Revolution #273, June 24, 2012

High School Graduation—With a Real Future

It's June and graduations are everywhere—caps and gowns, balloons, ecstatic families, crying grads. And looming over it all like a dark shadow is The Future—what is the world students are entering into, what promise does it have, and what meaning are their lives going to have? At one inner-city high school in Los Angeles, where less than half the students who start there as ninth graders make it to graduation, and where this year's graduation included memorials for two classmates who died during the school year, graduating seniors got the opportunity to do something meaningful at their graduation and they eagerly took it. As students sat in their seats on the stadium floor and then walked up to have their name announced and picture taken with the principal, nearly 50 students, about a fifth of the graduating class, wore small orange-colored buttons on their blue gowns. From a distance all you could see was a button. But up close and in person, students wore the button so it could be read:

Photos: Special to Revolution.
BAsics 1:13 worn by nearly 50 students at a Los Angeles high school graduation.

No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that.

Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, BAsics 1:13

The week before the graduation, this quote was starting to get around the school, passed out in front by the revolutionaries, and spread around and taped up inside by students getting involved in the movement for revolution. Many students read the quote and said, "I agree with this," or "This is important." A couple of the graduating seniors were thinking about how to do something meaningful with it at their graduation. A few days before the graduation, one young woman who had been part of the June 5 hoodie day for justice for Trayvon Martin said, "If we had this on a pin, we would wear it." Some students and teachers were already planning to wear a button memorializing one of their classmates who had died. A couple of people in another area who often contribute to the movement for revolution by donating buttons were asked if they wanted to be part of making this happen and they said yes. They quickly put together 50 buttons and shipped them overnight to arrive in time for the graduation.

This year's graduating class has been through a year of national outrages concentrating the oppression of Black people and new and beginning resistance to that in the context of other jolts happening in society and throughout the world. As they were coming out of rehearsal the day before graduation, many stopped to talk with a revolutionary who'd come to involve them in bringing BAsics quote 1:13 into their graduation. Seniors who had organized protest against the murder of Troy Davis at the beginning of the school year; seniors who had stood with hunger-striking prisoners and spoken out against mass incarceration on the October 22nd National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation; seniors who had passed out stickers saying "We are all Trayvon, the whole damn system is guilty"; and seniors who hadn't been part of any of this, read the quote. They looked at the pictures in Revolution newspaper of laboring children carrying boulders in India, of a little girl jumping rope amidst housing rubble in Haiti, of students like themselves all over the country wearing hoodies and posing with banners against the murder of Trayvon Martin. They liked the quote and they liked the plan, and a couple of people who more seriously wanted to see it happen took stacks of palm cards with BAsics 1:13 to spread the word to others in their graduating class.

One of the more serious was a guy who read the quote and liked it, but at first shrugged it off because "you can't do anything about it." He showed it to a friend, who said it has too many negative words in it and gave it back. But then the first guy heard about Bob Avakian, the leader who has developed a new synthesis of communism and is leading a party that has a strategy for revolution. He heard about the BAsics Bus Tour that boldly took this to the South, which is where this student grew up as a child, and he opened up the book BAsics reading its first sentence and its last. He was then presented with a challenge: there is a leader and a party, a strategy and a vision, and a movement for revolution struggling to be born. There are people throughout this country becoming part of this in beginning ways, to grow this movement and to put revolution on the map with our sights set on liberating humanity. Are you going to contribute your strength to this or are you going to withhold it and stand aside while others are fighting to break through? The whole look on his face changed. Then he began to talk about what might be involved in doing something like wearing these buttons at graduation, including the repression that might come down from the school administrators. He said for months they have put obstacles in front of our ability to graduate and there is a hanging threat that if we do anything wrong, we won't walk. He decided that if the administration tried to stop it, he would wait until the last minute to put the button on, so it would be too late for them to make him take it off, and he took a stack of palm cards to pass around at grad night.

On graduation day, as they gathered nervously waiting to go in the building they would be graduating in, a revolutionary brought the buttons over and asked the grads if they wanted to make a statement at their graduation by wearing this button. Students readily took the button and read the quote on it. Many put the button on immediately. Some wanted to discuss it more, what the quote means and what it means to wear it at graduation. Some had strong disagreements against revolution or challenging the status quo and didn't want anything to do with it. Others started with disagreements and worked through them.

One student, his voice full of emotion, said the system is horrible and we need to do something about it. Another student read the quote and said, "I like this a lot," but then she wanted to make sure she was clear on what it's about and where she's coming from, so she said, "I agree with abortion, because I don't think unwanted children should be brought into this world." As soon as she heard that this quote encompasses the liberation of women and the essential right of women to have abortions as a key part of that, she pinned it on her gown and told her friends to get one and put it on. Another student read the quote and handed the button back, saying he appreciates the sentiment, but doesn't agree with communism. After discussing the quote using the pictures in Revolution newspaper, hearing about the BAsics Bus Tour, and thinking about the point that people can get involved in the movement for revolution even while they have disagreements, he took the button back and pinned it to his gown. The student, who the day before had started off saying you can't do anything about it, put on the button right away and took a few extra, then came back to report that he'd gotten them to two students who are on the board of student government.

All 50 buttons were taken by students and pinned to their gowns, and some students were upset that the buttons ran out before they could get one. Some who had taken buttons had second thoughts and didn't wear them onto the graduation floor, but the vast majority wore them throughout the ceremony, while outside a thousand copies of the quote were passed out on palm cards to family and friends in the audience. Several students wanted their involvement in the movement for revolution to be more than just this one act so they took the card that describes Twelve Ways That YOU Can Be Part of Building the Movement for Revolution—Right Now and gave a way to stay in touch with them.

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