Selling Tickets to Those This System Has Cast Out

It's a TransformationNot a “Transaction”

October 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Recently, I got to be part of a team that went out to some housing projects and a main drag in an oppressed neighborhood to promote and sell tickets to the upcoming Dialogue Between Cornel West and Bob Avakian on Revolution and Religion, The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion.  We also had whistles, stickers, and palm-cards for the October 22 National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality.  And, of course, we had Revolution newspaper.

What I am about to share is but one element of what must be a multifaceted approach of reaching back to everyone we've met over the years, selling them tickets and involving them in building a social movement towards this Dialogue. Here, I will focus on the dimension of going out very broadly to sell tickets and make this Dialogue a reference point among new people in a mass way.

First off, this was thrilling!  I got to stand on the street corner, bullhorn in hand, yelling out to thousands of people from among the most cast off and oppressed sections of society that they have the opportunity to see Bob Avakian, the leader of the revolution, live and in person!  “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” I would say, “One that can not only change your whole life, but enable you to be part of changing the whole world—of emancipating all of humanity.”  Over and over again I repeated the quote from Bob Avakian, “Those this system has cast off, those it has treated as less than human, can be the backbone and driving force of a fight not only to end their own oppression, but to finally end all oppression, and emancipate all of humanity.”  Then, I would make clear, “Those are the words of Bob Avakian, the leader of the revolution, a man who has never turned his back on the people this system treats like human waste—this is a leader who knows that you can rise up out of all this shit and be part of changing everything and he will show you how.  November 15th. Riverside Church.  Bob Avakian and Cornel West will be talking to YOU, and YOU need to be there!  Get your ticket today!”  I interspersed this agitation with words about the need to stand up now to STOP police brutality and calling on everyone to be out on October 22.

Folks listened as they walked by, some stopped for a while.  But even among those who stopped, it still took leadership and struggle to move them from simple appreciation of what they were hearing to becoming actively involved, including through buying or putting a “down-payment” down on their ticket to November 15th.

Early in the day, a young Black couple threw their hands out to grab for fliers, saying, “We talk about this all the time. Tell us what to do!”  Its not every day that so many people are so raw with anger and so eager to find some way to join a real fight to put an end to this shit.  But, rather than being satisfied that they took a stack of fliers, I stopped what I was doing and I spoke seriously with them.

The young man showed me scars on his lip and forehead from being beaten by police.  I put it to him straight up that he needs to fight against this shit right now and be on a mission to bring everyone he knows out on October 22 and that he needs to buy his ticket today to hear Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, live and in person in Dialogue with Cornel West, a revolutionary Christian, on November 15th.  He and his girlfriend were intrigued by both of these things and said immediately, “Yeah, we'll be there for sure.”  But again, I wasn't satisfied.

I spoke further about who BA is: his long history in the revolutionary struggle and leadership going back to the 60s and all the way up to this critical moment, how he has re-envisioned revolution and communism and rescued the entire project of human emancipation, and how he is especially committed to fighting so that people like them can rise up as emancipators of humanity.  They hadn't known about either BA or Cornel West and it was important to get concretely into who they are and what a unique opportunity it is to hear them together.  Again, I put to them the need to buy their tickets today, to hold their seat and to make a commitment to be there on November 15.

They didn't have the money to buy the whole ticket, but he was able to put a few dollars down to begin paying for his ticket and we worked out how we would get together to involve him more fully and to collect the rest of his ticket money.

As he got a deeper sense of who BA is, the young man spoke about how the government kills revolutionary leaders.  We talked about the responsibility that people like him have to protecting and defending Bob Avakian as well as this upcoming event.  All this only gave him a deeper sense of how serious we are about changing the whole world and made him more serious, too.

He stayed for half an hour, getting into the strategy for revolution, making plans to mobilize everyone he knows for October 22, and getting more deeply into BA and the nature of this revolution.  After a while, he began intervening in the work of other revolutionaries; if another young Black man ignored our comrades he would challenge them, “Slow down, man—you got to take the flier, this is serious.”  Many of them did then slow down and take the flier.

I told them we are collecting video statements from people across the country as to why they are coming to this Dialogue.  Off everything we had gotten into, he was eager to record a statement about why he is standing up on O22 and why he put money down for his ticket to November 15.

A bit later, a young Puerto Rican-Dominican woman came out of the projects to find out what we were all about.  She said she was sick of how complacent many of her neighbors are, going along with being treated poorly, distracted by TV and other things.  She has an eight-month-old child and is concerned about what kind of world she will grow up in.  She was heartened when I told her about the Dialogue and in particular how Bob Avakian has fought for decades to provide the kind of leadership that can enable people like her and her neighbors to rise up and change themselves in the course of changing the whole world.  We spoke about BA's life and the topics that he and Cornel West will be getting into and she was happy to hear about a leader who really cares about those on the bottom.  She explained that she gets paid on Thursday and made plans to buy a ticket for herself and her baby's father.  She also recorded a video statement about why she wants to attend the Dialogue and why others in the neighborhood should too.

Later, a young Black man stood listening as I agitated for a long while.  When he finally began to move I got off the bullhorn and approached him.  He believes in revolution and he believes deeply in god.  He had listened to me talk on the bullhorn at length about what an opportunity it will be to hear BA live and in person and said he wanted to be there.  Still, it took some struggle for him to make the leap of committing to attend by purchasing a ticket.  For him—and this was the case with everyone I spoke to—it wasn't mainly a question of finding the money.  To be clear, many folks did not have much money, but even more there was a question of whether they could see themselves going to an event like this.

The more I got into who BA is, what this event is about, and the tremendous importance of those this system has cast off being in the house, the more people were moved to make that commitment by purchasing—or beginning to purchase—their tickets.  This wasn't a mere “transaction.”  This was a transformation—in the way they saw themselves, how they saw BA, and how they saw their role in the revolution.  I am not saying that everyone signed up to be part of the revolution in some organized way, and agreeing to be an organized part of this movement is not a pre-requisite for attending the Dialogue.  But, there was a need to struggle with people to see that they not only have an opportunity, but they have a responsibility to come and hear this leader and consider deeply what their lives are going to be about.  I would paraphrase BA in BAsics 5:23, "Your life is going to be about something—or it's going to be about nothing.  And there is nothing greater more meaningful or liberating your life can be about than doing whatever you can to contribute to real revolution and the emancipation of humanity.  You can't miss the chance to hear BA live, he knows the way out of this hellhole and nothing can compare to the chance to be part of that!”  This was part of reaching inside them and putting the ideological challenge to them about what it would mean to hear BA live, or to pass on this opportunity.

With this young brother, there was transformation.  He purchased his ticket on the spot.  He also opened up more, sharing his views and listening deeply.  At first he was shocked to hear that BA was an atheist, telling me he's never met a good atheist.  I told him I was an atheist and his jaw dropped.  This confused him because he had loved everything I had been saying up until then.  He wanted to know why I didn't believe in god and I told him and I opened up the approach that BA takes to this question in Away With All Gods, but also after a while of getting into this I also brought out and read from the letter from the ex-prisoner where he says:

“With this Dialogue, people who don’t believe in god, and people who do believe are coming together to say no more to all this oppressive shit. They’re saying, to quote BA, '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…' Both BA and CW understand that, whether you pray or not, making that 'no more' a reality is going to take concrete actions. They understand that it’s going to take millions of people both religious and not religious rising up to change this. And it’s going to take people digging into the biggest questions of how to get free, including ones that will take them out of their comfort zone, challenging them to play a radically different role than they are playing now.

“If you’re sick of being dogged and degraded by this system… if you’re sick of seeing young women tricked out as someone’s property… if you’re sick of the pigs having free reign to kill and brutalize unarmed youth… and if you want to see people here and all around the world finally free from this shit… then this Dialogue is for you.”

This brought a big smile to his face and we continued to struggle over the existence of god, while also repeatedly coming back to how important it is that we stand up together to fight back and to get into the big questions of how we really get free, most of all by hearing BA and Cornel West on November 15.  It was off the ex-prisoner's letter that he opened up about having been in prison in Texas and we talked about that.  Towards the end, he asked me, “You said there would be a bus from up here going to the event together?”  This made a big impression on me.  Clearly, knowing that there would be a busload of people from this very community, and hearing from an ex-prisoner saying explicitly that this event was for him and people like him, made a big difference in him being able to see himself coming to it and feeling welcome.  We worked out to a way to get him on the bus and to get his younger brother a ticket too.

There were many other exchanges throughout the day but rather than recounting them all I want to extract a few overall lessons.

First, the mood among people right now is incredibly favorable.  There is tremendous anger seething among people, and people are in a mood right now where they want to be part of doing something about it.  We had better not be satisfied with or just tail after their spontaneous favorable responses—but instead work to wrench major advances for the revolutionary movement out of this by fighting to transform people's thinking and concretely move them to purchase their tickets and be part of mobilizing others to be at this Dialogue and to turn out during this Month of Resistance!

Second, we ourselves had better appreciate and project what a truly historic and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity it is to hear Bob Avakian, live and in person, together with Cornel West.  This is not just “another event” the revolution is putting on, not even the “best event we've ever done.”  This truly is an historic opportunity, a chance for thousands to hear from a leader who has fought for 50 years with everything he has and made tremendous break-throughs in both the understanding necessary to emancipate humanity and the practical leadership to make this real, including especially taking responsibility for leading those on the bottom to rise up as conscious emancipators of humanity.

Third, selling tickets is not simply a transaction—it is a concrete expression of a transformation.  It is an expression of people going from being glad that someone is talking about revolution and hoping from the sidelines that it succeeds while not really taking it all that seriously or feeling responsible for it, to seeing themselves in this revolution.  It is a key expression of those on the bottom casting off the ways this system puts on them, refusing any longer to just go along caught up in the daily grind or the daily hustle, and instead seizing the opportunity to hear from a leader who will challenge them and fight for them to be part of channeling their anger and their pain, their creativity and their intellects, their communities and their highest aspirations into fighting and getting free.  Putting the money down, making plans to get on the bus, strategizing to pull in others, and getting into BA and the big questions of the revolution, this is a transformationIt must be fought for and led.  In many ways, the people who are the most enthusiastic are the ones we must fight for the hardest.  With the folks who put money down or bought their tickets, I spent a good half an hour digging into things further—deepening their commitment, learning as much as I could about what attracted them and what might be holding them back, and working to unleash them to have a bigger impact on spreading this.  With all these folks, really wielding the materials—the quotes from BA, the message from the ex-prisoner, the orientation put forward in the piece about the “Jimi Hendrix of the Revolution” and the many other pieces that have been up on our website, and more—was absolutely critical.

Fourth, this approach is one that anyone can take up—whether you have been working for revolution for decades or just got involved today.  All of us need to be out there fighting to transform people so that they are putting money down and making a commitment to be there to hear from BA.  And all of us need to be sharing our experiences in this through this newspaper so that we can take this further in every part of the country.

All this is just a beginning, but it points to the tremendous potential that we must go out and fight to realize on a much grander scale.  We cannot fail to strain against and seek to bust through every obstacle to packing the church to hear Cornel West and Bob Avakian, including by fighting especially hard to turn out a huge section from among those who catch the hardest hell every day.


Volunteers Needed... for and Revolution

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.