An interview with an immigrant supporter of Revolution Books NY

October 19, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


Recently the staff of the new Revolution Books space on Malcolm X Blvd. in Harlem, NY, conducted interviews with volunteers working on building support for and renovating the new store.

Finding Revolution Books – a Bookstore That Changes Lives

Revolution Books: Could you describe when you first found Revolution Books?

I came to the U.S. when I was 20. When I saw the big red flag “REVOLUTION BOOKS” outside the store, I didn't expect to find that here! What you experience when you come here to the U.S. is that it’s a totally different place, a different culture, so you find your place and some way to survive, and through people at my job I ended up in college. Then when I was looking for books for school, I found Revolution Books. I met people there and started looking at the books and thought, Where has this been hiding? I was impressed and shocked that this existed in this country! Revolutionaries in the U.S., when did that happen! You don't know the history of people rising up in this country, like the Black Panthers, where I grew up. It challenged me to think differently and I wanted to learn more.

Press conference to reopen Revolution Books

Revolution Books' new space at 437 Malcolm X Blvd. (Lenox Ave.), Harlem, NY. Photo: Revolution Books.

Even before I came to the U.S., I was involved in graffiti and street culture, it was a way to fight the system. Our understanding was very limited. We didn't know what a “regime” was. These kinds of concepts were too big for our heads, but we were looking for a way to fight back and we didn't have any other way, rather than violence and gang culture. It wasn't until I got here that I got into revolutionary theory. So I started reading books even though I started out hating reading, I was never taught to appreciate culture, history, philosophy. So when I started reading books at Revolution Books, it was a different world – to learn about my culture, other people's culture, how people live around the world. When I found Revolution Books it helped me to see the importance of how you think but also how to change things. Revolution – what does it mean? You like it but you don't know what it's about. I didn't know anything about a strategy for revolution.

The first thing I started reading was the paper (Revolution/Revolucion), I was very attracted to it: the news, the content, the life of the revolution in this country. I wanted to learn from zero up to what was happening now. Every paper had an article from the Chairman (Bob Avakian). I would come in and get the paper and I started asking who is this Bob Avakian guy? Is there a biography? How did he end up being the Chair of the RCP? I read BA's memoir, it took me a while to finish it and then I really started to see why he is the leader of the revolution. I could see he is a human being, not a superhero, he was a normal kid growing up in this country and got to share a lot of his life with his Black friends, playing basketball, singing doo-wop. I had listened a lot to doo-wop, I was working with a guy who loved that music so when I read that I said “I know doo-wop!” I learned how BA went through a terrible disease and almost died. It makes you think about what are you doing in your life. And how a person is shaped by what is happening around them. There was a lot happening in the 1960s that he experienced, he worked with the Black Panthers. This was how I started to learn about the Black Panther Party. 

When you are in the bookstore, you see all the time people who come here from other countries and are shocked to find revolutionaries here. So I understood this bookstore is for the people of the world, not just here. “Patrimonio” in Spanish doesn't translate exactly but it sort of means “heritage” and this is about the patrimonio of the whole world, not just for “revolutionaries in the U.S.” but a place of the revolution and for a socialist state that would make such a difference for the people of the world.

But having the bookstore means so much right now. You can learn about everything at Revolution Books that matters for humanity. Science, evolution, religion and why things don't have to be this way, how it could be different and HOW different. You don't learn those things on a daily basis! Not in school!

I could hardly speak English when I came here. My own understanding was very limited, I had no formal education and I was starting from zero. I didn't think I needed to know all that at first. I felt, you read one thing and then you read something opposed, so what's the point? But you have to be able to determine what's true, and how to prove it. You do learn from other people who don't have the same approach as the revolutionaries like BA. I've learned from BA that you can learn from many people, even the enemy. So I started to read and study more to learn, you develop an approach and method of understanding the world, and where philosophy comes from. Not like “oh they are just wrong.” At first I was intimidated, I thought intellectuals were all-knowing, I questioned myself, but then I started to be able to ask questions, share and exchange, listen and engage. This encouraged me here at the bookstore.

I was shy back then, believe it or not! But you can't be shy in the revolution! You have be brave and want to learn, that encourages you, the more you learn the more you appreciate. You have a different impact on other people too. You are not like other people. People wonder, why do you ask those questions? What makes you that way, why do you want to know all these things?

Revolution Books: Why does it matter so much right now to reopen Revolution Books?

Not having the bookstore now – we realize how necessary it is! Especially at this moment – with all the changes in the world, in society, especially in this country, the marches that happened in Baltimore for example around the murder of Freddy Gray. Having this bookstore represents a movement and place where you can have discussions – where you can have these debates and programs, where the Revolution/Revolucion newspaper and books are found that talk about these questions, facts you can learn from. So much happens in this store. As a center for the revolution, this is the place. This is where you go to find out about the Party, the movement for revolution, and the public can come here and learn about it.

People have made big contributions so this place can open and look good, so people can come and experience the kind of books and programs and people who speak here. It's not just another business, it's something special! We need to open the bookstore right away. It's desperately needed, to have the center of organizing the movement for revolution.

Think about it, step back for a minute. Outside these walls think about the kind of world we live in because of this system that dominates and is destroying the entire planet, what's happening in other countries and here. For a long time, you haven't seen the kind of masses especially among Black people rising up and denouncing the crimes of this system, partly by themselves and partly through leadership of movements like Stop Mass Incarceration. Think about having this store open in the middle of all this, as we get ready for Rise Up October, where you can have this kind of engagement about if there is to be a chance to win and end once and for all, all these injustices and crimes. If this is possible – even not guaranteed – if there is a way to build resistance and fight back and build unity and transform people's thinking and find ways to fight the power to increase the possibility of making revolution – this bookstore needs to be the center where you can have all these questions talked about and have organizing and activity and a life and sense of a different way to live and relate to each other and think and act; to challenge each other to break with old ideas.

There are people here who have been involved in the movement for revolution for a long time and have a lot so share and learn from, and newer people too. It will make a big difference for everything out there to have this store open. Not just a little special place separate from everything out there. Not like that, quite the opposite! So DONATE! VOLUNTEER TODAY!



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