things like this. You see, a lot of our young people are acting crazy now because it's the absence of a movement. We don't have a movement. Everybody's about self. So if we can kinda take something like this, and recognize we are all in the same pot together. And we start thinking about each other, working together, having committees, study groups, all kinds of stuff like that, it can make a very big difference. So I hate to see stuff blow up like this and then just disappear. So I hope that's not the case with this. I hope that there's a follow-up.
MS: I've been talking to people about revolution, and their reactions are a mixed bag, but I think something like this can have an effect of bringing that to people.
WP: This event should be repeated monthly, as quick as it takes to refuel and come back out. I think that events like this should take place in every neighborhood. They should have different locations to do it, to bring out the message to different people. Because the thing is that people right now, they're on automatic pilot and they're asleep. That old expression, the get up and go has got up and went—that's the way it is. So people need to wake up to what's going on. And this is the beginning of a consciousness raising. Because that's what you really need, everybody be able to stand on their own two feet and to raise their consciousness and get involved in figuring out what they can do. To make some changes in the world.
MS: What compelled you to take part?
WP: The idea of bringing on revolution in America. Now we speak of political revolutions, social revolution, cultural revolution, all of these things are a part of it. Because the idea is that people have to just, even on a small level, begin to make changes. Whether you're going to make a change in your diet, whether you say I'm not going to support these corporations, whether I'm not going to watch this TV, I'm going to go support live music, whether I'm going to stop so much internet and start talking to people and reading books. These are all little drops in a big pot that are eventually going to lead to some kind of larger revolution, but in order to do that, you really have to have everyone's consciousness and senses at a high level, working at a high level. And every way in their life that they can, they're supporting the idea of change.
MS: What in your mind would a new world look like?
WP: Well, a new world could basically look like this world. It's just the idea that the world would not be run by corporations and run by rich people. And people who are in this underdevelopment nations and all the victims of imperialism, who've had a foot on their neck all these years, will be given the right to not be punished for being themselves. They'd have jobs, they'd have their needs taken care of and they'd be able to live to search and follow their dreams, whatever those dreams would be. Right now it's just about money, money, money, money, money. It's just about rich people who, again, run the world, doing what they have to do, about oil, about starting wars, about destroying countries and then the people who destroy the country, they rebuild the country because they own those companies too. You know, the same people that make the bread make the bombs.
So it's just about making some kind of change where leaders become responsible. And a democracy is where we have a vote. If somebody says, OK, I think we should go to war, but I can't go to war, which is mostly an invasion nowadays, not a war, without the consent of the people. So if we elect somebody, we should be asked, do we agree with the policy? And we're never asked. We're told. We turn on the TV and we're told, well, the president said this today, he's doing this, or he cut this. They never ask us anything. We have no say-so. Therefore it's really not a democracy. So if just some of these things can be addressed. And I think it can only be addressed if people wake up and begin to exercise their rights and say we can't take it anymore, we're not going to live like this anymore. The focus of the world has to change, on what people do, or power do in the world, it's got to begin to change.
MS: What do you think of Avakian and BAsics in relation to a vision of a new world?
WP: I think people should read the book. And again, it's a stimulator. It has a lot of historical facts, information, not so much just blaming, but it sort of inspires you to begin to investigate. Now, you don't have to read the book and say, "OK, because Bob Avakian said, this is true." He's mirroring what happened. He's mirroring a tale. He's mirroring an idea. So you can say, OK, imperialism. So what is imperialism? Bob Avakian says imperialism is the cause of all the troubles in the world. So you investigate it. And then you find out what he's saying is true.
So the book is very important, that people read this book, and if they're not into that, they have to read something. They have to do their own research, they have to do something. But the book is a start as a platform, springboard to jump on to find themselves, to find what's going on. To be enlightened, to awake their senses.
MS: This is putting revolution out in a way it hasn't been out.
WP: And it's including everybody. You have all kinds of music, all kinds of poetry, all kinds of art involved, the visuals, the books, the poetry. And it's important, because we're beginning to include everybody. One of the things wrong with the government is that there's no representation. When you look at the Congress, you should have some plumbers, you should have some electricians, you should have some musicians, you should have some people in coveralls, not just guys who look like penguins in suits, all white guys in suits representing us. They don't know anything about me, they don't know anything about people's grandmothers, or little kids. So this event is beginning to include everybody. And that's how it's got to be. Because everybody is affected. It's not just Black people, it's not just Chinese people, it's not Korean people, it's not people from South America or Mexico. Everybody who lives in America is affected by the policies, so everybody has to be included, because it also begins to move in the direction of brotherhood and sisterhood. And that's so important to begin to go in those lines.
MS: That is important. What do you hope to see out of tonight?
WP: I hope people come away after experiencing this, that they come away with a buzz, they come away uplifted. So that tomorrow they'll think about maybe quitting their job. They'll think about what they're going to do. They'll think about how important everything they do in life is, and they'll begin to read some more of the book. And they'll read another book, and then read another book, and then start beginning to put the string through the beads in this necklace, and string it together and then make a commitment, and not really believe what they're handed down.
I'm sure there's some people here who are already initiated. But hopefully there are a lot of people who are uninitiated and they're just waiting to get a kick, to get a boost, to get a jump start to try to get into these things which will lead them to themselves becoming a light so that they begin to tell people about what's going on in America, and begin to stimulate others. So you have this kinetic thing, magnetic thing happening from an event like this. So that the next event there's more people and people start planning their own little events. Anything can happen from it, but the initial thing is that everyone is inspired and stimulated to do things. About change in the world.
I'm a visual artist, revolutionary artist. Some people might have known some of my work from my history. Back in 1989 I had a work called "What's the proper way to display a U.S. flag?" that became the center of nationwide controversy. George Bush the First publicly denounced it. Congress denounced it as they passed legislation to outlaw it and a whole lot of people dug it because it was giving them the opportunity to talk about and think about and wrestle with what is this empire and what is its flag? So I'm a visual artist.
MS: What are you doing here?
DS: I am here joining with a bunch of people that are celebrating revolution and the vision of a new world. I curated along with a friend of mine, Kyle Goen, a show of visual art that's part of this celebration of revolution and a vision of a new world on the occasion of the publication of BAsics.
MS: Let's talk about BAsics and Avakian.
DS: I think it's sort of a mind-blowing book. I've read Bob Avakian's work pretty consistently over the past 20 years. But having a chance to sort of step back and see some of the breadth of what he's written particularly over the past seven or eight years. It's kind of incredible that somebody has thought this much about how you would make a revolution, what kind of revolution it needs to be, who would participate in it, the shortcomings of past revolutions and come up with a theory that actually make revolution and communism both viable and desirable for the 21st century. He's really given his heart to the people.
You read the book and even if you've read a lot of his stuff, it's incredible what it is, and then you know the way it's written, some of it's really simple and basic—not simplistic, but simple. The first quote is "There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery." That's a simple and basic truth, and it's like, well, that's simple and basic, but a lot of people don't know that or wouldn't agree with it in a certain sense. And then there's stuff that's longer and more complicated.
It's the kind of thing that even if you don't read a lot, people can get into and people in this country where the schools are just messed up, there's a real opportunity for people to engage that, whether you've got a PhD in critical studies, or whether you struggle to read a paragraph at a time, this is a book, if you want to know how to change the world, that you can actually get to know how to do it through this book.
MS: Let me ask about the content of the visual art show. Tell us a little about the pieces that are up here now.
DS: There are twelve pieces in the show and the show kind of embodies the breadth of the program overall. Some of the artists that are participating are typically thought of a street artists or graffiti artists. Some of them are performance artists. Some of them are very, very well-known and prominent and show in major galleries. But it really ranges. Some of them are from foreign countries who were either born there and came here quickly or came recently. Some of them are native born. There's diversity in terms of generations. It's got a piece by Emory Douglas who was the Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party, and then most of the people are a lot younger than that. Some of the pieces, there's a piece by this artist Wafaa Bilal, who's an Iraqi artist. He came here shortly after the first Iraq War. And his piece is really heavy. It was inspired a bit by his brother who continued to live in Iraq and he was killed by U.S. so-called "collateral damage." So Bilal's got this piece where he had his back tattooed with a map of Iraq, and then he had a pin-point put for every U.S. soldier killed and every Iraqi killed. The U.S. soldiers were in red and the Iraqis were in florescent green. So there were 100,000 dots on his back from all the Iraqis killed, and 5000 for the U.S. soldiers. Then as the performance was happening he had people start reading the names of the people he knew. So this happened over a 24-hour period. There was an audience watching him get tattooed. So the piece is just a shot with blacklight so basically his scarred body is lit up just after this tattoo happened. It's a really heavy piece to look at just what the effect on the body of U.S. imperialism is, even from someone who didn't literally get bombed.
There's a piece by this Kenyan artist, who lives here now, and has lived here most of her adult life, anyway, Wangechi Mutu. It's a video piece and it's a loop that has this woman on a sort of deserted nighttime street, a cosmopolitan street. Nobody else is on the street. She's pushing this cart and you don't know what's in the cart. And she reaches in and throws a shoe right toward where the camera is, which is sort of the perspective of the audience. And then she reaches into the cart repeatedly and gets more and more shoes and just starts throwing them. And you think of the guy who threw the shoe at Bush. I don't know exactly what she meant, but it's very evocative of that. There's a real defiance in it. The woman may be beaten down, but she's not broken at any stretch.
There's work that looks back at slavery by Kyle Goen and by Hank Willis Thomas. Hank Willis Thomas has a piece titled "Absolut Power," sort of riffing on the Absolut ads. It's got a picture of an Absolut bottle that's turned into a slave ship. Kyle Goen has this piece that's just a portrait of Harriet Tubman. It's sort of like two different sides of how to look at that past which is foundational to America. There's a piece by Richard Duardo which is a sort of stunning portrait of Bob Avakian. Richard is known for doing portraits of sort of cultural icons. He's done people like Keith Haring and Duke Ellington and Che Guevara and people like that, Grace Slick, people who are defiant. So he includes Avakian in that pantheon of people that he's known for doing.
There's a lot of other incredible work.
MS: What about your piece?
DS: I've got a piece called. "Imagine a world without America." As I said, I've been reading Avakian for a long time. He wrote a statement which became important to me when I had the controversy around my flag work, and it started out, If you could imagine a world without America, then you've already taken a stride toward becoming a proletarian internationalist. And he goes on, if you can get beyond the wars and the rationalization that justifies that, then why would you want to lower your sights to anything less, and why wouldn't you want to give your whole life to actually bringing that world into being?
So about 18 years later, I'm thinking about that quote, as I'm thinking of a work to make, and so I come up with this piece that is, "Imagine a world without America." It's a world map; it's a square map, and Europe and Africa are in the center, and if you grew up in Europe or Africa it would be anyway, but as Americans we think America's in the center. The way it's framed, most of the United States is kind of cropped off of it. You get to see like, Florida and Alaska, but everything else just crops off, so you get this de-centered world that has no borders, and the map is the reverse of red, white and blue: It's orange, black and green. Then the black text just says, "Imagine a world," and very, very faintly it says, "Without America." So I do want people to trip out and imagine a world. I think there's not nearly enough imagination in the world these days and I want people to literally just do that. It's a conceptual work in that way. And then in a complicated and provocative way, without America. So the piece is literally showing a world without America.
MS: What do you hope to see tonight and coming out of tonight?
DS: Tonight I hope that there are a lot of people that have an experience they've never experienced before. I hope their minds are blown in the best and most fun way. I hope people have big smiles, hear great music, hear great poetry, can have it in the mix of writings from prisoners talking about what Avakian's works mean to them, have some of his readings in there and seeing some amazing art and just having a joyous, wonderful, exciting, uplifting step into the future. So that's what I hope people experience, and I hope to experience part of that myself.
Then I hope coming out of this people feel the renewed capacity in connection to each other and the capacity to lift their sights and actually really go forward in a range of complex ways building a revolutionary movement, a movement for revolution. A lot of people coming are not activists in that sense. But those people have a lot of understanding that's important and a lot to contribute, whether it's giving a lecture in their high school class, whether it's bringing somebody in to talk to their college students, whether it's baking cookies in the housing projects, whether it's coming into Revolution Books to hear a talk, whether it's making some art or maybe some collaborations will come out of it from some of the musicians.
There's a lot that can come out of it, but hopefully I feel people in multi-layered ways feel more capacity and desire to help humanity get to a whole radically-different and far better future, and connect with Avakian as part of that.
I'm a pianist and a composer and I'm here to play music with William Parker tonight in a duo situation and to contribute to the awareness of a global outlook for a better world and looking past the oppressive systems that hem us all in.
MS: What did you grab onto in the theme of revolution and a better world?
Shipp: I come at it from a little different angle, but what impressed me about Bob's work was an openness and a non-doctrinaire attitude. He always talks about a firm center and elasticity, and the fact that he talks about how revolutionaries have to have a poetic spirit. So I think freeing imagination is one reason we go into music, poetry, dance or whatever, and I really feel that the way he approaches things leaves a lot of things open for all kinds of possible syntheses and things to happen that you can't maybe pinpoint, but if we have a situation where people's imaginations can be unleashed, lord knows how things can evolve and come into being.
So basically all that is to say that what I really liked about his work is that he approaches things in a non-dogmatic way. And at the same time he recognizes all the failures that have happened in revolution in the past. We have to learn from all the mistakes in the past but that should not close your mind to the fact that something better can emerge in the future.
MS: I think the solid core with elasticity and the poetic spirit are important points, and that's one reason there is such a diversity of artists coming together.
Shipp: Watching the first half, that's what captivated me. So many different angles, through rhythm and dancing and through spoken word, which actually, even though poetry has an abstraction, so it's actually concrete language. And also I'm really touched by the letters from prisoners, because that's getting to the heart and soul of what the system can do to people, and how people can see some hope at the end of the tunnel or not, and what we're trying to speak to. So that type of letters from the prisoners is its own special type of poetry.
MS: These are people being judged to be the worst of the worst in society. That one quote, you can either do something with your life or do nothing with your life.
Shipp: Yeah, it was very heavy. Especially the cancer part, too. That was very, very interesting. Bob is definitely very fascinating. I don't know a lot about him, but I know a little about him. I've read some of his works. Again, I'm myself kind of in the spirituality of a certain sort.
MS: I want to explore that some more.
Shipp: Like a lot of jazz musicians, I live a post-Coltrane psychological space, not that my music sounds like that, because it doesn't, but if you come out of that head space and that's how you got into music, there's a quest for a universal language in music that—for instance if you look at Coltrane. I mean he grew up in the Black church, but his musical vision is more kind of universalist. And his wife, Alice, is actually a practicing Hinduist. She has albums, Om Namah Shivaya, which is a Shiva Hindu chant.
So, he's using music, Coltrane is using music in a kind of ecclesiastic way to almost get back to—theoretically, if you take the myths in the Bible, if before the Tower of Babel, because in that story there was one universal language before that and they tried to build a tower up to heaven and then the so-called whatever it is, Jehovah—James Joyce called him "Daddy Nobody"—up in the sky confused their tongues so they all had different languages. So when I hear Coltrane's music, I hear him in a quest with musical language to get back to that kind of universal language. That universal language could be like physics, actually. You could conceive of it in many different ways, which is another thing about Bob's work, getting back to him. He tries to synthesize everything. I was reading one of his books and he was referring to a lot of things in modern physics and it's just interesting to see somebody take a very scientific approach to Marxism. I found that interesting, that somebody approaches it as an actual science. I was like, wow.
So my way of coming at it is meditation, silence, and I don't believe in the anthropomorphic god that traditional religion believes in, but I do believe in an invisible energy source that is the whole and that kind of powers everything. It's unfortunate that we have to have this word god, it's a three-letter word. It's a stupid word. It's been misused. It's been used for a lot of horrible things, but I don't define myself as an atheist. I'm not in the Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, that type. Because that to me is a religion also. I know Bob's approach is definitely the matter in motion approach. But the thing that's interesting about it is his approach allows my approach. That's what's so interesting to me, I read his books and there's a few things he's kind of dogmatic about, and I actually agree, I would agree. As I said, I don't define myself as an atheist. I would actually agree with 80% of the stuff in a Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins book, actually, especially about organized religion.
But what I found so interesting about Bob is that even though there's some differences in how I approach it, I can see myself operating in that realm of trying to bring about transformation in the way he is. And it would be no problem. And I know people in his circle, and got to know them. I mean, they actually approached me and I was just like, OK, I see certain things this way and they don't, but it was just no problem, because the general world view allowed that.
MS: What would you like to see come out of tonight?
Shipp: The word get around about Bob's writing and a lot of people checking it out.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #232, May 15, 2011
We received the following correspondences.
The scene on a corner in Harlem on this May Day conveyed the spirit of celebration and possibility. A table covered with a red cloth was stacked with dozens of copies of BAsics and Lo BAsico. Another table presented the special May Day issue of Revolution newspaper, and "Internationalism—The Whole World Comes First"—a 40 by 60 inch enlargement of the centerfold of the special issue—greeted people. Red flags and balloons colored the landscape from over a block away.
All afternoon people in one's and two's wove through the displays, some stopping for long moments of reflection in front of pictures of the crimes of imperialism; others immediately looking for someone to talk to after reading one of the enlarged quotes from the new book BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian.
A Dominican man who had bought Lo BAsico the day before had added this written message to the displays: "I'm happy you tell people about these things because it is truth. America invaded my country in 1965. I was a child but I remember. I came here. I work for nothing. This America they take everything—poor countries get nothing. For a long time, nada, nada. People must open their eyes wide open. I hope revolution is successful."
Hundreds of copies of BAsics 1:31 were distributed as people were invited to join the celebration of Revolutionary May Day, 2011 and learn more about this revolution and its leader, Bob Avakian:
"If you can conceive of a world without America—without everything America stands for and everything it does in the world—then you've already taken great strides and begun to get at least a glimpse of a whole new world."
Around the intersection copies of BAsics and Lo BAsico were open as people quickly turned pages looking for a particular quote to bring to someone's attention, or read to each other, or debated what had just been read.
"These imperialists make the Godfather look like Mary Poppins" ... "Every religion in the world believes that every other religion is superstition. And they're all correct" ... "There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth" ... "There is a great deal of misunderstanding and confusion about the question of communist leadership..." "In many ways, and particularly for men, the woman question and whether you seek to completely abolish or to preserve the existing property and social relations and corresponding ideology that enslave women (or maybe 'just a little bit' of them) is a touchstone question among the oppressed themselves ..." "The first great step or great leap in the road to communism is seizing power from the capitalists..."
These quotes and many more from BAsics were read with passion, determination, humor, and a great appreciation for their power over a sound system. The words echoed through the 20-story buildings of the nearby public housing projects and along 125th Street and were heard by many hundreds. During the week following May Day, people who had not come to the corner told us they had "listened to the revolution" from their storefronts and their apartment windows in the projects.
A Mexican poet who had recently bought BAsics stepped up to the microphone in mid-afternoon and recited in Spanish one of his poems. He spoke with anger and frustration of a world divided by borders and walls, and of the shameless ways ruling powers have separated people from each other, from ancient times down to the recently built wall on the Mexico/U.S. border. He spoke of the need for a planet without walls or borders.
A jazz trombone accompanied by noise-makers and a drum, shaped sound to in one moment evoke rage and in the next the joy and celebration of triumph, or the possibility of it. Then people started trading readings from the BAsics/Lo BAsico in English and Spanish, jamming together with the musicians—bringing something new and fresh and vibrant to eyes and ears.
A Black woman college student excitedly got off a city bus when she saw the festivities and recognized people from the People's Neighborhood Patrol. A few months earlier the police had threatened her and her boyfriend without cause, and she had been amazed when the Patrol happened onto the scene and called out this illegal and illegitimate activity by the police. Since that night, she said, she has wanted to know more about this movement. She stayed and talked for some time and bought BAsics.
One young man found himself a milk crate and sat down to read at the rear of everything that was going on. He buried his head in BAsics for over an hour, reading passage after passage. He chose a quote about the transition to communism from chapter 2: "A Whole New—And Far Better—World." He had met the revolutionaries marching through Harlem on May Day a year before. He thought communism sounded more like the way things should be, and he was glad to be finding out more about what it actually is.
A knot of Dominicans spoke to us in Spanish, with one older man talking about fighting the U.S. invasion in 1965. Cab drivers from around the world bought the newspaper at the traffic light. European tourists on a double-decker tour bus raised fists as they heard agitation challenging them to get with a new wave of all-the-way communist revolution. People from Africa and the Caribbean Islands, university students, visitors from France and Germany and people from the neighborhood stopped to talk: "Could revolution really be made here?" "Don't get me wrong—we need revolution—what your party does is good—but you have to have God in it somewhere." "Why don't more people know about this guy Avakian?"
Late Sunday afternoon a team that had spent the day taking Lo BAsico, Avakian and revolution and communism into the immigrants' rights demonstrations downtown joined us Uptown. By the end of the day, altogether hundreds of the special May 1st issue of Revolution and Revolución and the RCP's Message and Call, "The Revolution We Need, the Leadership We Have," along with numbers of BAsics and Lo BAsico, had gotten out in the city. People came together for the evening at an Uptown club in a high finish to the day's struggle and celebration. Folks relaxed, shared stories and experiences from the day, and enjoyed good food and live jazz. Many of the patrons of the club—African Americans, people from half a dozen African countries, a couple from the Czech Republic, another from Japan, local artists—and the staff and musicians—welcomed the message, "The Whole World Comes First" and wanted to talk about where things are in the world and how they can change. A few had already heard of Avakian and the revolution; others were introduced for the first time. Several bought copies of the BAsics book.
At the end of the day: revolutionary spring was in the air.
Revolutionary May 1st, 2011 and nearly 40 people arrived that evening for the celebration. As people entered, they were greeted by music (including "All Played Out," the spoken word piece by Bob Avakian, accompanied by William Parker on bass). There was a delicious spread of food and lively conversation about many things, certainly about the big questions that are being thrown up by the upheavals we've seen this year and the challenges posed.
More than a few of those attending came fresh from the streets, having just taken part in an important May Day march in support of immigrant rights where they joined up with the Revolution contingent. For example, a couple from Eastern Europe met up with the revolutionaries for the first time, the man asking right away to carry the contingent's super-sized red silk flag. Others came to the celebration after participating in a rally of a thousand people that rededicated the Haymarket Martyrs Monument at a cemetery west of the city. We'd also boldly taken out our aims of revolution and communism to that rally and also to a Cinco de Mayo celebration numbering in the thousands. All told, a couple of hundred copies of Revolution newspaper, (including the statement from the RCP "On the Strategy for Revolution") got out on May 1st, as well as palm cards about and copies of BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian and the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).
There were people who came to the May 1st celebration who have been getting into BAsics, or the Constitution, some very intensely, but others were only beginning to check these things out. Some wanted to hear from those who'd traveled from Chicago to Harlem on April 11, "On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World." During the course of the evening, all these different people came together in celebration.
We were treated to poetry and clips of music and film (Ghetto Remix and Next Stop Revolution). One young man was particularly provoked by Bob Avakian's declaration: "I say no more... No more generations of our youth here and all over the world whose life is over...whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion." And our sights were lifted, as together we heard a selection of quotes from BAsics with the very pronounced theme of "Internationalism—The Whole World Comes First." You could see that people in the room were intensely listening. At a certain point, there was heartfelt applause when the room heard Bob Avakian's emphatic statement that "American Lives Are Not More Important than Other People's Lives." A comrade at one point laid out the situation we are in and the important challenges for this year and beyond, saluting the people who heroically stood up in Egypt. She talked about how we have a strategy for revolution how we are building a movement for revolution and called on people to get into BAsics, be part of promoting it and get connected to the movement for revolution.
Then the recording of a song by the late, great Nina Simone came on where she sang, "I wish I knew how it would feel to be free." At the end of the program, we stood together and sang The Internationale‑many for the first time, having just heard it movingly read in Farsi and Spanish.
On May 1st a very multinational, multi-aged crew, sporting red flags and banners in English and Spanish: "We Don't Have an Immigration Problem—We Have a Capitalism Problem," participated in a May 1st march and rally in Houston's heavily Latino Gulfton area. BAsics posters lined the march route and businesses in the area had taken palm cards and books to sell. People loved our banners, many coming up to snap photos. One Green Party member held one for awhile, before jumping over to his GP group.
Many in the march and along the streetwere reaching out their hands to get Revolution newspaper and BAsics palm cards. They wanted to know what it was all about; some took extras to get out. A number of people smiled when they saw the BA quote: "Internationalism—The Whole World Comes First." Half a dozen youth said they really liked our BA t-shirts, and wanted to get them, some of them then asking "Who is that?", wanting to find out more about Bob Avakian.
The march itself was spirited and colorful. Police were there in force, defending the handful of Minute Men reactionaries who, with no success, showed up to intimidate and harass the immigrants.
That night we celebrated at a café where a lot of progressive people hang out, and sang The Internationale, accompanied by a supporter blowing a bass clarinet.
We found throughout the day and in the days leading up to the First, a new interest in communism, our Party's vision and strategy, and Bob Avakian, among a variety of people from Latino youth, one wearing a hat bearing a hammer and sickle, to FMLN supporters, to a Libertarian-minded activist who, wanting to know how we could really have a society that truly represents the interests of the people, bought the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).
Send us your comments.
Revolution #232, May 15, 2011
On Wednesday, April 27 at the New School in downtown New York City, World Can't Wait and The Platypus Affiliated Society hosted the event: "U.S. Empire, Islamic Fundamentalism... Both Deadly. Is There Another Way?" This urgent exchange took place against a backdrop of U.S. wars and military aggression in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya and elsewhere with very little resistance from the people living in the U.S.; the continued growth of Islamic fundamentalism; and the recent wave of uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa against oppressive regimes. These uprisings have challenged the permanence of existing conditions, inspiring great hope worldwide and posing the question of what it will take to achieve real liberation.
After a brief opening by Debra Sweet of World Can't Wait, each panelist gave a presentation and then joined in a robust exchange. The panelists were: Sinan Antoon, an Iraqi-born poet, essayist, and associate professor at the Gallatin School of New York University (NYU); Wafaa Bilal, an Iraqi artist and assistant arts professor at NYU's Tisch School; Laura Lee Schmidt, East Coast Assistant Regional Coordinator for The Platypus Affiliated Society; Sunsara Taylor, writer for Revolution newspaper and Advisory Board Member of World Can't Wait; and Greg Wilpert, author of Changing Venezuela by Taking Power: The History and Policies of the Chavez Government. Together they represented an important range of views among progressive and radical people, not only in this country but around the world.
Several speakers emphasized the U.S.'s role in funding and building up Islamic fundamentalism over the years and most agreed that between the U.S. empire and Islamic fundamentalism, it is the U.S. that has by far committed the greatest crimes against and poses the greatest threat to the people of the world. One view argued that to even put Islamic fundamentalism and U.S. empire together in the conversation was to equate them and to feed into the U.S. ruling class' attempts to make a bogeyman out of Islamic fundamentalism and rationalize its wars. Others insisted that Islamic fundamentalism must be taken on because it traps many who are seeking to oppose imperialism into something that fails to rupture with imperialist domination and compounds the problem through its violent patriarchy and enshrining of ignorance.
Other questions that got sharply posed and addressed included: the nature of imperialism; the political-moral responsibility of people in the United States; whether democracy is the highest goal or if something more and radically different is needed; the model being forged in Venezuela under Chavez; and various questions posed by the recent upsurges in the Middle East and North Africa, including whether leadership is desirable or needed to achieve liberation.
In this mix, Sunsara Taylor promoted the analysis of Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, about the historical causes and current significance of the contention between historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity and historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system—and how it is that reactionary Islamic fundamentalism and imperialism actually reinforce each other. She also spoke about Avakian's re-envisioning of a vibrant socialism and communism and why this is a truly emancipating and viable alternative to the present world.
By the end of the evening, the horrors of both U.S. imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism, how to understand their relationship, whether there is another way the world could be, and what people should be doing now had begun to be delineated and engaged among those who share a deep concern for humanity's future. At the same time, important divergences of understanding and pressing questions among progressive and radical people were made clearer, as were the stakes and importance of continuing such debate and discussion.
Such events are far too rare. People are righteously rising up in the Middle East and North Africa, and millions more need to be lifting their heads and fighting for a different future throughout the world—and it is very significant that people came together to began such an important dialogue.
Look for online video of the program to become available.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #232, May 15, 2011
A three-judge panel of the federal 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned the death sentence of Mumia Abu-Jamal—for the second time and this time unanimously. Previously, in 2008, this same court had ruled 2-1 that the death sentence on Mumia had been obtained by unconstitutional misleading instructions to the jury. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned that finding and sent it back to the 3rd Circuit for reconsideration. But the 3rd Circuit has again ruled that the instructions used to get a death sentence voted on Mumia were blatantly and unconstitutionally illegal.
Mumia Abu-Jamal is perhaps the best known political prisoner in the world facing execution. He has now spent almost 30 years in isolation on death row, after being railroaded in a manifestly bogus trial. Yet despite mounds of new evidence in his case, the federal court system has refused to grant Mumia a new trial. As a revolutionary and a former Black Panther, he remains the special target of a ruling class vendetta bent on snuffing out his life as an example to all others who would refuse to bow down before the system.
Even if this newest decision is allowed to stand by the Supreme Court, the state of Pennsylvania would still have a chance to execute Mumia. The state has the option to convene a new jury and re-do the flawed penalty phase of his 1982 trial. That is, a new jury would be instructed that Mumia was found guilty of first degree murder and the only thing they are to decide is execution or life imprisonment. This constitutes an utter outrage, given what we know today about the original trial and all the exculpatory evidence that the jury was never allowed to see. In fact, Mumia himself was removed from the courtroom for much of his own trial because he righteously continued to object to the court's refusal to allow him to act as his own attorney in place of a court appointed lawyer.
Although it occurs in this overall situation of flagrant injustice, the technical decision returned by the 3rd Circuit is an important one for prisoners in capital cases. This court continued to uphold a well-established principal of law that there should be no restrictions on what mitigating circumstances (things in the defendant's favor) individual jurors can consider in a death sentence. In Mumia's trial, a written verdict form presented to jurors clearly implied that jurors could only consider those mitigating circumstance that they all unanimously agreed would apply.
Because of the infamous Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (signed into law by Bill Clinton), Mumia can make no more appeals in the federal court system. But his legal team is pursuing a new appeal in the Pennsylvania state courts based on a report from the National Academy of Sciences that discredits the type of ballistic evidence that was presented in Mumia's original trial.
A mass movement, reaching far and wide in society and around the world, was a crucial factor in stopping the rulers of this country from executing Mumia Abu-Jamal in the 1980s and '90s. It is ever more important that people must come together behind the demand to free Mumia Abu-Jamal.
* * * * *
For Revolution earlier coverage of Mumia's case go to:
Supreme Court Pushes Mumia Abu-Jamal a Step Closer to Execution
by C. Clark Kissinger
Revolution #190, January 31, 2010
Supreme Court Rejects Mumia Appeal
by C. Clark Kissinger
Revolution #162, April 19, 2009
New Developments in Ongoing Railroad of Mumia Abu-Jamal Revolution #138, August 3, 2008
Federal Appeals Court Continues the Mumia Railroad
Revolution #125, April 6, 2008
Send us your comments.
Revolution #232, May 15, 2011
Letter from a Prisoner about the Japan Earthquake
The Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund received the following letter from a prisoner:
Greetings from the Texas gulag! I was listening to CNN yesterday on my radio (we can get television by shorting out the tuner) and tuning in to the terrible news about the earthquake & tsunami that devastated the coast of Japan when the announcer made a special point of assuring his audience "no Americans had been harmed."
To get a real flavor for the obscenity of this bigoted mindset imagine this had happened in San Francisco and the announcer reassuringly declared no white people had been harmed; or perhaps no men.
This announcer meant no harm: He was simply voicing the values he'd been taught (actively & passively) all his life: Americans are more important than the natives of any other country; whites are more important than people of any other skin color; and, of course men are far more important than women. This is the 800 lb. gorilla in the living room of our collective psyche we must all do battle with if we are to survive as a species.
As a white American male I can call out this horribly obscene gorilla of ignorance & bigotry and not be accused of rating the grapes sour simply because I'm being denied a share of the spoils.
We simply must bring into being a revolutionary communist world devoid of prejudice & bigotry if we are to survive; the alternative is this capitalist death-dance of self-annihilation.
Yours for the revolution,
Send us your comments.
Revolution #232, May 15, 2011
We received this article from a reader:
The fundamental immorality and inhumanity of the Mormon Church once again raised its ugly head when in early March the "official university" of the Mormon Church, Brigham Young University (BYU), kicked one of their star players—one of their rare Black players, one of their rare Black students—Brandon Davies, off of the basketball team for violating one of the tenets ("Live a chaste and virtuous life") of the Mormon school's so-called "honor code." In juxtaposition with the story around Brandon Davies, the media has been full of praise for another BYU basketball player, Jimmer Fredette—the latest incarnation of "the great white hope/hype."
Davies, a young adult, was persecuted by the University for having sex—"pre-marital"—with his young adult girlfriend. An intolerable and reactionary moral culture running like a toxic artery through the society was exposed as sports commentator after commentator upheld "BYU's willingness to damage its own short-term athletic interests in the name of its honor code...,"1 pitting this so-called honorable stance against other universities which will break any rule, overlook any transgression, to win at any cost. 2
To get a little taste of the actually horrible morality exhibited in the moral posturing by most in the fraternity of sports writers, witness Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel [see endnote #2 for article citation] gushing over the Dark Ages3 ideology of the Mormon Church: "How easy would it have been for BYU to do what all other big-time institutions of higher learning would do—sweep Brandon Davies' transgression under the rug and keep right on rolling toward a national championship?...This is why BYU advancing to the Sweet 16 is so remarkable and so refreshing. Here's a program that enforced a rule that many believe is archaic, theological extremism." Jim Rome, ESPN commentator, in his nationally syndicated radio show, upheld the basic immorality of BYU, saying, "Credit to [BYU] for not compromising its integrity and selling out for the millions they could've made for a deep run in the NCAA tournament." Rome went on to say, "How many programs would've let a player skate for violating a rule right before the (NCAA) tourney, especially if you're looking at your best season ever?... I respect it. I definitely respect that."4
In a refreshing, voice in the wilderness, counterpoint, Boston Globe sportswriter Charlie Pierce disagreed with many of his colleagues who upheld Brandon Davies' punishment as righteous: "This Blog has grown fatigued with the 'rules is rules' argument, as compelling as a lot of This Blog's colleagues may find it.... It should be stated that the 'honor code' that he has been punished for violating really has nothing to do with 'honor' at all. It has to do with conduct, and control, and a revoltingly retrograde attitude toward human sexuality that ought to embarrass any institution of higher learning."5 (Bewilderingly, Pierce then went on to favorably compare the U.S. military's approach to sexuality with that of BYU's. It is beyond the scope of this article to go into the U.S. military's historical and present-day practice of rape and religious-based misogyny, and its role as an upholder of oppression of women, within its ranks and all over the world—but this part of Pierce's statements could not be allowed to stand without any comment.)
Apparently New York Knicks basketball star Amar'e Stoudemire put out a twitter feed blasting BYU for suspending Davies; but the next day, likely after pressure coming from somewhere in the NBA hierarchy, Stoudemire completely reversed his stand, tweeting, "I totally understand the actions of BYU, I totally respect the school and the conduct rules. BYU has a great athletic program." This was too much for some of his followers on the social networking site ("That's quite a retreat," said one. "Man you can't just change your stance like that, that's lame. You can't take back what you said about them...," said another.)
Of course missing from the commentary around this, with few exceptions, were two major social issues raised by this action: 1) the historical persecution of Black people and the institutional racism of the Mormon Church; 2) any exposure of the historical repression of women and the patriarchal (male domination in the society and within the family) outlook and historical practice of the Mormon Church which inform and underlie the so-called honor code of chastity.
The history of the BYU honor code seems to be rooted in the 1960s as part of a mission by ultraconservative BYU President Ernest Wilkinson to preserve the campus against the radicalism of the times. More on this later—because the first question which must be asked is, how can any university named after Brigham Young make any claim to honor? Brigham Young was a major historical leader of the Mormon Church who in his prophecies stated [below quotes are taken from Brigham Young in Extract from Journal of Discourses, 7: p. 290-291, Brigham Young, October 9, 1859]:
"You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind." The only thing I can say about the above is that anyone knowing this history (which is not hidden) and who does not loudly condemn the man and the school named after him—and still proudly retaining that name—has the morality of a slaveholder and oppressor.
"The first man that committed the odious crime of killing one of his brethren will be cursed the longest of any one of the children of Adam. Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings." (Note: In Mormon biblical interpretation, Cain was Black and a curse was put on him for killing his brother, and all his descendents, Black people, are also cursed.) Given this interpretation that Black people are the line of humans descending from Cain, is not the logic of Brigham Young's words here nothing more than a religious-based rationale for the extermination/genocide of Black people all over the world?
"This [speaking to the "termination" above] was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race—that they should be the 'servant of servants;' and they will be, until that curse is removed." To be clear, according to Brigham Young all humans are servants of God, so here he is speaking to Black people as servants of white people. This is nothing more than a straight-up religious-based argument for slavery, upholding centuries of inhumane oppression of Black people.
This was not just some theological mutterings of a crazed Mormon leader. In 1852, at the behest of Brigham Young (then leader of the Mormon Church and territorial governor of Utah), the Utah legislature passed the "An Act in Relation to Service" law which codified slavery and gave slaveholders in Utah the legal right to own slaves.
What is this rooted in? First of all, as a matter of record it should be noted that this "virginity" clause goes hand in hand with BYU's social coercion that its students get married—the so-called "marriage culture" promoted on its campuses. Approximately 51% of the graduates in BYU's class of 2005 were married. This is compared to a national marriage average among college graduates of 11%.6 Second, this "chaste" honor code tenet and this "culture of marriage" is rooted deeply in the whole Judeo-Christian tradition of the coerced "virginity" of women before marriage, which historically and today is a patriarchal instrument to force women to be subservient to men.7 Third, it is worth noting that the Twilight series of novels is written by Stephenie Meyer, a Mormon and graduate of BYU. It has been noted that Mormon religious themes strongly inform her novels.8 Her novels are steeped in sexual abstinence: the main female character in Twilight, Bella, is an essentially dependent and powerless "heroine" in an abusive, unhealthy relationship with a vampire.9 Fourth, the particular history of the Mormon Church is that it is rooted in polygamy (a marriage in which one person has multiple spouses) and more specifically polygyny—where a man has more than one wife. Polygamy was fervently fought for by Mormon leaders; this is made very clear in the following from a prominent Mormon elder in the 1800s [from Journal of Discourses 7:226, Orson Pratt, August 14, 1859]:
"Where can you put your finger on a law passed by the American Congress which deprives a man of the rights guaranteed to him relative to the government of his family, no matter whether he takes one wife or many? Undertake to deprive the people of this one domestic institution, and you can, upon the same principle, deprive them of all others.
"Imprison the polygamist for having more than one wife, and you have the same right to imprison a man for having more than one child, or to punish the slaveholder for having more than one slave. The same Constitution [referencing the U.S. Constitution in 1859] that protects the latter [speaking of slavery] also protects the former."
This whole package, which one sees here, is an expression of a religion which is aggressively asserting a very repressive patriarchy as well as upholding other horrific forms of oppression. While the mainstream Mormon Church does not today officially sanction polygamy, it is well known that various Mormon sects still practice this, and the main Mormon Church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) has never repudiated the original underlying theological tenets of polygamy. It is true that in the late 1800s, as a pre-condition to Utah's becoming a state, the Mormons had to repudiate the practice and codification in Utah law of polygamy (some Mormon elder had a talk with god, who told him to give up polygamy!). But this fact notwithstanding, Mormons still uphold and revere the two main leaders of the church, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young—both of whom were proselytizers for polygamy and had multiple wives themselves.
Of course, those of the Mormon Church and their apologists will say that this is "history" and that Mormon doctrine is more enlightened these days. Bullshit! It is beyond the scope of this article to go into detail exposing the lie of such contentions, but if in fact Mormons today are more enlightened, then the question comes down to this: If Mormons no longer think this way, then why do they still uphold Brigham Young, the successor to the founder of the religion (Joseph Smith) as a central leader of their religion? Why have they not thoroughly repudiated him? Why is their university named after this malevolent oppressor?
It seems that BYU's honor code, as now crafted and enforced, was part of a quest during the 1960s by ultra-conservative BYU President Ernest Wilkinson to preserve the campus against the radical thinking and upheaval sweeping college campuses during that period. Wilkinson wanted to "make BYU a national resource for patriotic anti-communism" and to "root out problem students," recall historians Bryan Waterman and Brian Kagel. This honor code has been used to bait and target gays and liberals and to shut down student anti-war protests. Clerical leaders serving BYU student congregations have been expected to report content from private confession and counseling interactions to University authorities.10
"Too Black"—Get Back!
Those Black athletes who do not "act Black"—that is, in one way or another show their subordination to the system, these days mainly by insufferable shout-outs to "the lord"—are allowed to thrive and are even feted. But "show" your Blackness, i.e., show any disrespect or rebelliousness, and you will get shot down.
Think of Muhammad Ali (formerly Cassius Clay), who became close with Black nationalists like Malcolm X and who refused to be drafted into the imperialist army, declaring he had no quarrel with the "Viet Cong" (that is, the Vietnamese people's army fighting for national liberation against the U.S.). After he was convicted of draft evasion, Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title and received scorn from most of the mainstream media and sports hacks (Howard Cosell being a notable exception). Jack Olsen, writing years later in Sports Illustrated, recalled how "The noise became a din, the drumbeats of a holy war. TV and radio commentators, little old ladies..., bookmakers and parish priests, armchair strategists at the Pentagon and politicians all over the place joined in a crescendo of get-Cassius clamor."
Think of one of the greatest basketball players ever, Connie Hawkins, who gave expression in a very exciting way to the "City Game" back in the day (beginning in the late 1950s). Because he associated with some people involved in a point shaving case, he was kicked off his University of Iowa team (1961) as a freshman and then was unofficially blacklisted (the NBA refused to draft him) before being officially banned from the NBA in 1966. (During this time he was blacklisted and banned, Hawkins did play for smaller leagues such as the American Basketball Association. Hawkins fought the NBA ban, and finally did get to play in the NBA for 7 years.)
Think of Olympic sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, giving the Black power salute from the victory stand in the 1968 Olympics and then getting kicked out of the Olympic Village by the U.S. Olympic Committee and greeted "back home" by the likes of Brent Musburger, who called them "black-skinned storm troopers." For years they were blacklisted, both of them had problems making a living, while Musburger (who for years refused to call Muhammad Ali by his chosen Muslim name) has never even been criticized, let alone vilified, by the sports establishment, and is still today a prominent sports announcer.
Why is it that someone like Latrell Sprewell, then with the Golden State Warriors, attacked his coach, P.J. Carlesimo, during a 1997 practice and was immediately fined (losing millions in salary) and then suspended for a year, while Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes and Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight were well known for hitting players, but went for years without being punished (both were for a long time held up as models of success and icons, and were only forced out from the universities where they coached for years when their winning ways started to wane)?
Why is it Barry Bonds, who along with most of the sluggers of his time is alleged to have taken some kind of steroid or growth hormone, is one of the most harassed and hounded athletes in this country, while Ty Cobb, a known racist and all-around asshole, is still feted as a "baseball great"?
Jimmer Fredette, who was the BYU basketball team's star player this year, has been honored by many as college basketball player of the year. Look, Fredette can play basketball. He has developed the coordination and skill of a "shooter" and along with this has developed a style of play which allows him to drive to the basket and make all kinds of shots from very weird and unconventional angles. At the same time, he seems to have a reputation for not being the greatest defender, and it is not clear how well he will do against NBA-level competition where the particular style he has evolved will be challenged every game by more athletic competition than he faced in his college contests.
That being said, the point here is not about Fredette the basketball player, but about "Jimmer" and the great white hope/hype which has been created around him. He has hands down become the "darling" of the sports media: Teams that play BYU are "Jimmered"—his personal biography has been blasted out as "unique and special" (he was groomed from a very early age for basketball by his father and brother, and his mom nicknamed him "Jimmer," and he's a Mormon—wow!...Oh, and most important, he's a white religious boy!). There are YouTube videos of him all over the place. It goes on and on. Even when he performs poorly, as he did when BYU lost to Florida in the NCAA round of 16, he is praised and praised. In this game against a team which was not highly ranked but did have much more athletic players than Fredette normally faces, Fredette scored 32 points, but took 29 shots to do it (and was 3-for-15 from the 3-point arc) and committed six turnovers. Still he was feted. But as Colin Cowherd of ESPN notes, calling out his colleagues in the sports broadcasting "fraternity": "If Allen Iverson gave you that night, you'd call him a ballhog. Jimmer gives you that night? You somehow find a way to call it magical."
This last comment gets to the point of all of this. Why is it that Allen Iverson, who is Black and clearly has been a great college and NBA basketball player, is often a target of derision, both as a basketball player and as a person, while white players who excel rarely receive this treatment and more often are praised and hyped? I think that there are two major reasons: 1) the fact remains that "America," that is, the dominant white supremacist culture in this country, has always done its best to insult and undermine the achievements and character of Black athletes (especially those who in one way or other more represent the inner city in their "game" and swagger), while always on the prowl for the next great white hope; 2) Especially today, white religious fundamentalist athletes who excel are literally turned into "demigods" by the media and by a white Christian segment of this country.
While Black athletes, the majority of whom have a much more dramatic and hard life story than Jimmer Fredette (or football player Tim Tebow), are continually attacked for not being the correct role model types, maybe for just hanging out with the folks they grew up with in the "bantustans of America," white Christian fundamentalist athletes are called heroes for upholding and promoting Dark Ages religious ideologies and religious ruling class institutions which are rife with the most horrific forms of oppression and repression.
Those Black athletes who do not "act Black" and in one way or another show their subordination to the system (these days mainly by insufferable shout-outs to "the lord") are allowed to thrive and are even feted. But "show" your Blackness, i.e. show any disrespect for constituted authority and any rebelliousness, and you will get shot down. [See sidebar "'Too Black'—Get Back!"]
Why Bobby Knight and Mike Krzyzewski Are Beloved By the Powers-That-Be
Anyone who follows basketball has a sense of how the "City Game" style of Black basketball, which in essence evolved from and was heavily informed by the '50s and '60s rebellious swagger of inner-city Black youth refusing to be kept down, has been pitted against a style of basketball which is more "white" (even when played by Blacks), that is, meant to represent the prevailing values of the dominant ruling white culture and outlook.
It is beyond the scope of this article to get deeply into this, but here is a simple breakdown of the two types of games and what is at stake:
The "City Game" style develops offense and defense based on unleashing the talent, athleticism, individual uniqueness and creativity of the individuals playing, meshing all of this into a team; whereas the style favored and promoted by the powers-that-be is one which "molds"/subordinates players' talent and athleticism to fit into a "system" of offense and defense.
One style gives reign to the defiant attitude of Black youth, and the other style is meant to suppress this, and as part of this, to better showcase the type of white athlete (not necessarily all white athletes) who fares better in the more controlled or engineered style of basketball—which represents a pathetic attempt to establish white supremacy in basketball. Coaches like Bobby Knight (University of Indiana) and Mike Krzyzewski (Duke University) excel at this "suppression" type basketball, and this is the reason they are so feted in the basketball "establishment."
And the sports establishment closes ranks very quickly if anyone dares to expose even aspects of people like Knight or Krzyzewski. Recently, Jalen Rose, now a basketball commentator and in the early 1990s a star player on one of the most influential basketball teams in college history, University of Michigan's "Fab Five," made some critical remarks about the Duke program. The "Fab Five" was the starting lineup of five freshmen recruited mainly from the inner city, who embodied the "City Game" style; in contrast to Duke, which in its style of play and recruiting is known to ooze establishment entitlement and respectability. Anyone with any honesty would have deeply considered and reflected on these comments, given the history of how institutional racism is played out in sports. But no, both Grant Hill (a Black player who played for Duke in the '90s and is now in the NBA) and Mike Krzyzewski issued very snarky, mean-spirited comments (Hill actually responded in a New York Times op-ed article). NCAA basketball announcer Jim Nantz disrupted his play-by-play of the recent Duke/Michigan NCAA Tournament game to actually refer to the "Fab Five" as the "Fabricated Five" and to blame them for ruining the Michigan basketball program (due to a scandal involving pay-offs to one or more members of the "Fab Five," a practice which is widespread in college sports—but is very selectively clamped down on). The suggestion that the "Fab Five" was anything but one of the most exciting college basketball teams, which had tremendous influence on young players and the game (something which is pretty universally acknowledged), only confirms how important it is to the powers-that-be to slander this style of play and to uphold people and institutions which play a role in opposing and in different ways beating back the "City Game" style and what that represents.
It is obviously harder and takes a deeper understanding of basketball and the social forces involved to coach the "City Game," but coaches who have excelled at this, such as Guy Lewis (University of Houston where his "Phi Slamma Jamma" teams of the early 1980s became famous), Nolan Richardson (whose University of Arkansas men's team won the NCAA championship in 1994), or Jerry Tarkanian (who coached the University of Las Vegas men's team to the NCAA championship in 1990), to name a few, are not feted as they deserve to be, and in fact are often maligned because in essence they are being punished for unleashing a certain style of game and in so doing giving initiative to what this "City Game" represents in society.
And all of this has been very concentrated in college basketball, where the "city game" style of Black basketball—which in essence evolved from and was heavily informed by the 1950s and '60s rebellious swagger of inner-city Black youth refusing to be kept down—has been pitted against a style of basketball which is more "white" (even when played by Blacks), or meant to represent the prevailing values of the dominant ruling white culture and outlook. [See sidebar "Why Bobby Knight and Mike Krzyzewski Are Beloved By the Powers-That-Be"]
But let's face it, the real hero treatment is bestowed on white boy athletes coming out of and assertively promoting fundamentalist religious backgrounds and viewpoints. There is a direct line to be drawn between the sports establishment's "semper fi"-like acclamation for BYU's "honor coding" of Brandon Davies and its overwhelming gushing over Jimmer Fredette. Or look at the great acclaim bestowed on the Christian fascist football player Tim Tebow (known for exhibiting bible quotes under his eyes). How did the sports establishment react to Tebow's appearing in a reactionary anti-abortion ad in the 2010 Super Bowl? This was typified by ESPN.com sports columnist Jemele Hill: "Tebow's decision to appear in this ad should be considered just as courageous as Muhammad Ali's decision to not enter the draft, or Tommie Smith's and John Carlos' black power salute at the 1968 summer Olympics."11 Such a statement is both ridiculous and outrageous, and turns reality upside down: these Black athletes were in revolt against the oppression enforced by the prevailing ruling class structure and its political culture; Tebow's ad was in the service of the oppression of women by this same ruling class and in the service of the ideological expressions of this by reactionary Christian fundamentalist forces which have played the most atrocious role in decreeing and enforcing the most egregious forms of oppression of, and domination over, women. Ali, Smith and Carlos paid a heavy price [see sidebar "'Too Black'—Get Back!"), exacted by the same ruling establishment which they so courageously stood up against; whereas for Tim Tebow, his actions have raised his "stock" among the same ruling establishment. These three Black athletes lost their livelihood (and Ali was handed a felony conviction for refusing to enter the U.S. military, faced years in jail as a result, and was driven out of boxing for many years, when he was in his prime, before his conviction was finally overturned), whereas Tim Tebow's career continues to flourish and be promoted. Which side are you on, Hill, which side are you on?!
While all of this is outrageous and makes it hard to even take a breath in the putrid and revolting cultural atmosphere of this country, revolutionaries and those who want to change all of this must take note: The phenomena spoken to in this article have a tremendous social impact in relation to revolution and counter-revolution, which those building a movement for revolution must take into account. The fascist, jingoistic, white supremacist and Christian fundamentalist social base in this country is pumped up by the ruling class—or powerful sections of that ruling class—while the oppressed, and any who dare to exhibit any of the qualities of non-conformity and rebellion which reflect resistance to oppression—are continually told they are immoral, no good, have no right to voice their resistance in any form. All this is yet another manifestation of the fact that, as Bob Avakian has emphasized, there is howling need for "a radical revolt against a revolting culture," which those of us who understand the profound need for revolution against this whole system must approach and foster as part of building a movement for that revolution.12
1. Eamonn Brennan, March 24, 2011, ESPN.com: College Basketball Nation [back]
2. See Mike Bianchi, Sports Commentary, Orlando Sentinel, March 23, 2011 [back]
3. End of 400 to 1000 AD when church rule and repression literally kept humanity in the dark as to understanding the world in its reality, thus holding back people's ability to transform the world and themselves. [back]
4. Quoted in Deseret News, March 5, 2011. [back]
5. See Charles P. Pierce Blog on Boston Globe website, March 4, 2011 [back]
6. Clark, Natalie (2005-10-03). "BYU marriage rates higher than national average." Daily Universe. BYU. http://nn.byu.edu/story.cfm/56823. [back]
7. For a thoroughgoing and materialist understanding of this fact, refer to Bob Avakian's discussion of this in Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World (Insight Press, 2008). [back]
8. See Time magazine, Thursday, Apr. 24, 2008, "Stephenie Meyer: A New J.K. Rowling?" By Lev Grossman [back]
9. See "The Twilight Books: Dear Bella," Revolution #176, September 13, 2009, revcom.us/a/176/twilight-en.html [back]
10. "The Dark Side of BYU's Honor Code" by Joanna Brooks, March 15, 2011, online at ReligionDispatches.org [back]
11. "Laud the Courage in Tim Tebow's Stand," ESPN.com, February 2, 2010 [back]
12. Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon. Part 2: Building the Movement for Revolution," at revcom.us/avakian [back]
Send us your comments.
Revolution #232, May 15, 2011
One Year Later
One year ago this month, 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones was spending a special night. Her grandmother was staying overnight, so Aiyana got to stay up late watching TV and to sleep on the couch. This special night was violently interrupted after midnight and turned into a horrible nightmare. A flash bang grenade shot into the house exploded, severely burning little Aiyana, and a gunshot rang out which ended her life.
This murderous assault wasn't carried out by a robbery crew or gangbangers. It was the Detroit Police Department that stole Aiyana's life. The horror didn't end there. The police arrested her grandmother and tested her for drugs and gunpowder residue as part of an unsuccessful attempt to blame her for Aiyana's death. The initial media reports said that the cop's gun had gone off accidentally after Aiyana's grandmother had grabbed it and struggled with him over it. This lie fell apart when the tests on Aiyana's grandmother turned out to be negative.
The horror didn't stop there either. When Aiyana's father came downstairs to find out what had happened, the police forced him to lay face down on the rug that was stained with his daughter's blood. And the cops who ended Aiyana's life were in the wrong apartment. They were serving an arrest warrant for a guy who lived in the upstairs apartment that had a completely separate entrance from Aiyana's.
This entire assault was recorded by a TV crew from a reality police show. The authorities have confiscated their film and refuse to allow anyone to see it. To date, no one, not a single cop or city official, has been punished or reprimanded for this murder.
While the authorities have done nothing to prosecute those who carried this murder out, they have worked overtime to blame Aiyana's family for what their cops did to her. In addition to trying to blame her grandmother, they have demonized and blamed her family. News reports after Aiyana's murder alleged that Aiyana's father may have been involved in the crime for which the guy upstairs was being sought, that there were stolen cars in the yard behind the apartment building where they lived and that the family was "stealing electricity." (By this, they mean their apartment was connected to the city's electricity source, but they weren't paying for the service.) This is both beside the point and sick.
Beside the point because even if someone in Aiyana's home had done something wrong, would that justify cops coming in shooting and blowing away a little girl in the process? Even if there were stolen cars in the backyard, since when is the penalty for car theft murdering your loved ones? And it's sick because the city of Detroit had recently announced a plan to cut off electrical service in sections of the city where the population fell below 20% of its normal level. In these areas, even people who pay their bills will have to choose between leaving their homes, living without electricity or "stealing" it.
The police murder of Aiyana Stanley-Jones was a horrific outrage. And it is typical of the way police brutalize and even murder people in the ghettos and barrios across the U.S. They literally get away with murder. This isn't the work of a few rogue cops—it's the police playing their role of front line enforcers for this system. As Bob Avakian puts it in BAsics, "The role of the police is not to serve and protect the people. It is to serve and protect the system that rules over the people. To enforce the relations of exploitation and oppression, the conditions of poverty, misery and degradation into which the system has cast people and is determined to keep people in. The law and order the police are about, with all of their brutality and murder, is the law and order that enforces all this oppression and madness."
It will take revolution, defeating and dismantling the repressive institutions of this capitalist system and getting rid of the economic and social relations it keeps in effect and replacing it with a new revolutionary authority with radically different economic and social relations, to get rid of the brutality and degradation this system enforces on the Black masses, and everything else foul this system inflicts on humanity.
MAY 16TH—TAKE TO THE STREETS TO CONDEMN THE MURDER OF AIYANA
A call has been issued to mark the anniversary of her murder with demonstrations. The murder of Aiyana is typical of the way police brutalize and even murder people in the U.S., and it concentrates the brutality, misery and degradation this system enforces on Black people. This is unacceptable—it must be opposed.
For more information or to get involved: Call (347) 325-7828, or via email write to firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Facebook (search for "redeem Aiyana's dream march on America")
Send us your comments.