Ferguson Is Everywhere.... It's Right to Rebel! Open mic at Revolution Books Los Angeles

December 15, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Early evening, Saturday, December 6, Revolution Books in LA filled with artists, poets, singers, visual artists, and more who came to participate in an open mic. The featured poets and playwrights were Jerry Quickley and reg e. gaines. It was an emergency event—to respond to the urgent current situation, to provide a platform for all those who wanted to lift their voices in song, poetry, and anger around the non-indictments of the murderers of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and to raise the rent for this precious bookstore to keep its doors open during these crucial times. The event came together over a 48-hour period; word spread as artists called their friends; a single announcement was made on the Michael Slate KPFK radio show the morning before; and an email notice went out from Revolution Books.

Norton Wisdom

Norton Wisdom. Photo: (photo by FTW)

Behind the poets and singers, Norton Wisdom did live painting on a light board, creating a whole different form of collective listening. Also displayed was art from Visual Renegade, who got up to describe his work, and the artist Vasta, who made beautiful portraits of Oscar Grant, Michael Brown, and others killed by the police. All these artists donated prints to Revolution Books as a fundraiser.

Jerry Quickley. Photo: (photo by FTW)

Jerry Quickley read a poem he wrote years ago about Abner Louima, a Haitian man raped by the NYPD with a plunger in 1997: “...it hurt so fuckin much all I could do was scream along.” He also read a poem called “The Police Brutality Fairy.” James Mather, an artist, poet, and filmmaker, read a poem that ended, “this is not a teachable moment, this is a transform or perish moment... you cannot become the soul you have not created. Create your soul today. Don’t wait, and they will never know what hit them for heaven is not more empty than their hearts.” (see http://youtu.be/3SY0PCQQtvA) reg e gaines brought the night to a close with powerful images of the whole history of Black people, from slavery on, through the hoses and police dogs set on civil rights protesters in the ’50s and ’60s, to the four little girls who were firebombed in a Birmingham, Alabama, church in 1963, up through today with police killing unarmed Black and brown people, with jazz and the blues as bloodstained tomes, asking whether we will always be the ones “carrying the weight.” Running through the poem was the powerful line, “we was once slaves, profiled and tased, now we ain’t slaves no more....” (see http://youtu.be/f4xdH7kkrXY).

reg e gaines

reg e gaines. Photo: (photo by FTW)

The styles and voices in the open mic ranged widely: slam-style poetry pointing to the way Black and Latino people get played by the divisions amongst each other; a powerful monologue in iambic pentameter (the meter that Shakespeare used) in the voice of someone rising up against the rulers; songs, and hip-hop rhymes. These included a poet who had spent the night in jail with people from the Revolution Club, others who heard about it from friends performing, and a few people who heard about it that afternoon at a protest called for by Blackout Hollywood—a demonstration of Black artists in Hollywood. Elijah Rock, a singer and actor, moved the whole room to great depths when he sang a spiritual from a new theater piece he’s in called Breath and Imagination: The Life of Roland Hayes, a Black operatic singer who went up against a world of racism at the turn of the century. And jazz trombonist Phil Ranelin had delivered CDs to raise funds as his contribution to the event. Also, someone from the Revolution Club read Alice Walker’s poem Gather, dedicated to Cornel West and Carl Dix.

The night before the event, a man was murdered by police in Hollywood—in an area crowded with tourists not even a mile from Revolution Books. Someone who knew him well came and told his story. The police said he had a weapon... a pocket knife. But there are a lot of holes in the official story. As they always do, after they have filled a person with bullets, they handcuffed him as he lay dying. He talked about how this man was trying to get his life together, that he was so young and “didn’t even know what life was yet,” that he was a good person. Those who say they are there to protect and serve are lying. Instead of helping, they murder. He said he was going to do everything he could to fight for justice because this has to stop.

Annie Day, who mc’d the evening, welcomed the packed house to Revolution Books. She quoted Cornel West from his recent Dialogue with Bob Avakian that sometimes you just need to sing a song. And with the pain brought on by this system, but also the joy of resistance, we were thrilled to all be there together to write and sing new songs. She spoke about the two sides of “Ferguson Is Everywhere.” The reality that the police murder our youth... and the pain, outrage, and fury that this really does happen everywhere. But there is another side of this too. That we will refuse to accept this, that we will disrupt business as usual, that we will stop highways, byways, bridges, and tunnels... this resistance is now, too, everywhere. She talked about the need for revolution, the whole new world that revolution makes possible and the role of Revolution Books in that context—as a vibrant center in the fight for revolution. She called on people to support Revolution Books and make it where they come when they have the biggest, deepest questions about why the world is the way it is, and what can be done to change it. And in particular, to get into the work of Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party which he leads.

As part of closing the evening, she led people in a mic check: we are now changed people, we are not the submissive ones, we are the defiant ones, we are the fighters and dreamers, we will not keep quiet, we will not “be reasonable” in the face of what is intolerable, we will fight for a different future. All they have to rely on is their force and our fear, and their force is illegitimate, we have right on our side, we have the people of the world in our hearts, we will stand together, we will fight for a whole different way the world could be, at the top of our lungs, with our feet in the streets, and our pens to the page.

This event was brought together by Revolution Books in a little over 48 hours. The event itself, but also all the people who stepped forward to help make it happen, spoke volumes about the deep well of hatred that so many collectively feel for the brutality of this system. And through all of the anger and pain that was expressed that night, there was also so evident in the room the tremendous creativity and beauty that we are capable of. A common thread that ran through the night was that this had to be “no more,” that we deserve a better world than this, and that Revolution Books is a place that is dedicated to bringing that into being.


Volunteers Needed... for revcom.us and Revolution

Send us your comments.

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