The Harlem-Bronx Bake Sale for BA Everywhere
“The goal is to get BA’s name and viewpoints heard globally”

January 6, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


In December, a group of people from Harlem and the Bronx in New York City teamed up for a project to raise money for the BA Everywhere campaign. They decided to make and sell sweet potato pies and cookies during the holidays. They set a goal of $1,000 and raised $700 of it by the end of December. Revolution talked with several of the people involved to learn more about this effort—including a woman from Harlem who wrote a statement (see below) that played an important role in the project.

Revolution: How did this project come about?

A: We had been brainstorming some questions about: can we really get a significant number of people to donate to BA Everywhere? Through the work in helping to build for the Arturo O’Farrill concert [a benefit for the Stop Mass Incarceration Network] and especially the premiere celebration for the film Stepping into the Future, a significant amount of people came together to talk to each other and got to know each other, and there was a lot of inspiration. We called on B to play a big role, and she stepped up with her statement as a unifier.

B: I felt challenged with the statement. Wanted to make clear this is something we could do. Regardless of the gender and ethnicity, people could come together in harmony and do something significant, and the outcome was the bake sale. That’s what made the project so amazing. In fact you had a 12-year-old who volunteered his services and helped deliver the pies and cookies. You had a guy who just came out of prison who had the skills to bake the pies and led us in baking 30 pies. A person who lent us their apartment so we could do this and come together. Lots of other people who volunteered their services and all came together. The major thing was to get out BA’s name, to help it spread everywhere.

Revolution: How did you set the goal of raising $1,000? Was there any controversy around it?

A: B did the statement that was very inspiring, and it was read at the get-together of people before the Stepping into the Future premiere celebration. People really took it up. One guy said, “My aunt could bake 12 pies.” He had already gone out to raise money for this. A lot of people were saying, “I want to help,” “I want to do this.” They were calling their friends. We could see there was the necessity, the basis. The “$1000 Challenge from a Neighborhood Revolution Club,” written by a young Latina, that went up on was in our minds.

C: The challenge from the young Latina was what spurred it. We didn’t have a goal of $1,000 at first. People were saying, “Can we actually raise a significant amount of money?” Folks say, “I don’t have money, folks in the projects don’t have money, I work all the time. What can we actually do?” The statement by B was really important, what brought everybody together. There was tremendous enthusiasm for what BA brought forward among people at the core of this, people getting into Stepping into the Future, watching Revolution—Nothing Less!, people understanding the importance of this being out in society, what difference this could make.

The statement by B was taken to Riverside Church [a progressive church in Harlem]. We sold a significant number of pies there simply by reading the statement. Some people compared it to the program eulogizing Mandela [which took place a few days earlier at the church]. One woman said about the statement, “This is talking about changing the world. All I heard at [the Mandela event] was self-congratulatory promotion.” She immediately dug in her pocket and ordered a pie.

Somebody inspired by B’s statement went to all their neighbors, read the statement and “An Invitation” from BA. He said, “I’m going to read this before we eat the pie.” This was a middle class person—it shows the way in which this was reaching out and affecting other folks.

Revolution: [to B] What did you think about the goal?

B: Definitely, I wanted to rock and roll with it! I was fired up. I’m still fired up. Actually I’ve been fired up ever since I first heard BA’s works in 2013. I figured I need to do something. I don’t have much money. But I need to do something, I can’t just stand there and don’t do nothing, I can’t close my eyes, I have to face this and have to do something. A lot of it is out of frustration and seeing the world is getting worse. A lot of it is, I really want the word of BA to get out because people need to hear this. They need to know that there’s someone who’s willing to stand up and say this is not right and challenge other people, and if you feel this way, say let’s do this, let’s do something positive. Come with me, let’s do this. His saying that it’s not just him doing it. He needs everyone—the carpenters, the cooks, everybody—to make the world like that. That’s the challenge. That should be everybody’s challenge.

C: People who did this, who came together to do it, some are a step away from being homeless, or are homeless, a step away from being in prison and a step away from going back, a young kid 12 years old from projects. Folks like that. Reflection of the point that BA makes in BAsics 3:16 about how people who the system has counted for nothing can count for a great deal in what they can actually do when they do come together, how much more actually is possible.

Revolution: What was it like when you all came together to make the pies and cookies?

B: Amazing. Not the bickering and the cussing. People in the room, all various ages, all genders and then there’s this kid, and the most important thing is this kid is hearing the adult conversation and watching what they’re doing and people conversating as they’re making pies and cookies. Conversations around everyday life, and BA was coming up. Relationships and how it’s affected. We was talking about especially around people of color. Sexism in America. Definitely talking about BA. Looking at BAsics. Found out in things that was said we had a lot in common. Had a lot to do with everyday experiences, job-related, being incarcerated, how we grew up. Even a simple thing that we found out this one lives on this block and I live across the street.

A: One guy, who was two months out of prison, started talking in a very moving way about how every door is closed and what that means to your spirit. How much he wanted to form a stable relationship, to love someone and have someone love you. He’d been in prison all his life on and off—25 years, and he’s only 40 something. All his youth. Bringing this out very honestly. We barely knew this guy. All these women started in a very comradely way helping him.

B: You get a bunch of women and you hear, “All men are dogs,” but it wasn’t like that. We felt his pain. We was trying to give him suggestions and really be there for him. Also felt we had a lot of stuff in common. Issues of how society looks at relationships, what Black men face. He saw Stepping into the Future but never seen Revolution—Nothing Less! We watched a part of that, the first part of the film.

A: He needed to know that BA addresses those questions. Everything that he has felt, BA addresses—and that’s the key thing we wanted to get across to him. We are opening the door for you. You need to look at this. You need to listen.

C: He was coming from, “Why is this stuff happening? Why is this happening to me?” You were bringing out, “Why is this happening to billions of people around the world?”

A: That’s where B and the other woman were coming from when you talked to him. Black men and how they were attacked.

B: We spoke to him about how in the history, how slavery played a part in that, how the family was divided and the woman had to take on more roles—from that point to now, and how the man is treated now. Job-wise, and how the Black woman will get a job before the Black man and how unequal....we went to children, and the different roles in the family. Basically, we wanted him to know that BA got you. When we say he got you, we mean: He thought about all of that, he analyzed all of that. All the time we baking pies, and he’s the leader. Amazing, because this was a group of people that nobody would have expected to be in the same room together and getting along—and it’s no racial division, there’s no putting nobody down, degrading anybody or anything. We all have a common bond, we all have a common goal, and it worked. The whole issue was BA and you need to get with this, and this is how it’s supposed to be.

A: Another cool part of that, and I don’t know all the conversations that went on, it was hard work—a young woman, revolutionary young person, very much part of the Abortion Freedom Ride, she participated at certain points about women and what they face. One time he said, “I read in the newspaper that women, they only want men for sex and only interested in their careers. Is this true? I try to talk to women on the street and they turn away in disgust.” This guy was very honest. He found an atmosphere where he could talk. She started talking about how women have to steel themselves before they go out the door. I think there was some talk about pornography. I don’t think he’d ever heard this stuff before.

B: Most men is taught to be the “hero”—come to me, I’m the protector—where they are also taught to disrespect people, particularly women. I know he didn’t expect that, he did this and didn’t think of this as disrespect—that’s what he’s been taught how to “get a woman.”

A: All the roles that men are put in, he can’t meet any of that due to having been a prisoner. “When you first meet a woman you have to spend $300. Borrow from my friends.” He was finding himself in an environment where there was a vision of something new—because you guys were very much utilizing not just your experience, but what you had learned through this movement.

B: BA talks a lot about women, and the youth and all the spaces you hold, and that was brought up. We challenged him to look at BA, BAsics and his speeches. When you listen to BA you could almost close your eyes and picture him speaking to you. He doesn’t go over your head. You can’t fall asleep on cannot. BA is the type of person who is very amusing. He challenges you, things you don’t even think about, it’s in your face every day. After you listen to BA you’re not going to forget it.

Revolution: Your team raised about $700 with the holiday bake sale, which was great, but that was short of the goal of $1,000. Tell us about the challenge you’ve issued to people to help meet the goal.

B: We’re hoping that people will match us and that we will reach our goal of $1,000 by January 11. We’re urging people to open their hearts as well as their pockets and write checks—and if they any bakers out there, to help us. The goal is to get BA’s name and viewpoints heard globally.

C: Everybody can give something. There’s a vast reservoir of people who can be involved. We’re calling on people who have means to match this challenge—going out to them with the statement, and showing them that there were people from Harlem and the Bronx organizing like this. That goal should be matched numerous times: OK, this was raised in Harlem, I’m going to give $1,000 or a couple of thousand. There were people who liked the pies and have said, when are you going to do that again? We’re working with people at core of doing this to get penny jars spread to friends and family and have 20 jars filled by the BA Everywhere “Bring in the New” party/celebration on January 11. We have one with over $11 in it, and need 19 more with $15 plus to make up the $300. The 12-year-old who helped make pies and deliver them, he’s going to make wristbands, and sell them for 50 cents or a dollar.

B: I really want to thank the Revolution Club. You always hear adults say, “Kids are always killing each other,” all the negatives. And this is a group of kids coming together for the revolution, and they helped deliver the cookies and pies, particularly that one 12-year-old. That’s what we’re doing this for, the ones BA is talking about.

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