Revolution #243, August 21, 2011

L.A. Rising Festival

An Inspiring Breath of Fresh Air

Tens of thousands of young people from different backgrounds (with lots of 20- and 30-somethings as well) came from all over California; Arizona, New Mexico and Texas; Minnesota and Wisconsin and Boston, Massachusetts; from Canada, France and beyond... to hear a unique lineup of bands at the Los Angeles Coliseum that featured Rage Against the Machine, Muse, Lauryn Hill, Rise Against, Immortal Technique and El Gran Silencio from Monterrey, Mexico.

The July 30 concert was called L.A. Rising, and it was a phenomenal event, in many different ways. The coming together of these groups, each known and loved by their fans for their powerful, moving sounds and their unmistakably radical political content, created an extraordinary atmosphere. For a whole day and into the late night hours, thousands shared and contributed to this breath of fresh air. The performers were inspired, and so was their music. When Rage took the stage in the late evening, the 60,000 or more fans leapt to their feet and never sat down again! We're not able, in this article, to review the fantastic music heard at this concert—but we wanted to let our readers know about some other exciting and important things that went on at the event.

The organizers aimed to bring together a concert to challenge the toxic mainstream culture and politics of today; a day of music that could inspire and mobilize people in resistance and revolt. And they didn't disappoint! Very importantly, the movement for revolution united with the artists and concert promoters and embraced this historic event and moment—and introduced tens of thousands to Bob Avakian, Revolution newspaper, and the revolution being built today.

Between the sets by Lauryn Hill and Rise Against, an audience of 30,000 saw a two-minute film clip montage of portraits of youth and others at the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality in 2009,  while the voice of Bob Avakian reverberated off the walls of the Coliseum. The excerpt was drawn from the DVD of Avakian's historic talk, Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, and specifically from "Youth deserve a better future." As the film clip starts, Avakian is talking about the hopeless situation for the youth—and you could hear people shout out "That's right!" And as he says, "Look at all these beautiful children, full of life and energy, full of so much promise when they are young, and see what happens to so many of them, what this system does to them, as they grow a little older...," the stadium became more silent, as people took it in. And then the image of the front and back cover of BAsics appeared on the screen.

"Ask me about the BAsics of revolution and communism"

Throughout the day people holding up signs on poles that read "Ask me about the BAsics of revolution and communism" were surrounded by knots of people. Some who took the challenge, "okay, tell me more... what are the BAsics of revolution and communism?" left with a copy of BAsics. And the sticker saying "I'm with the Real REVOLUTION" seemed to capture a very broad sentiment, and became part of the "uniform" for hundreds and hundreds of people.

The Re-Education Camp

The bands and the organizers set aside a large space for a "Re-Education Camp" and invited organizations working on a broad range of issues to set up booths inside. Over 40 booths were set up, focusing on issues like opposing the wars, immigration, resisting the attacks on labor unions, poverty, the environment, justice, and the media. One group came from Tucson, fresh from the battle to defend ethnic studies. Iraq Veterans Against the War, World Can't Wait, and Amnesty International had booths. A group focused on ways to help people in Africa and elsewhere capture rainwater was next to "Jail Guitar Doors," which donates guitars to prisoners. And "It Gets Better," a group dedicated to helping gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teenagers survive the constant bullying they face around the country. The movement to support the hunger strike by the prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison was represented.

Revolution Books had a very prominent spot and was busy throughout, and contributed to the major impact the movement for revolution had on the tens of thousands who attended. Two undergraduates from MIT in Boston said they came for Rage Against the Machine, but were really happy to find the Re-Education Camp. One of them said, "This is the first time where I've been that I've actually seen causes."

Many people had not heard of the bookstore, nor Revolution newspaper or Chairman Avakian, but were attracted to the bold revolutionary presence. There were definitely people who didn't have full agreement, but they really wanted to engage and hear the revolutionaries out, while also putting out some of their thinking.

The Re-Education Camp connected with a searching that's going on among many of those who'd come to the concert. A couple from Santa Fe, New Mexico said: "We drove 12 hours non-stop. We came for the music and the movement... I feel like they brought the people here who have like minds who feel the same way. There's a lot of people here... This is the most important time for this to be happening. Right now. This is the tip of the iceberg around the world. So here we are. Hopefully we'll see some political change."

They were among many people who talked about Obama with a sense of betrayal. "War, war, war. Continuous war. Continuing war. More places. It's non-stop. It hasn't changed." Asked what keeps him up at night, he replied: "My friends can't get jobs now. It's hard for them to even work and just survive. I have about six or seven people living in my house just cuz nobody has money... We appreciate you guys and everybody out here doing their thing and showing us what's up and giving an idea. If it's not for you guys, you know, who does this? So thank you... Events like this, this is huge. Huge… bands supporting this and that's what the youth are looking up to so it's a good thing... They've all been taught for so long that this is the way it is... Our generation, it seems to be waking up to some things like that. I think it's becoming more popular to resist, in a way."

A 10th grader from southern L.A. County who bought BAsics said: "I came to see Rage, but I really like what the other bands are standing for. Definitely a good time for this to be happening.... I always talk and have discussions at school; about capitalism, the pros and cons. What system of government would work better than others..."

He reads quote 1:1 in BAsics: "There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth."

"Wow, alright. I've never thought about it... This book you just gave me, it seems really interesting but I've never read a book like it before, so I'll definitely read it. [And show it to your friends?] Oh yes, of course. They'd love to see it."

Then he warns, "If you don't think for yourself it's really easy to get lost in what other people tell you. And my family's the same way. My mom's side of the family is right-wing Christian. Obama gets elected and I hear screaming from the other room, ‘oh no, the terrorists are coming.' That doesn't even make sense. My dad he knows what he's talking about but I get it from both sides. It helps me make up my mind. And they're both Christians."

See video clip at youtube. Type in Bob Avakian LA Rising.

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