From Bay Area comrades, May 23, 2015

Michael Lange: In Memoriam

June 1, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Michael Lange in Oakland, California on May 20 at the age of 66. Michael was a multi-talented African-American actor, director, musician, and professor at San Jose State University. He was a scholar of the history of African-American rebellion and his knowledge came to life in his art. As an actor, Michael was best known for his portrayal of Malcolm X, in over 500 performances nationwide. His favorite role was performing Malcolm’s speech, “The Ballot or the Bullet.” He wrote, acted in, produced and directed plays in the S.F. Bay Area, and was working on a manuscript for a play about Nat Turner. He also had traveled throughout the country interviewing people whose loved ones were incarcerated.

We knew him as a friend and a revolutionary minded artist, who supported the popularization and promotion of Bob Avakian’s work and the movement for revolution. We first met Michael while he was performing his one-man show as Malcolm X. We were not only struck by the passion that he brought to the portrayal, but the fact that he really looked like Malcolm. As we got to know him, we understood that he was not just playing Malcolm, but “feeling” him. He had a deep respect and love for Malcolm.

In 2005, Bob Avakian’s memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond, My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist, was published. We took it to Michael for a read and told him of our plans to have a major book release celebration in Berkeley, at the very Jr. High School that BA attended. Would he like to be part of the celebrations? Not only did Michael agree to read a selection of the book at the event, but agreed to be one of the host committee for the celebration.

After the memoir’s debut celebration, C-SPAN’s Book TV aired a program featuring the memoir. Part of the televised video included Michael quoting from “The Ballot or the Bullet” and reading a section about Malcolm X's influence on Avakian and Avakian's comments on Malcolm X's assassination. Michael was one of the first notable figures to join “Engage! A Committee To Project and Protect the Voice of Bob Avakian” and played an advisory role and brought together some other African-American artists and intellectuals in discussions and debate over his works.

He was an accomplished guitarist and once played and sang at a New Year's Fundraising event for BA Everywhere. For an “Anti 4th of July” celebration at Revolution Books, he did a powerful reading of Frederick Douglass', “What to the American slave is your 4th of July?”

We had a rich exchange of in-person dialogues and correspondences with him. To give a sense of his thoughts, here are some excerpts:

On the events of the police murders across this nation, especially after the murder of Oscar Grant a few years ago, he wrote, “It demonstrates that the 'system' is out of balance, and that something big is wrong with it, and perhaps that is the way 'they' want it to be. We can do better than this. Oscar lost his life so that we could see what we are dealing with. And the look in the eyes of these youth said it all: 'we are fed up with this system, we want justice. Enough is enough.'”

Like many others, Michael had contradictory views about communism and revolution. He thought communism was a good idea, but had many questions about whether a revolution was possible and how it could come about. He also wanted to know concretely how a new society could be built—what were the concrete steps that would have to be taken to solve the problems facing the people, for example, how would you get hospitals set up to meet people’s basic needs? When he heard about the publication of the RCP’s Constitution for The New Socialist Republic in North American (Draft Proposal) he wrote:

“I look forward to reading Avakian's latest work on Communism, whether it is an antiquated term or is it a vanguard of the future. This is one of the areas of concern that I have had, probably because of the history of the word 'communism', its meaning in a democratic society, particularly during the 50's and 60's.”

Although he wasn’t as actively involved in recent years, he continued to pay attention to Avakian’s work. About Bob Avakian’s writings, he said, “I generally agree with most of what he has communicated—he has the ability to put it into lay terms which is quite powerful given all of the 'doublespeak' that is out there to confuse the masses.”

Michael was not afraid to speak out against injustice. He was a deep thinker and had a concern for the future of humanity. He was particularly concerned about the future of the youth, and the need for a new culture to be modeled among them, up against the dominant dog-eat-dog, me-first mentality. He had a very big heart. He devoted himself to making the world a better place. He was a kind and thoughtful person and for all of this, we will really miss him.



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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

Do you know anyone else—any person or organization—that has managed to bring forth an actual PLAN for a radically different society, in all its dimensions, and a CONSTITUTION to codify all this? — A different world IS possible — Check out and order online the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).