Revolution #154, February 1, 2009

Thoughts from a Reader:

Black History Month

Editor’s note: We think that the following thoughts submitted by a reader from Chicago on using the special issue of Revolution that contains the Party’s statement on “The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System, and The Revolution We Need,” along with Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy, by Bob Avakian, during Black History Month has a lot of good ideas for distributors of the paper.

I think we need to use Black History Month as a major opportunity to really get out there very broadly, and very boldly, essentially with Issue #144 of our paper (“The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System, and The Revolution We Need”), as well as Bob Avakian’s Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy. As emphasized in the recent excerpts from correspondence from Bob Avakian* , there is great urgency in the current situation and how it is moving. This will certainly and perhaps especially be so after the inauguration and as this year’s Black history month coincides with the first full month of office for the first Black president—and I think there might be more of an opening for us to get out there, especially on the college and high school campuses, in a way that’s not always the case. And I think we need to be making preparations through January to put some things in place to be able to make the most of the month. So in that regard, I wanted to make a few concrete proposals:

1. A sort of “mini speaking tour” in Chicago and the nearby area, that would be promoted as such. We could make some fairly simple promotional materials—essentially an announcement—that would basically let teachers and principals know about Issue 144 and Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy, and that there is a speaking tour throughout the month of people from this perspective, and encourage them to invite the tour into their classrooms or schools. We could also include some statements from teachers describing the positive impact speakers with the newspaper have had in their schools.

I think we should have a sort of pool of speakers ready to go, to both have more freedom and flexibility as well as to develop a broader grouping’s ability to do this, and to learn from people going at questions different ways. These can be a combination of more and less experienced speakers. We could really try to get it ready in a good way, where we could be workshopping with each other and it would also give us a chance to struggle over content and approach.

Also I have only just barely heard that there is a high school syllabus people were working on to aid teachers in teaching the content—obviously this preparation could be a huge help. And then I think there could be a way we could build the tour at the same time as we were getting that out, and both tracks could play back on each other. For example, maybe a teacher isn’t ready to teach the syllabus but after the presentation decides to continue the conversation with the students by using it. Or maybe there’s things that come up in trying to do the syllabus that they don’t feel they can answer so at the end of it they invite us in, etc.

I had the chance to hear about a recent curriculum conference held by the Teachers for Social Responsibility and it was really striking how much teachers are doing, or trying to do, around the Black national question at the high schools—which I think points to the potential for this (I think there were 500 people registered for the event). It would be important to build the tour at different kinds of high schools—not just Black high schools.

And in terms of college campuses, there are different local campuses we could focus on, including reaching out to Black Student Unions and Black Studies Departments fairly broadly—at least stopping by those offices and dropping off materials and talking with a couple of people there. This will also be a way to get much more of a sense of the scene out there (I’ve been on websites for these departments and find it a pretty limited way to get to know the places as they’re not updated very well). And we should be at all kinds of events these and other forces are having throughout the month, ready and oriented to speak (I imagine this will have to get very sharp) from the floor.

2. In terms of programs, seminars, informal get-togethers off this, etc: There are different kinds of things that we could do with this but my opinion would be that if we could get some people from other perspectives to either have a dialogue or perhaps a debate, we might have more of a chance at having a bigger impact. My reasoning is twofold: 1) because we’d be coming from behind to get an audience to these (not mainly in terms of time but because of the level of “Obamamania”) and 2) precisely because of the urgent need for our line to get out there right now, this would give us a chance to really jump in and struggle with some people about this in the front of the room, and then to open this up with questions and comments from the floor.

3. Perhaps we could do a Black History Month kick-off event at the bookstore at the beginning of the month. This could be a really well-prepared discussion of Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy—but I also wonder if we could mix it up a little and have a lot of really informal discussion too. We could do an emphasis on inviting teachers and students, as well as more broadly, and it would be a way to both reach out to people who are trying to sort out their thinking, as well as galvanizing people who are not bamboozled right now to come together and share what they’ve been coming up against and what they’re going to do to challenge the terms of things now, and to set a basis to work with them through the month (for example, with the tour and promoting the larger events—especially if we had a core that was building for that, it could make a big difference).

4. I think we need to make a goal for numbers of copies of Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy and for newspapers (especially Issue 144 but we should also get a sense of what the weekly paper will be doing through the month) in particular to get out at high schools, and to raise funds to enable us to do that. If someone donated $500, say, to help get out x many copies of the pamphlet and y many copies of the paper, then we could report to them how it’s going and maybe this is something they could begin helping to sustain. This would be something we could promote at the kick off event.

* See Bob Avakian, “Obama: Playing the Trump Card?,” "In the Wake of the Election, a Basic Point of Orientation: To the Masses…With Revolution,” and “‘Obamamania’ And the Malcolm X Spirit”. [back]

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