Harlem Dialogue Team: Making sure people are REALLY there!

November 11, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


The Harlem Dialogue team made some real progress last week, especially at one high school where we were able to get some synergy going between the students and the teachers. There is both a buzz in the school about the Dialogue and there are some key students and teachers who have come forward to not only make a commitment themselves to come, but to organize others to come as well. This was expressed in things like a teacher buying a $100 block of 10 tickets so that students could go and some students buying their own tickets (See "Hey! You're inside the building now!") But in this next week—the final week before the Dialogue—we certainly can't rest content with this! Or we'll lose even what we've gained. We've got to build on it and make further advances in getting the word out even more and in firming up many more people's commitments to actually get their ticket and REALLY BE THERE on November 15.

One of the things the team is summing up is that we have to go at this contradiction/problem on two levels: 1) addressing the ideological questions that come up among people; and 2) solving practical problems that stand in the way of people coming. And these two things inter-penetrate and have to be fought through together.

In our November 4 correspondence we talked about how one of the goals of our work is: "Involving the masses at every point in making breakthroughs in getting people to buy tickets, to make commitments to come, etc. Getting people to find ways to take this out, talk to others, make their own statements and videos about why they are coming to the Dialogue, finding all kinds of ways to reach different people about this and involve them in this whole process."

We have been working at this and have much more to do on this front as well. Last week a woman from Harlem sat down with the team. After listening to the interview Cornel West did with Bob Avakian and discussing the importance of the Dialogue, she made a statement about why she is coming—with the idea that this would be taken out far and wide to others, posted at revcom.us, and gotten out in Harlem in particular, to struggle with others about why this Dialogue is for them. (See "Two Days With the Volunteers: Harriet Tubman, “America’s Top Chef,” and Getting a Whole Lot More ORGANIZED."

The team is setting out to have "team captains"—people from the masses who themselves are already committed to going and will now take responsibility for organizing others in their schools, housing projects, communities, jobs, etc. to come. This means talking to people, getting names, following up, selling tickets, and helping to solve problems that come up. For example there are things that need to be figured out, like transportation to the event, childcare, etc. that these team captains, together with the Harlem team, will work to solve.

One thing we know is that it's not enough just to sell someone a ticket—although this is very important and we really gotta be doing this all this week and at a faster pace! But we also know that buying a ticket doesn't guarantee someone is going to be there on Saturday. First of all, lots of things "come up"—problems and obstacles in people's lives that need to be figured out. Also, and most importantly, people may really have good intentions of coming when they buy the ticket, BUT if this commitment is not deepened, there is a chance that the complications of people's lives, other things that "seem more important," etc. will mean the person ends up not coming.

So this is where it is really important for the team to get back with people to firm up their commitment to coming. One thing we've found is that the more we've gotten people to watch the video, "Bob Avakian, Legendary Freedom Fighter, Long Distance Runner"; listen to the letter from the ex-prisoner ("To the Youth Who This System Has Cast Off: This Dialogue Is for You"); and  to the interview that Cornel did with BA—the more this has firmed up people's real desire and commitment to come to the Dialogue.

And this is where the intersection comes between the ideological and practical questions. Because when different problems arise that make it difficult for people to come—like jobs, family emergencies, childcare, etc.—IF people are really firm in their commitment to come, if they really see how it will make a real difference for them to come, if they see that if they come they will get some real answers about how we can really emancipate humanity, then they are going to really fight through on how to solve these problems. And we on the team have to work together with people to do this.

For example, we have been talking to a lot of people who, when they hear about the Dialogue, really want to come. But then they raise different things that stand in the way of them coming—like lots of people have brought up that they have to work that day. And when we bring up that it is really "worth it" to take off work that day to come to this, people come back with the argument that they can't afford it, that they can't get the day off, etc. But again, this does come back to the questions of: How badly do you want to go? How much do you see the importance of hearing this historic Dialogue? Do you really see how important this is to getting free from all this oppressive madness the people face both here and around the world? Stepping back and rising above the daily struggle to survive to think about how we're going to get free from all this.

The volunteers have played an important role in these discussions with people—those who have come from other parts of the country sharing their stories about how they've sacrificed a lot more than just taking off a day of work. They've talked to people about how they dropped everything in their lives back home, sometimes giving up jobs, to come to New York City to build for this Dialogue because, as one volunteer put it, "I'm tired of all this shit that they do to people in the world. These are emergency times and I want to make revolution."


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