Revolution #269, May 20, 2012
BA Everywhere at the New Orleans Jazzfest
People from all over the world come to the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, aka Jazzfest. The performances include many rock and pop acts. Yet there is a solid element of indigenous Louisiana music and jazz, including New Orleans sons and daughters, like Trombone Shorty and Irma Thomas. The official festival takes place during the day at the race track, then at night, things spill over into the streets of mid-city New Orleans, where brass bands play for free on front porches and yards and people dance in the streets. The scene then shifts over to the French Quarter, where people pack the clubs and fill the streets once again to hear a variety of bands playing inside and outside, late into the night.
Our BA Everywhere crew showed up with thousands of palm cards promoting Bob Avakian’s spoken word piece, “All Played Out,” as well as the BAsics cards and Revolution newspaper. We really emphasized getting out the “All Played Out” cards. Most people we reached out to had never heard of Bob Avakian or the RCP, had never even seen a communist before. One of the most effective approaches we took was: “If you like art that challenges everything, including you, you gotta download this…(and described BA)…It will shake you up and make you think!”
Taking BA Everywhere to the festival crowd was like a shock to the atmosphere and the response was polarized. We tried many different methods and different approaches to impact the scene. Several stores, coffee houses, and restaurants took stacks to get out to their customers. We drove around the festival with a banner “You Can't Change the World If You Don't Know the BAsics” with a sound system playing “All Played Out” and clips from the Revolution talk DVD, Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About. In this way, a whole lot of people encountered BA Everywhere.
Saturday night, we set up our display at one of the busiest corners and got on a ladder with a bullhorn. This opened up more of a public debate. Some people were shocked, some were pleasantly surprised, some were pissed off, but many were provoked. Responses ranged from “Get a job!” to “Cool!” to “I want one of those—You look like a no-nonsense group.” One young restaurant worker who asked, “Is this like Marx’s communism?—I love communism!”, bought BAsics and donated money. One of our crew who got into it with a group of white youth, recounting how they had said the very words BA uses in the Revolution talk when mocking the capitalists: “This is the greatest country in the world. This is the land of freedom and democracy.” These youth left dissing us, but the encounter had really challenged them.
One vendor took a stack of cards for his booth, listened to “All Played Out,” and the next day he told us he agreed and disagreed with it — but was overall inspired. A businessman came by and told us he appreciates our message but wanted us to take out the word communism because he said Americans shut their minds off when they hear it. He made a donation and said he would check out our website.
A number of people stopped to talk, especially after seeing quotes from BA. One Black man saw the quote about how the role of the police is to protect and serve the system, and commented that BA had articulated exactly what he thinks. The BA quotes in the centerfold which call on people to imagine a world without America and “Internationalism—The Whole World Comes First” elicited in some people a sense that something is deeply wrong, and impelled them to think about this. One guy who had just gotten out of the military was excited to see this, as he described how he had come to no longer support the criminal wars the U.S. is waging on the world.
All of this sparked all kinds of questions and comments—like how to take communism out to people, how would socialism work in a country like this, who is Bob Avakian?
We spread the word about BA and the BAsics bus tour among a lot of people, gave them the ways to connect up with the movement for revolution, raised some money.
Another point on method: When people see our passion, our dedication, and our liveliness, it really busts through their stereotype of communists. Handing out cards as we danced to the music in the streets was an effective way to get them out. And this isn’t hard when at the New Orleans jazzfest. The music just moves you.
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