Two Vignettes from the Chicago BA Speaks: REVOLUTION-NOTHING LESS! Van Tour

August 25, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a volunteer with the Chicago Van Tour:

At the Southside Transit Hub:

Chicago Van Tour - SouthsideThe Chicago BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Van Tour began at the main Transit Hub on Chicago's Black Southside. Regular vendors there advised the Van Tour to pull right up on the sidewalk where people are going to and from the buses to the El train. In the course of the afternoon, the snowball-frozen-ice sellers on the corner heard the first cut from the film, BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! several times and commented: "He is laying down some deep knowledge there." But they expressed skepticism about the people, arguing that "everyone is too caught up in the circus"—mindless entertainment and the daily struggle to survive—to get into what BA was saying.

Dozens passed by the van and nine people stopped to watch 15 minutes or more of the DVD. At one point, just as a small crowd was getting off a bus when the film reached the moment when BA says, "Well fuck you, just because it isn't happening to you doesn't mean it isn't happening—a thousand miles away or maybe just two miles away." There was appreciative laughter in the crowd and a couple of people applauded. Several people stopped for a few minutes to hear what BA was going to say next.

People in cars stopped at the corner stop sign were hearing this and wanting to know who it was that was speaking. The Three Strikes poster of a quote from BA that lays bare that this system has struck out when it comes to Black people captured people's eye at the entrance to the El train station. When people read it, many were unleashed to speak bitterness about their experiences living in this white supremacist system.

When the film got to where BA tells of 10 million children around the world being killed by starvation and preventable disease every year and how this system is responsible for this outrage, a woman who had been watching for a while said, "I've got to get this for my husband to see!" Leafing through Revolution newspaper, she laughed when she saw Obama's statement that the U.S. wouldn't "kill or torture" Edward Snowden. "I don't know why his [Snowden's] father is trying to get him back here. Doesn't he love his son?" Her view was that if the U.S. ever got their hands on Snowden, he would be dead.

When BA started to dig into "The Lord," a couple of young men who had been watching the DVD reacted sharply. They said they agreed with much of what BA had been saying but argued vehemently that the contradictions among the people can only be resolved if people get with god and walked off when we struggled over this not being in "god's hands" but rather in our hands.

Many people took small stacks of palm cards with quotes from BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian on them to get out. This included a number of bus drivers who said they were taking palm cards back to their bus barns. We noted that, while outrage and frustration around the Zimmerman verdict was not right now taking the form of protests the way it had a few weeks ago, the outrageous verdict had unlocked a broad questioning and desire to dig into what is going on in the world and what might be done about it.

We found this was still largely conditioned by the framework of the system. One woman told us, "I am so fed up I have to do something. I'm going to run for alderman." And a guy who listened to the film for over an hour argued that an important part of any strategy for change is that you need to "get people into the system," contending that it was the FBI's infiltration of the Black Panthers that had enabled the powers-that-be to destroy that organization and therefore we needed to do that in reverse—"infiltrating the system." We struggled with him about this and he got the Revolutionary Communist Party’s statement, “On the Strategy for Revolution” (published in BAsics from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian) and said he was going to get into and discuss it with us when we got back together.

We also noted that, while many people really felt what the Three Strikes statement was saying about the "whole history of the experience of Black people in the U.S…."—a visceral response to centuries of oppression but were skeptical of the idea that we could make real that it's "Three Strikes—for this system"—that we could actually get rid of this oppressive system. We heard a lot of fatalistic "It's always been like this for Black people." At the same time people were engaging with us about this—open to entertaining that there might be a slim possibility and willing to look into BA if he had a way to do this. Not universally, but much more widely than in "normal times."

At a "Family Park"

The Van Tour next went to a family park where young men play basketball and many young parents bring their children together to play.

People at the park had been active in the struggle for Justice for Trayvon since before the Zimmerman trial started, and there is a lot of sentiment there in support of the California prisoners' hunger strike. Many of the older men there have spent years in prison and younger men in their twenties are well acquainted with the criminal INjustice system. During the June Van Tour, people had watched clips from the film in the park. We went there to both get with people we knew to plan a larger, more organized showing as well as to start a penny jar fund raising collection for BA Everywhere at the park.

One guy in a group of men in their twenties was very taken by the Three Strikes poster and he began telling his friends how with that poster, he could really see what is going on and do something about it. One of his friends replied, "15 minutes ago you were a STONE killer and now you are talking like this!" He responded, "I'm a stone killer because that's the way you see me but I'm all about this."

Two of the guys who had been giving their friend shit started looking at the paper. They saw the picture of the "Abortion on Demand without Apology" sign on the front of the paper and one said, "What's to apologize for?" We explained what has been going on with attacks on abortion and how some states only have one clinic that performs abortions in the whole state. One guy laughed a bitter laugh and said, "By the time your appointment rolls around you been done had the baby!" They looked at the articles on abortion in the paper and commented that when they talk about abortion, people call them baby killers.

They also commented on Obama's comment on Snowden and felt his father was wrong for trying to bring him back. They, too—like the woman we met at the Transit Hub—felt that the U.S. would do anything it could to kill Snowden.

One of these young men got a paper and he said they could share it but his friend said, "No way, I want my own copy."

In another conversation, the young man who had taken up the Three Strikes poster talked about how they had done everything for Trayvon—put up stickers, worn hoodies, posted on Facebook, even blacked out their Facebook pages after the verdict. And they really wanted justice for Trayvon even though they, themselves were dying everyday and felt they were in a situation like Trayvon's. But still, this was part of "the movement" and they supported the movement. He described how everyone was very angry about the verdict and there was a lot going on until the Justice Department said it was going to look into the case and then it seemed like everything just stopped. This led to a conversation among the group about whether there would be any justice from the Justice Department. One brother thought there would be, but several others argued with him about this, telling him he was living in a dream world.

The young men talked of how people in the area try to look out for each other but how "some of the young brothers" (he indicated young teenagers playing ball) "are already getting caught up no matter what we try to tell them." All the guys in this group from various conversations agreed to help build for a video showing in the park when a time and date was set up.

As we left the park, we passed two of the guys from the twenty-something crew. They were sitting on the benches around a fountain reading Revolution by the light of the evening street lamps.

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