Revolution #67, October 29, 2006
Correspondence from Chicago and Oakland on Oct. 5, World Can't Wait
The Courage to Step Out on October 5th
We received the following two correspondences about the October 5, Drive Out the Bush Regime protests:
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Photo: Li Onesto
Drumbeats in Chicago
Oct 5th—the day of nationwide demonstrations to Drive Out the Bush Regime—was not your typical morning here in the Cabrini Green projects. Several drummers gathered on the blacktop of the parking lot and within minutes they electrified the atmosphere with a toe tapping, foot stomping rhythm. Several people got on the bullhorn to call people out from the building. One of the last people who came down, who got on the bus to go to the demonstration, told us that she was really struggling with herself over whether or not she was going to come and in the end felt she just had to. This woman got on the bullhorn and challenged people to get on the bus. She told them if they didn’t come today that they were saying it’s okay for Bush to legalize torture, that the unjust war in Iraq is OK with them. She asked, “What kind of future will the youth have if we don’t drive Bush out?”
The bus arrived at 10:30 a.m. and we were going to leave by 11:00 a.m. but the struggle to bring more people out lasted a little past noon. The bus driver had to be at his next pickup by 1 p.m. and couldn’t wait any longer. People went from building to building calling on people to get on the bus. In the process we gained a couple of people and lost a couple of the drummers. Several people said they were coming after being struggle with. One young woman went to see if she could find a baby sitter so she could go but couldn’t find anyone. That evening she told one of the people who had gone that she hated that she couldn’t come.
On the bus people were pumped. There was a lot of anticipation of what the day would be like. Some people wanted to know if we’d be going to jail and how that would be handled. When we got to the site of the demonstration people were impressed by the number of people who had already gathered. And that fueled the energy people had built up from the morning.
People immediately got a sense of what it meant to others that this crew from the housing projects was there. This became apparent by the number of people taking photographs of people from our group and the banner we had brought. Many people came up to say how happy they were to have people from Cabrini there at the demonstration. I think people who came from the projects really got a sense of what a powerful effect it has on people from other walks of life when those on the bottom step out and refuse to be silent. And this dynamic really carried through the day. Everybody from the projects commented on how much they enjoyed interacting with the diverse types of people at the protest. One guy commented that he particularly identified with “the rockers – or whatever you call them. You know, the kids with the blue hair and like that.”
As we marched from the park to the rallying site one of the marshals was so moved by the enthusiasm of one of the young women from the projects that she gave her the bullhorn to lead the chants.
Later that afternoon, when there was a lull in the action, we went to grab a bite to eat. As we walked to a nearby McDonald’s people drummed, leafleted and chanted a little—a mini march down the sidewalk. They continued leafleting inside the McDonald’s. A young Latina got a leaflet in the McDonald’s and talked to one of the women from the projects. She hadn’t known about the protest. Later we saw her at the rally with a World Can’t Wait sign and a copy of Revolution newspaper.
The MC at the rally called on the drummers from the projects to come up and give the crowd a boost. The drummers took the stage with the banner from the projects, and the beat from the drums sent the joy of resistance that they were feeling back into the crowd.
When we got back to the projects people talked about their experience that day. Some of the group had left early. Those who stayed told the others about their performance on stage, beaming with pride. And they told the others that they should have stayed, too. The group that had left earlier had their own story to tell. The told about drumming all the way to the train (and on the train), passing out leaflets and talking to people about where they had been. “We demonstrated all the way home” they said.
One of the guys came in and picked up a copy of Revolution newspaper. It was turned to the “Meet Bob Avakian” section and he saw the ad for the memoir. He commented that he was reading the memoir because, “I want to know more about this guy.” We told him that the CDs we have gotten him of the New Presentations (7 Talks) were by this same person and we need to have organized discussions of them. He thought that was great and told us he had already heard we were having one on Saturday.
That night I went to bed with the beat of the drumming still in my head.
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High School Walk-Outs in Oakland
I’m a youth organizer with World Can’t Wait trying to activate all these brilliant high school kids in the Bay Area. I gain much hope from talking to these youth who have a handle on what the Bush Regime is doing to people all over the world and a deep concern for struggle of people in their lives and others they don’t even know. The kids I talk to have a determined belief that they do not have to accept the world as it is, that they have the power to change it. Another reality that has become clear while organizing for the school walkouts on October 5th is the stifling oppression that these kids face every day on so many levels. From blaming them for the school’s lack of funds, to teachers who tell them that they could not understand the political situation in this country, let alone change it, to straight up locking them in their schools, which, especially in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, are becoming more and more like prisons. I recently talked to two girls from Emiliano Zapata Street Academy in Oakland. Under threat of suspension they organized 50 people to walkout of a school of 90. They went into classrooms calling on students to walk out. They helped students who didn’t have money to take the bus to San Francisco get on the bus. When they told the bus driver that they had walked out of school and were going to the demonstration in San Francisco he let them on for half-fare. They were suspended for one day and received detention hours. The day of the suspension they attempted to go to school in protest of the punishment, but were locked out. So many people called the school in protest of the suspension that the school secretary complained to the students—who said that it wasn’t their fault that people were calling, that they had taken the consequences for their actions and now the school administration needed to take the consequences for its action.
The following excerpt is from an interview with two high school students who demonstrated on October 5 to Drive Out the Bush Regime:
Student #1: I first heard about October 5 from one of the history teachers. He invited me to a speak-out they were having at the Grand Lake Theater [the Evening of Conscience on October 2]. I went there and heard about everything. A couple of dudes in the front hooked me up with a bunch of stickers and a bunch of fliers and everything. I took the fliers and everything to school and I started handing them out.
Student #2: I took a stack of stickers. I started sticking them on people and saying, “go.” One guy asked if I was going to walk out and I said “Yeah.” The principal said that we would get suspended and I’m like, I don’t know if I want to get suspended. But this other student said she was going to walk out. So I said, I’m not going to let you get suspended by yourself. She wasn’t about to let that stop her so I said I’m not either. It started with the two of us and another girl, and 50 students ended up walking out and 43 ended up going to the protest.
Student #1: We started handing the fliers out on Tuesday. Two teachers were really behind us. They were talking about getting a group together after school. One of them said that I should announce it over the loudspeaker. But that was my big mistake. I didn’t get to do it because when I went downstairs the principal was right there sitting next to the loudspeaker and she didn’t know about it. I showed her a flier and she said, no you can’t do that and you tell everybody that anyone who walks out will be suspended. I talked to my teachers and they told me don’t trip about what she said because you got to do what you got to do for what you believe in. And I was like thank you. So they were behind me. One of the teachers started crying over it. She was going to quit her job over it and we had to tell her don’t quit because she is one of the best teachers at our school…
I had to go to the protest because of everything I heard that night [at the Evening of Conscience in Oakland] and everything that was on the flier for October 5—support the Katrina victims, get Bush out of office, stop the war in Iraq, stop the immigration law and that wall they’re trying to put up on the border…
Student #2: When we were on our way to the protest everybody was texting me saying that they were suspending us and giving us 40 hours [of detention], so by the time we got to that protest you don’t know what was running through our mind.
Student #1: We were really mad…
Student #2: I got up on the stage representing our school and said my little piece about how we were from Emiliano Zapata and we had been suspended and I said “revolution” and everyone went crazy. A lot of the teachers were calling me and saying that they were proud of what we did. They said, “You guys are so awesome.” A lot of the teachers and aides had been saying that they should walk out with us, but the principal said, “No, and if you guys go you’re all going to be fired.” They said, “Then you aren’t going to have any teachers.”
We made history, at least for Street Academy. Next year after I’ve graduated, people are going to talk about how last year 50 students walked out. We made history that day.
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