West Baltimore: “I Take a Lot of Pleasure Being Part of This... Even Though It’s in the Beginning Stages”

May 18, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Revolution correspondents have been listening, learning, and engaging with people who were at the heart of what happened in Baltimore. Following is an interview conducted a little over a week after the April 27 rebellion.

We sit down with D to talk in a neighborhood in West Baltimore. Small stores which sell soda, chips, and some basic necessities are carved out of the bottom floors of houses. Nearby is a lot covered with grass, which constitutes the local park.

D is in his 50s and has lived in Baltimore all his life. He has seen police brutality and experienced it first hand. When he was just about to enter high school, his older brother was shot in the face and murdered by the police. Now the murder of Freddie Gray by Baltimore police not only brings back all the pain he and his mother experienced, but is moving D to act.

Revolution: How are you looking at what happened with the rebellion, and what needs to be done?

D: Do I feel like something needs to be done? Yes I do! Something should have been done a long time ago. Do I feel like it needs to be done the way they want it to be done, the police department and the powers that be in the city? It’s just sad that it took a whole bunch of rhetoric through the police department, the powers that be, the city officials, the government officials that turn their back on what is visible and tangible. It’s a dead end. Because the closer you get to taking care of something, the further you get from it—the way that they have it set up. We don’t get the results that we need to get. The powers that be get the results that they need to get. And as a consequence, we continue to suffer. Until we do something about it, we gonna to suffer. And I’m actually tired of suffering.

Revolution Club in Baltimore, April 25. Photo: Special to revcom.us

I got a chance to meet this gentleman [from the Revolution Club] and he was telling me about the revolutionary movement and the revolutionary club. I can remember how it felt just meeting them. Is anything gonna come out of it? But at the same time, I told myself—if you don’t make a move still nothing will happen. So I came to the meeting. You called me like you said you would. We had a conversation. Now I’m here.

A gentleman spoke to me the other day when we had the meeting. And he was talking about how it’s not religiously connected. It’s not politically per se connected even though, to some point, we gonna have to deal with politics to deal with these people, you know what I mean? ’Cause that’s the way they have the arena set up. It sound good to understand that revolution is just not about one thing.

Revolution: How do you see that?

D: I’ve been reading that book [BAsics]. I’m somewhere in the middle of the book now. And I understand that something has to be done. I understand that it’s not a racial thing; it’s not a religious thing. As a human being, our human rights are being violated on various different levels. I understand that we have to combine forces in different walks of life in order to get this thing done. Am I willing to do that? Yes I am.

I take a lot of pleasure being part of this organization, even though it’s in the beginning stages. There’s some things that has to be done because of what happened to my brother. There’s things that has to be done because of what happened to people before him. There’s things that need to be done because of what’s gonna happen. There’s some things that need to be done because of what just happened. There’s gonna be more Freddie Grays. There was Freddie Grays before Freddie Gray, you know? Baltimore is in a state of urgency, a state of emergency. It has been that way for a long, long, long time.

It’s not totally about me, but it is. I mean God willing, I don’t know how many more years I got left, but I do have sons. And my sons have friends. My friends have children. And I think that my generation has somehow let them down. But it’s not too late because I’m still here! I got a chance to meet you all. I feel like we can initiate something. I feel that something big, huge, and powerful can come out of that. I understand that I need be serious about getting this thing done. I can’t do it by myself. It’s a pleasure to see some other people that’s on the same page that I’m on, that wanna do some of the same things.

Something has to be done. If it had to start in Baltimore, then so be it. If it had to start in another state, then so be it. But it has to start somewhere.

Revolution: Talk about your experiences with the police.

D: You have a concept that turns into a mis-ideology of what the expectations supposed to be coming from police. I was coming up a teenager. You know, they would introduce officer friendly in the school. Trying to get you acquainted with the police. But that didn’t work because at school it was one thing, home it was a whole different reality.

Even though I know it’s not a racist thing, in my experience there’s been so many people in Baltimore city that is Black or African descent, that’s been brutalized, murdered, treated badly, disrespected, their human rights being disrespected. And it’s not actually the man that’s standing next to you that’s disrespecting you. It’s the person that you’re putting your trust in to protect and serve you. And these are the people...we pay these people to do a job but they show us something else. They show us that they are no more better than who they call the thugs on the street. They’re no better than the gang members that’s on the street. And because of that, we have the Freddie Gray situation, the injustice that was done to him. I understand that the police have a job to do, but I would like to see them do it, because I have not yet seen them do what they’re paid to do.

Revolution: Some people like us might say that they actually are doing their job. That that’s what their job is: to keep people down. Murder, after murder, after murder, and all the other harassment and brutality that goes on is in part to control a whole population for whom they have no future whatsoever. Look at these young people, what future actually do they have in this society? Prison, jail, going into the military. The man in the Revolution Club was talking earlier about young men they’ve met. They’re out there every day hustling, struggling to survive. But there’s a certain hopelessness...

D: ...to get anywhere.

Revolution: to get anywhere. And that’s a very volatile situation. What people’s lives are like in this society, with the whole system and setup, but the police play a certain role and keeping people down, threatening them if they dare to rise up.

D: One of the things that got my attention—the gentleman [BA] was talking about the proletariat. And I was already into another book called Pedagogy of the Oppressed. And when I was [reading] the BAsics, and it was talking about the system was set up to just keep us proletarians stuck. I work and I work, and I work, and I work and I work. I make my earnings off of my sweat, off of my ability to use my hands, my eyes, all my faculties physically. I work till I die. But my sweat and tears and my labor is really not beneficial to me. It’s beneficial to the other person. So I’m here to work all my life just to die. It’s not gonna produce nothing. The way that they have it set up, it’s not supposed to.

After a while when we continue to be a part of that systematic structure, we adapt to it. And then, we become complacent. Like, OK, now this is a way of life. I’m just gonna work until I’m dead. I don’t like that. [Laughter] I really don’t. And I think I’m here for much, much more. I think we all are here for much, much more. I think we are not gonna get more if we just sit here and do nothing, especially once I’m given certain information, I’m not being given that information for nothing, especially when my heart feel like it’s been convicted.

I had a conversation with two of my sons. I am raising two boys by myself. I take pleasure in doing that because this is what I am supposed to do as a father.

We were talking about Pedagogy of the Oppressed. I can remember the look that they had on their face. You got one that’s going to college and after getting that information, it’s like what am I going to college for? I’m already gonna have to pay a debt for the rest of my life. The system is set up for you to give me money, but when I do get a job I am gonna have to pay you back for the rest of my life. I’m working for the rest of my life for you. And I can remember when they came to that reality, the way they were looking, they were frightened, they were disturbed and they wanted answers.

So that was telling me that young people, they think like we do. But they don’t have a voice. Sometimes, when they don’t have someone to talk to or someone to share that thought with, they get in this real explosive state, like when stuff continued to build up and build up. You know you supposed to do something, and it done built up so high that it comes out in a way that people don’t understand because they think that we supposed to react a certain way, like what they call the riot here in Baltimore. We call it the uprising, they call it the riot. The young people reacted ’cause they felt like they needed to express theirself whether somebody agree or disagree.

Now when they start flipping buildings, and running up in stores and taking things, everybody wants to listen now.

Is we gonna have to work, work, work, until we die? It’s not right. And it’s far bigger than working and dying. There’s changes that’s have to be made in a whole lot of areas that affects all of us.

What if...? An excerpt from REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion; A Dialogue Between CORNEL WEST & BOB AVAKIAN

Revolution: The world actually could be a different way. If this was all that could exist, then I guess we’d all live with it. That’s part of that clip you saw the other night; what if the world doesn’t have to be this way and people didn’t have to live this way...

D: He put that real nice. You just couldn’t get around it. I thought about that too, when I left here. What if... we’re entitled to more, you know. The world could be a better place.

Revolution: And all of humanity could be living like what he spoke to—not just from a perspective of us here, actually you could change the whole world.

D: I want to say this: a lot of times, the way things are has something to do with people’s belief system, let’s say like religion. My mother, she raised me as a Christian, and from that point I chose to be a Muslim and then from that point it’s the spirituality. And I asked myself: why do I move from one thing to another thing, to another thing, what am I seeking out, what am I searching for? I am seeking a better life. We should be able to look and identify with each other as human beings without all these other negative entities interfering.

When you try to sort out what you want for your future but you can’t entertain one thought because there’s so much distraction and busy-ness around you. It was meant for you to be side tracked, it was meant for you not to be able to contemplate one thought of doing the right thing for you and another human being. It’s almost so clear it’s tangible, you can touch it.

And it’s... like you said, we live in a world that can be a better place. The way things are, you know it should be better. And we can change that. We can change that. And I believe, whatever has to be done, whether it be sacrifice, whether it be just bringing it to the table, whether it be discussion or whatever level, it’s just necessary. ’Cause what am I gonna do, just be here and wait for my expiration date? No. ’Cause then life would be in vain. I am gonna finish BAsics. It has my attention.

He [BA in BAsics] clarified and he shared some things, some revolutionaries before us. What our perspectives should be, how we obtain things, and the forces coming against us, and trying to get some certain things done. It was just so clear.

Revolution: He’s done a lot of work. And there is something concentrated in BAsics. He really is a very precious leader, and he’s made real breakthroughs on whole approach to communism—what that is, and how to get there, how to make revolution, including a strategy for this.

D: That’s something I wanted to ask.

Revolution: Look we are up against a very powerful force. So we actually have to develop the ways to get from here to there and make revolution. And that’s not all of what he’s about. The Revolution Club leader was mentioning the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America  and the new socialist society and how it would function, proceeding from the whole world comes first. We are internationalists. But part of that is actually developing a whole strategy for revolution. There’s a whole chapter in BAsics that’s based on the strategy Bob Avakian’s developed.

D: From what I’ve read, that’s been like the stopping point. When we get to the point of how do we do this? How do we initiate? I mean, dealing with a giant like that, you know the powers that be. There’s so many areas they can come from to actually hurt you without putting their hands on you. That’s the part of the book I am at now, where he was talking about how, one of the important things, is how do we do this? And I was in deep thought, ’cause I was like how do we do this? Because it seems like it’s a lot of work. You talking about dealing with a force that’s already strategic. They’ve been doing this for years. They the best they ever done, put it like that.

Revolution: But they have their weaknesses.

D: Yes they do. Absolutely. That’s what we seek out.

 Revolution: In order for a real revolution to occur, there must be a revolutionary crisis and a revolutionary people numbering in their millions. Clearly this is not the reality now, so how can this come about? So, it’s important to dig into the supplement in BAsics that addresses this.



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BA Speaks

"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. I say no more of that."

BAsics 1:13

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