Interview in West Baltimore: "We need a revolution. We do."

May 25, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


Revolution correspondents have been listening, learning, and engaging with people who were at the heart of what happened in Baltimore. Following is from an interview conducted a little over a week after the April 27 rebellion. A, who is in her 30s, does volunteer work in a West Baltimore community.


Revolution: It’s just shocking when you first drive into the city and you see these boarded up row houses everywhere, where people used to live…and meanwhile as you’re driving down the streets you see homeless people trying to eke out an existence on the streets.

A: Exactly. It’s really hard. The amount of people who don’t have money to just do regular things…I mean, the working class is starving now. So I don’t know about the people who are below the poverty line…sometimes it feels like we’re in a third world country because people don’t have water. There are a lot of our kids that go to school who are homeless; they actually live in a shelter. So, it’s really hard. And I can only imagine what people are going through that don’t have jobs. I know you have some people who have some type of assistance. But some people…like let’s say if you don’t have a child, you can’t get any assistance. And that’s ridiculous. If you are a productive member of society and you are putting in your time and your efforts to try but you don’t have the education and you don’t have anything, so how do you get more if you don’t have more. It’s just really hard. It’s really hard for the people of Baltimore. And it’s been like this for a while.

Horror Stories About the Police

Revolution: What is their experience…young people with the police?

A: I hear a lot of horror stories, and I can’t even believe that most of the things I hear have really happened. But I know that they have—because I’ve seen it first hand. I was riding on this street one day and I saw a mini-van drive up full of Caucasian guys. And I’m like: oh shoot, what the heck is going on? They come out of their car with lead pipes and I’m like… I was terrified. I’ve never seen anything like it. But two of the guys they were after took off running cuz they didn’t want to get beat. They didn’t want to get beat so they left the one guy there, and he’s tussling with the police officers. And then he ran. But I can only imagine what they would have done to him if they could get him. Like they just jump out of the car and start beating somebody up, when they should say: put your hands up or freeze. But they didn’t say anything, they just got out ready to abuse. It was hard and scary.

And you don’t know what’s gonna happen next, you know, it leaves you uneasy when you don’t know what’s coming. With all the things that have gone on with Freddie… like a few weeks before Freddie was killed, the kids were just saying: “I don’t know what’s going on with the police. They’re acting really crazy.” They were stopping people like stop-and-frisk. We don’t have that here, but they were still doing it.

A man with his sons at the CIty Hall rally in Baltimore, May 2.
A man with his sons at the CIty Hall rally in Baltimore, May 2.

It’s really hard. A couple of weeks before Freddie passed the teenagers were out here running. They were playing hide and seek. It was the sweetest game of teenage boys playing hide and seek ever in the field. But I told them, I was like: “You guys really shouldn’t…” I didn’t want to tell them to stop playing. But I was like: “You really shouldn’t run around because they may think that you’re running from something that you didn’t do.” You can’t tell them to not play. Teenagers playing hide and seek, are you serious? They’re not trying too… these are all straight A students! They’re all straight A students. So I just saw them running outside and all I could think was they might be killed because they’re just playing. That’s something that you don’t want to, as a volunteer, think about. I don’t want to think about that when they’re outside playing. But that’s real. Like even the coach at the recreation center in this neighborhood, some days he doesn’t have practice because you just never know.

One summer this is what I saw: I’m a smoker so I was out on the corner smoking and a black car pulls up in the alley. Two white guys came out and there was a Black guy walking across the field. They just jumped on him and took him in the car. They didn’t have on any police anything—no jacket, they didn’t have their badges or anything. And I was just like: Do I call the police? Do I not call the police? I didn’t know what was happening. I was in shock. I was in complete and utter shock.  

And honestly all pockets of the city aren’t like this. All the poor neighborhoods of the city aren’t like this, but this area [West Baltimore] in particular is a hot box. There are certain parts in this area that are historic—Franklin Square, Holland Park Square—they are historic. And it’s my opinion that the city and the state, they want to bring in taxpayers. And the easiest way to get taxpayers in is to get the …I don’t want to say it… to get them out. You know what I mean? And that’s just how I’ve been looking at it. This is how it really was. And that’s how it feels. I feel like Fox News is trying to incite riots, incite fear, they’re trying to scare the Caucasians and then incite others into doing something… That’s really how it feels.  

Revolution: There’s a whole section of the population that once was employed but it’s been more profitable for these jobs to go elsewhere in the world and the youth have become…

A: …a lost cause, yeah. It’s this horrible cycle. It’s really hard to be encouraging to young people who don’t think that they’re going to make it past 21, let alone 25.  It’s really hard to try to encourage them to want to do better if they already think that they can’t do anything, they can’t be what they want to be. There are programs—there’s basketball, there’s football—but what else is there? It’s almost like they’re programmed like that. It’s really hard to get them out of that. Because all they see is drugs and drugs and killing and prison. That’s it.

The Monday when everything broke out…the high school was right there. They let the kids out of school and then shut down all of the transportation. And you corner children—you don’t corner children! They didn’t know what to do and so one person threw something and so everybody threw something. But can you imagine the amount of fear? If I would have come out of high school and seen a line of police officers in every direction that I looked I don’t know what I would have done. Would I have run? I have no idea what I would have done. And I’m not saying that what they did was right but I was terrified, I was really terrified. Monday was like the craziest day in this neighborhood ever.  

Revolution: But what did you think about the uprising?

A: I didn’t know if I should go join ‘em. I was like: “what is going on?” I just saw fires. There was fires on every corner and in every direction. And so I live nearby. The first thing that came to my mind, that I should be able to protect myself in my house.

Revolution: But they weren’t going after people.

A: No, no, no, they weren’t going after people. I think the people who looted just really needed some stuff.

Revolution: The young person that was arrested for cracking the window of a police car got much higher bail than the cops who were charged with…

A: …murder.  

Revolution: …murder. There is a question of right and wrong here and these people are on the freedom fighters' side of the equation and these cops are criminals.

A: He [the young person arrested for cracking the window of the police car] turned himself in. He told us he went home, he told his parents what he did. And they said: “Well, you need to turn yourself in.” And he did. He went and turned himself in and $500,000 later he’s still in jail because of this. His parents can’t afford the bail.

Revolution: How are people you know, people in this area, looking at the fact that before this rebellion happened police brutality and murder were going on, and then this happened and all these people at the top are scrambling? And then a few days later they charge the cops.

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A: People are…the day that they said the police officers were indicted, people were happy for a moment. But then they were like: oh but wait, they have to get convicted. That’s never gonna happen. We all know it’s not gonna happen. So we’ll be doing the exact same thing when it’s time for the trial. That’s just what’s gonna happen. Did you see that on Cinco de Mayo in Los Angeles there was a young man killed by the police officers? He’s homeless. I just don’t understand… I’m not scared. I’m just nervous for my people because if they don’t get convicted, it’s gonna be ten times worse. They’re gonna have to go outside their neighborhood. They’re gonna have to go outside and protest even more or…I don’t want to say rioting, but something’s gonna happen, something’s gotta give. Cuz people are tired. People are still being harassed by the police officers in this city after this happened.

Impact of the Defiant Ones Standing Up in Ferguson

A continues: I really think Ferguson was a different type of wake-up. Because it was Ferguson, and then Eric Garner, and then us. And there was a lot in between. But I think I’ve seen them come out and come out strong with positive protests. Of course, we got the bad protests and looting stuff on TV, but we were all ready to stand with them. I mean we had protests here for when Mike Brown passed, and that was like everybody opened their eyes with Mike Brown. I think before it was easy to sweep everything under the rug, but it’s like back to back to back to back. And it’s like we have to do something.

Revolution: The people in Ferguson stood up against police type tanks and tear gas.

A: Oh yeah, they done opened our eyes, they opened our eyes. And it was like a smack in the face. It was like: ok, wake up. It was like with Eric [Garner]: didn’t I tell you to wake up? And it was with Freddie, I couldn’t even watch the video. I still haven’t seen that entire video. I heard him scream once and that was enough. The first scream I believe that they murdered him. It’s a difference between doing a job and just being completely disrespectful.  

Revolution: They are doing their job.  That’s the inescapable conclusion. In another society you would have people (and institutions) that would rather risk their own lives than take the life of somebody else. But the job of the police in this society is to actually keep people down. That’s their job. And they have been given a green light. It’s just one after another. I mean we had one centerfold in Revolution—92 unarmed people, killed by the police since January 1.

A: That’s sick.

What’s funny is that I was talking to one of the young guys I know and I said: “Are you gonna go out and protest with us?” He was like: “Why, so that they can beat me for protesting next week?” And I was like, “Wow, I didn’t think about it like that.” Some people won’t come out because they’re scared that once all of this dies down that they’re gonna be left out there alone. You won’t be alone, you just have to talk to us, talk to people, have a conversation. I told several people I would help them as much as I possibly could. I don’t know what good I could do, if you’re being beat by police, but I’ll do that.

Revolution: It’s important to fight for dropping the charges of those arrested—I mean we have to have the backs of the people who were on the front lines of this. And they have to know that we have their backs. And I think it’s really important. We also have to have the back of some other people. This case of where that Washington Post reporter claimed that Freddie Gray had killed himself in the van and that the other person in the van had heard it. And then that person got on television and said he never made any such statement…and his life is in danger now.

A: Oh yes. He’s being protected by the Nation of Islam. I went to a protest this past Saturday, not a protest, but they were gathering at Penn/North and so a friend of mine and I walked up and I took pictures of them. And he was surrounded by Muslim guys and they wouldn’t let anybody close to him. But his life is really, really in danger.

Just like the only person who will be in jail when all this is over is the guy who smashed the police car on Pratt Street—because of course a police car is worth more than a Black man’s life. Of course it is. I need a punching bag. I’ve been doing an exercise with my kids—scream and let the aggression out.  

On Watching Excerpts from the Film Revolution and Religion: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion—A Dialogue Between Cornel West & Bob Avakian

Revolution: The other night we got to see parts of this movie Revolution and Religion and your face lit up when the part about where Bob Avakian says “it’s not weak to love.” Maybe you could elaborate about your thoughts on that and the rest of the film excerpt.  

A: I’m trying to instill that, that it’s not weak. Because they see TV and everything’s gay. Oh, that’s gay, this is gay. I’m like: “What are you talking about?” That’s just human beings. You should want to give somebody something, you should want to share, you should want to give. Because if you don’t give, you’ll never get it. And that’s another thing that I encourage them: if you never give of yourself, what do you expect in return?

Revolution: What did you think when Bob Avakian was talking about when all of what’s done to women would be a thing of the past. I would love you to talk a little bit about that too because there’s a whole world of hurt out there….

A: I don’t understand why men on any given day, when I feel like I’m at my ugliest and when I feel like I’m at my prettiest. I’m going to be harassed. And it makes you not want to be pretty, to not want to feel good about yourself just because of the attention you may get. It’s horrible. It really is. And I don’t know how to get guys out of that. I do know how to get guys out of that. You’ve gotta have parents at home. But let me think about that.

Look at the videos, look at what’s being forced down their throats. No more… you know he was talking about, not The Whispers, but he said something about Marvin Gaye, they [Bob Avakian and Cornel West] were talking about a lot of musicians, but there aren’t that many positive songs. You may get one for a soundtrack, like the one for Selma. I love it. I wish I could listen to it every morning before I start work.  But there aren’t that many. There used to be stations where you could…I don’t even listen to the radio. I’m so tired of “take this and take that off.”

So yeah, we definitely need to get with our kids and get with our parents and try to teach some manners. It’s just manners, it’s about being polite. I mean even when you’re talking to somebody and they’re like this, it’s about changing society… not changing it, yes, changing it completely. But kind of taking the beliefs, the teachings of our grandparents, like they taught us to be respectful, they taught us to listen while adults are talking. They don’t do that anymore, they allow the children to be part of the conversation. You’re gonna have your 5-year-old sitting there and we’re talking about what we did last night.  That’s inappropriate but they don’t see where they’re messing their children up. They just want to cuss them out and beat ‘em and [sighs]. We need a revolution. [laughs] We need a revolution. We do.

Revolution: What did you think about this whole message of: we do not have to live this way and we need an actual revolution?  

A: I’m excited. I have like a lot of adjectives. I’m excited, ready, slightly confused…not confused, but I’m just… I’m ready. And I don’t know if that makes any sense. But have you ever been so ready, but you don’t know what you’re ready for, but you know you’re ready? That’s how I feel. I don’t know how I can help, but I’m gonna find a way to help. And I’m ready to get my friends on board, family, my neighbors. I already put my sign [the Stolen Lives poster] on my window. I’m gonna give everybody a poster and I’m going to ask them to put it in their windows. But I’m really excited. It’s hard to use “excited” for something that’s not convictional, but yeah, I’m ready. That’s the only word I can use, if that makes any sense. I don’t want to talk about it. I want to do. I will do whatever you need. That’s how I feel right now.

Luckily I don’t have any children, but I can’t even imagine losing a child to a police officer. It doesn’t make sense, but I just can’t imagine what his mom or any of those people’s parents or family members are going through. Because your life isn’t supposed to be taken by a police officer. You’re supposed to be helped by a police officer.

Revolution: Any more comments on the film?  

A: I can’t wait to see the entire piece. Saturday morning it’s gonna be all revolution. I’m gonna watch the whole thing. And they told me about the BAsics book. I can get that as an ebook.



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"The film brings you up close inside Cornel West's and Bob Avakian's dialogue: the passion, the audacity, the science, the morality, the revolutionary substance. Two courageous voices modeling a morality that refuses to accept injustice – pouring heart and soul into standing together challenging all of us to fight for a world worthy of humanity."

Andy Zee,
co-director of the film


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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What Humanity Needs

At the beginning of 2012, an in-depth interview with Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, was conducted over a period of several days by A. Brooks, a younger generation revolutionary who has been inspired by the leadership and body of work of Bob Avakian and the new synthesis of communism this has brought forward.

Special Issue

People need the truth about the communist revolution. The REAL truth. At a time when people are rising up in many places all over the world and seeking out ways forward, THIS alternative is ruled out of order. At a time when even more people are agonizing over and raising big questions about the future, THIS alternative is constantly slandered and maligned and lied about, while those who defend it are given no space to reply.

Contains Interview with Raymond Lotta, Timeline of The REAL History of Communist Revolution, and more...