Taking Out “How Long?... There Is a Way Out! REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!” in New Orleans

August 31, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


A team has been in New Orleans to get out the special issue of Revolution newspaper focusing on the anniversaries of two major crimes by this system—the racist lynching of Emmett Till 60 years ago and the government’s abandoning of Black people in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina 10 years ago. The team sent the following report to Revolution/revcom.us:

The past couple of days we’ve been taking out the issue of Revolution with the front page headlined “How Long? There IS a Way Out! REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!” in New Orleans.

New Orleans, anniversary of Katrina

New Orleans, Katrina 10th anniversaryNew Orleans, Katrina 10th anniversary

New Orleans, anniversary of KatrinaNew Orleans, anniversary of Katrina

Day 3, Saturday: Thousands of people converged in the Lower 9th Ward to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Katrina. At the levee breach, there was a reading of the names of people who died when the levee broke. Residents, former residents, family, friends, and other people came from across the country. Reverend Lennox Yearwood ended the ceremony with a call to never forget and never forgive, and then led a second line (a brass band march that’s a tradition in New Orleans) through the streets of the Lower 9th, and across the bridge.

Our crew marched in as a Revolution—Nothing Less! contingent with a large Stolen Lives banner and a display of the special issue of Revolution. From the beginning of the march and throughout, groups of people came up to take pictures to post on social media and to get copies of Revolution. One man came up to the contingent and said, “Come on, get up to the front of the march, people need to see this.” One woman bought a BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! shirt and then wore it throughout the day. A man who got a shirt said, “This is the only serious thing I’ve heard all day.”

Throughout the day, people came up to tell their stories of Katrina and how the struggle to just exist continues for them today. As we marched through the neighborhood, much of the Lower 9th looked pretty much how it looked five years ago—boarded up, or just empty lots. As people came out and lined the streets, many of them came up to get Revolution newspaper and Rise Up October cards. The centerfold of the paper really put the lessons from Katrina in perspective for many people. Several people who got the paper talked about how they and others see how the system is messed up, but don’t know what the solution is. They said that that’s why they want to learn about this revolution and how to get involved with this.

One woman, voicing a sentiment that we ran into time and time again, said, “They [the government] need to own up to what they did.” Another woman said, “We are still here and we will not be defeated, we are not going to be pushed out.” She signed up to be part of helping to organize a contingent from New Orleans to go to NYC for Rise Up October.

Some people grappled with some of what is in the Constitution for a New Socialist Republic in North America and said they were struck by the descriptions of the multinational character of society and on the role of public safety officers.

Later that evening we went to a block party outside a cultural center. Several people came up to us and said that their families have been reading the special issue and thanked us for letting them know about the revolution. A couple of them bought BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! T-shirts so they can represent for revolution and the emancipation of humanity in New Orleans. One man came up and said to us, “Thank you for everything you’re doing. I want you to come over so I can make you some red beans and rice.” There was also a lot of serious grappling over questions of revolution. Some people wanted to know what real communism is. A couple of Latinos raised Cuba and El Salvador as examples of what they think revolution is and raised whether it is worth it to go through all the things the struggle entails. They were pretty excited to find out about BA and the new synthesis of communism and the revolution he’s brought forward, and wanted to dig into it.

Day Two, Friday: Early this morning, we hit the downtown bus stops with Revolution. Many of the people who took up the newspaper were students heading to charter schools—New Orleans no longer has a public school system. Many of the students took bundles to get out to their teachers and friends. A lot of them said that they didn’t know about revolution, but they wanted to find out. Many of them said they thought New Orleans has the worst police in the country. Several said that they want to read the piece by BA about Emmett Till in the special issue, since they’re studying that in school. As we were at a corner, a man started waving his arms from a passing streetcar. He had the conductor stop so that he could get a copy of Revolution.

Later, we went out to a youth gathering of “Gulf South Rising: The Seas Are Rising and So Are We.” As people grappled over many questions of grassroots organizing, some were drawn to the Revolution display. As a woman listened to a clip of BA on Emmett Till, she wanted to know why she’s never heard about BA before. She feels that “the revolution has begun”—referring to the uprisings against murders by police—but agreed that protests and even uprisings are not enough, and that people need revolutionary leadership. She made arrangements to get a DVD of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Other people were drawn to the poster with BA’s “Three Strikes” quote. Many people said that they appreciated the “Welcome to the Revolution” message in the special issue of the paper and learning about how to stay connected to the movement for revolution.

So far, we have distributed around 300 copies of Revolution, two copies of the DVD of REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion; A Dialogue Between CORNEL WEST & BOB AVAKIAN, and two copies of the DVD BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!.

Day One, Thursday: A team went to Tulane University and set up with a poster of the centerfold and stacks of Revolution newspapers and BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! T-shirts. Small groups of students gathered around and asked for the newspapers. A couple of them got bundles to get out on campus. One young man got a shirt and said that he would wear it in his neighborhood as he got out the cards for Rise Up October, the call for a massive manifestation in New York City October 22-24 against police terror.

New Orleans, anniversary of KatrinaNew Orleans, anniversary of Katrina

New Orleans, anniversary of Katrina

New Orleans, Katrina 10th anniversaryNew Orleans, Katrina 10th anniversary

Photos: Special to revcom.us

Many of the students who stopped said that they wanted to hear the real story of Katrina because they were 10 or 12 years old at the time, and now all they hear is about the “resilience of New Orleans” and that didn’t seem right to them. And many of them also said that they wanted to find out what revolution really is because, as one student said, “I have been asking that same question—how long must this go on?” One young Black man stopped to look at the display and said that it is extremely painful for him to talk about Katrina because he remembers being in nine feet of water, and his parents waving at the police who passed by to help them, and all the police did was wave back. Several students who stopped said that they totally agree that the whole system is fucked up, but... “Why communism?” “Why can’t we all rally around Bernie Sanders, since revolution is such a far-off dream?” And “Who is Bob Avakian, what is he about?”

A person from the religious community donated money so that Revolution could be accessible to people in New Orleans, including the homeless whom they feed. He said, “I’m not a communist or a capitalist, but anything that will shake things up has my support, because I think we’re heading for a calamity.” He went on to describe his experience working in a shelter in Baton Rouge where some of the people evacuated from New Orleans in the wake of Katrina were housed. He made a point that during Katrina, people worked together to help each other, but then lamented how when things went back “to normal,” divisions among people re-emerged.

That evening we went to a Black Lives Matter Katrina commemoration. A couple of women asked “Who is BA?” as they looked through the newspaper. Along with people from New Orleans, several people came from throughout the South for the 10th anniversary. Speaker after speaker described the horrific conditions Black and immigrant people face, now and then, particularly in the LGBT community. Alicia Garza, a founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, delivered a powerful message, including how the response of the U.S. government to Katrina was and remains a defining moment in the struggle of Black people in America.

As people mingled after the program, there was a great deal of interest in the special issue of Revolution as well as in Rise Up October. People took stacks of our palm cards that the Ashe Cultural Center had displayed on a table. Several people came up and thanked us for bringing revolution back into the mix. A white woman who got the paper said that she wanted to know how she could help. There was also coolness on some people’s part. One woman said at first that she wasn’t interested because she’s heard about BA. When challenged on this, she said that she really didn’t know much about him or revolution, so maybe she should read the paper.



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