Taking BA and Revolution to Michelle Alexander’s Talk at a Major University

February 26, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


February 22, 2013. Many hundreds streamed in to hear Michelle Alexander speak on “The New Jim Crow” at a major university.  The crowd was roughly half students and half people (mainly Black) from the community.  Most people got two things from the revolutionaries as they entered: 1) a poster of BA’s statement on “3 Strikes and You’re Out!” combined with searing photos from Slavery, Jim Crow and the New Jim Crow and 2) a palm card for the film premiere of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!  So from the start most people had in their hands a concentration of the problem—400 years of the oppression of Black people­—and the solution—a revolution led by BA and how to become part of this.  Some people were already grappling with what is the solution so they also got copies of Revolution Newspaper on the way in.  And inside the venue we passed out hundreds of copies of the editorial from Revolution newspaper describing the importance of the film premiere.

In terms of laying out the horrific scope and details of the New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander’s presentation slammed people against the wall.  Even people who already knew something about this were stunned by what they learned.  Alexander began her presentation by stating that there can be no solution to this unless we are willing to confront the truth.  And then she went at it.  From the 1960s to the 1990s, the number of Black men with industrial jobs (even shitty ones) dropped from 70% to 28%.  Half the Black men in large urban areas have been to prison.  In Chicago, if you count the people now in prison, it is 80% of the Black men.  In the U.S. as a whole, there are 60 million men with criminal records.  And a felony conviction pretty much ruins your life—you can’t get a job, public housing or food stamps.  In many states you can’t vote or serve on a jury. And in Ohio you can’t even be a barber if you have a record.  No wonder 70% of prisoners end up back in jail.  A Black child has less chance of being raised by two parents today than under slavery—because so many Black men are in jail.  From 1980 to 2000, drug convictions—most of them involving no violence—made up 2/3 of the huge increase in the prison population.  The main pillars of this “war on drugs” —which is really a war on Black people—were put in place by Bill Clinton, a Democrat and have now been follow up on by Obama, another Democrat.

And through all this exposure, Michelle Alexander called on people to REFUSE to demonize the victims of all this—the masses of poor Black people whose lives have been ruined by this new form of racial caste system in America.  She called out for compassion and understanding and a huge campaign of resistance to put an end to the war on drugs and mass incarceration.

On the way out lots of people seemed to have revolution on their mind.  Many of them approached the revolutionaries to find out more about this film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! A whole group of Black youth from a local high school wanted to dig into revolution more, so we set up to meet them the next day right after school at a nearby cafe.  Other Black people from the community got into deep conversations about the need for revolution and wanted to know more about BA.  So we made a phone call to a local bookstore owner and set up a group listening of “Cornel West Interviews Bob Avakian” at his store for Sunday.  Two young Black women students from another local college were so excited to meet the revolution that they were literally jumping up and down.  They demanded that we sit right down there and explain to them what this revolution was about.  And the more they heard the more excited they got.  Both of them are involved in fighting mass incarceration and one of them is putting on the Vagina Monologues at her school.  The later had already put together that there is a connection between the oppression of women and the oppression of Black people—and all that has to go.  The other said that, “this is just what I have been looking for all my life.  I have so much energy to do something that really matters—not all the stupid shit that we pay all this money to learn in college.”   So we immediately made plans to come to their school and play the interview of Cornel West interviewing Bob Avakian with them and their friends on Saturday and discuss ways they can be part of the movement for revolution and build for the premiere.  Another Black woman who is a student at an all Black local college said that she wanted to have a discussion of the film premiere in one of her classes, so we are following up with her to make this happen.

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The above approach reflected something new for us in terms of how we approached interested people.  We were challenging people right on the spot to dig into BA and we were making plans with them for how to do this—with group listenings to the interviews as the main focus.  We also summed up that the group listenings were a critical first step—as opposed to inviting people to an organizing meeting to build for the premieres—because the interviews focus on the content of what this revolution and this leader are all about.  Once people begin to get that, then we can find the ways to involve them in fighting to make the premiere a major leap in building the movement for revolution.

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