Revolution#113, December 23, 2007

Raising Funds to get Revolution Behind the Walls

Revolution received the following correspondence from the Harlem Revolution Club:

On Wednesday, December 12 nearly 40 people gathered at Sister's Uptown Bookstore in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan to hear Revolution newspaper journalists Alice Woodward and Hank Brown, who have reported on the Jena 6 case from Jena, Louisiana since July of this year. Sister’s hosted the event and the Harlem Revolution Club organized it as a fundraiser for the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund. Our goal is to raise $3,750 to sponsor 150 subsidized subscriptions for prisoners requesting Revolution newspaper.

The program began with members of the Harlem Revolution Club reading a powerful collection of excerpts from the pages of Revolution. The voices from Revolution included an interview with Black youth in Jena with their mix of innocence, defiance, excitement, worry, and hope; a Folsom, California prisoner whose single weekly copy of Revolution flows under cell doors and into many open hands stirring debate, spreading the science of revolution, and strengthening resolve; and the 50-year-old prisoner who says Revolution and the writings of Bob Avakian are for him “like a cold drink of water in the middle of the desert.” As the emcee for the evening pointed out, no publication brings to center stage the voices of these people this system has demonized, criminalized, and written off the way the pages of Revolution does.

Alice Woodward started by noting that the youth in Jena would be thrilled to know that people in New York were reading and listening to their words.

As Alice and Hank described the daily degradation forced on the Black people in Jena, a place where Blacks can’t even go to the town barbershop, the audience was filled with indignation and some were nearly moved to tears. We were reminded of the detailed history of the Jena 6 case. Hearing it provoked outrage no matter how many times it had been heard before. People shook their heads in anger as the reporters discussed Mychal Bell’s recent “forced admission” and the capitalist “just us” nature of the courts and how this system has dealt with the Jena 6 in particular and Black youth more generally. The fact that nooses are not a prank, that white supremacy is not an aberration, was driven home in example after example. The two reporters ended their presentation by talking passionately about the role and importance of Revolution newspaper.

When we opened things up for comments and questions, many in the audience were on the edge of their seats barely able to contain themselves. The stories from Jena and the discussion of this white supremacist imperialist system had stirred something deep in people and set loose a wave of speaking bitterness. First to speak was a 79-year-old Black man who was 18 years old and in the U.S. military in 1949. He was isolated and punished for challenging a white officer who used “n*gg*r” to refer to Black people. He compared his experience then to what is being done to the Jena 6 now. “Racism is alive and well in this country,” he declared, “and all this time since 1949 and these young people still have to deal with this.” He donated $25 to the PRLF.

A woman from East Harlem who had gone to Jena on the Harlem bus continued the comparisons by talking about how the police “up south” in places like East Harlem and Harlem sweep up, humiliate, and brutalize Latino and Black youth. “This has to stop all this,” she said as other agreed aloud.

The owner of the store spoke toward the end of the evening. She said she had opened Sister’s years ago to make available to others the history, culture, and politics of Black people that was not available to her growing up in south Georgia. She said, “There is a lot of positive energy in this room tonight and we are happy to be part of this.” She went on, “There are not only Black people here but different races and ages. Maybe it can’t be about race anymore. Maybe it has to be about consciousness.”

Readers of Revolution knew about how white supremacists are threatening to march in Jena on January 21, MLK’s birthday. The consensus at the event was that this has to be met with massive resistance all over the country and from many segments of the people—not just Black people!!! Some, especially those who had gone to Jena for the September 20 demonstration, talked about getting back on the bus and going back to Jena even stronger this time.

People hung around the store talking to Alice and Hank long after the program ended. In fact we had to ask people to leave. But, the evening was not over. Some of the Club people invited the reporters to join us at a friend’s house for more discussion. Eleven or twelve people showed up and we went on for another two hours asking questions about the kind of jobs people in Jena have and to what degree are Black people still tied to the land in any meaningful way. We wanted to know what the mood among Black people there is after the Mychal Bell’s plea bargain, and how do white people respond to the newspaper, and how Black people respond to communism, and how the reporters deal with the deep religious traditions among southern Blacks. Then someone said something in support of Martin Luther King’s program and approach versus Malcolm X’s and versus Bob Avakian’s—and we were off to the wrangling place.

We raised a little over $300 in donations and pledges. That brings our total in donations, pledges and matches to just over $2,000. That includes two $500 matches, one from a doctor and another from a legal professional. Now that we’ve raised $1,000 to meet those matches we are looking to challenge others to match our next $1,000.

We finally ended the evening deciding to do some kind of New Years fund raising party. And figuring out how to do more readings of “Voices from Revolution” as a way to raise funds for the newspaper’s $500,000 Fund Drive. The Club is raising $1,000 for the Spanish edition newspaper and we talked about doing a reading that focuses on the voices of immigrants. We can do this at schools, churches (Black, Latino, white), organizations, and maybe even on the street. We will let you know how it goes.

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