Interview with a Supporter of Revolution Books

October 19, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


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

Part One: Finding Revolution Books

Revolution Books: Tell us about meeting Revolution Books and why you are supporting its re-opening in Harlem.

Revolution Books means everything to me. I don’t know who’s heard anybody say that, but it keeps me abreast of what’s going on, it’s taught me things that were always there but I never knew until I met BA, Bob Avakian,* and Revolution Books. My greatest thing is for us to raise the funds for RB to stay afloat. It brought hope to me. Before I met Revolution Books, my life was going to work and coming home, that was my whole life. No life! I was just into “me.”

At first I was scared coming to Revolution Books and didn’t know what to say. I wouldn’t change this for the world; you are challenged so much, to think critically, to go higher in my learning. They don’t teach you that in college but BA does. He says, if you want to know about something, read about it, tear it apart, ask about it. It’s serious business but it’s fun, too.

I have a grandson, 21, who has been in a Texas prison since he was 15 for a crime he never committed. I found out at Revolution Books about the book Texas Tough. I read that book. I found out at Revolution Books that there’s hope for him and the genocide of our people. The structure is not for us—our society kicks our people when they are down. I’m learning about the youth, the ones with their pants down, all the slang, they think they are gangster tough, and the cops harass and kill them. I learned from Carl Dix and Stop Mass Incarceration and from BA that this society has no need for our youth and that they’re in the way, they are thrown away like a piece of garbage. They harass and take them to jail.

We grew up thinking this was the land of gold, liberty, freedom, and justice. But it’s not that at all. Immigrants—everyone came from immigrants, immigrants built up this country, it was a melting pot that built America and now they want to tell the Mexicans, the Dominicans, the Chinese that you are no longer welcome here when you helped build this? That’s wrong! The saddest thing to me is the U.S. bombed the Doctors Without Borders! They are bombing innocent people, kids, mothers, for what? This is craziness.

The lies this society tells about slavery, some of this is coming out now. People are slowly opening their eyes. I really hope when people open their eyes they see we have a great leader in BA. He’s been doing this for 40 years, still out there, never stepped down or sidetracked, never sold out, always stood with and loved the people. It shouldn’t be a question of he’s white, Black, polka dot. If someone tells you that you can get out of hell, you’re gonna ask what color are you?? You’ll ask them how!! He’s with the people and about tearing down this society and building one where we all are growing together, working together, making a safe world for the next generations. This is why we need to do the footwork now so hopefully the next generation can build a better society.

This is why we need Revolution Books, because it impacts and changes people’s lives. It gives people hope. But not only hope, a person can learn from BA’s teaching that everyone is needed. You are useful, not worthless, there’s a job for you.

At age 16, I was a nationalist, everything was Black, Black, Black, African, African, looking down on white people and Asian people. But now I consider myself a revolutionary and it takes all kinds of people, at all levels, to have a revolution and it means a change. I’m talking about BA leading people to emancipate humanity. He talks about Black people a lot, the people society keeps down, but also white people in the same boat, women. Look at how women are treated in society, all over the globe. How a man can tell a woman what to do with her body, not to have an abortion, I don’t agree with that. BA says that for society to be emancipated it will come from the women and I believe that, that should bring joy to anyone, especially women, giving women freedom. We’re building a movement with women in all capacities, not “you can’t do that because you’re a woman.” This is good. Blacks, Asians, Filipinos, all kinds of people are in this movement of BA, it’s not “Black” or “white.”

Revolution Books: What can you tell us about the other books in the store, the range of all kinds of books?

Renovation at Revolution Books new location
A volunteer working on renovations. Photos: Revolution Books

My first time at RB was when Walter Mosley read there and he signed his book for me. RB has Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow. I had never heard of her or all these other important authors before RB. Right now I’m reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book [Between the World and Me]. It tells about his relationship with his son, what it means to be a Black man, a Black person in this society. What he’s up against. Stuff like this I never would have learned without BA and the revolution. It’s important to learn from authors like this. I was taught to read but the books didn’t tell the truth, they covered up the truth. I thought “Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves” but he never did, he was saving his ass, slavery is still here but it’s a different form. I learned from the books at Revolution Books that the impact of slavery still exists through all these years. Wall Street was based on it.

In the two years since I met Revolution Books, the stuff I’ve learned has blown my mind. It’s very important that our people know these things. Walking around like I was, not knowing that this society was built for you to fail, that a generation is in jail and murdered, that you can get arrested and be dead, it’s craziness.

Revolution Books: How does RB matter not just for those on the bottom of this society?

It matters for all the people in society to know what this society is. You have a lot of people who are oppressed but also entertainers, rappers, others who do see how society is, especially through Black Lives Matter. People need to come to RB because you don’t find this anywhere else: the truth, how the world is, how the society is, the scientific method BA has, it goes across all religions, all races. You may not agree on everything, but you have to agree this is getting worse and it will keep getting worse if we don’t open our eyes and stand together. We’re walking around with blinders. When the kids in Ferguson rose up, they were tired and said “no more!” They went up against the National Guard with machine guns and tanks and teargas. And these are kids! We need to support them. We should want better for our kids, this is the next generation. We have to leave them something so they can have a better world. I have 10 grandkids, four grandsons and six granddaughters, and I’m scared for every one of them. A kid playing his rap music, he doesn’t even know what living is and he is snuffed out.

People say you can’t fight the system. Hell yeah, you can! I learned that from BA, from his scientific method. I learned what capitalism is, the effect it has on people, the ideas that come out of this. My grandmother used to put up her hand and say with one finger you can’t do anything but if you put all your fingers together you can rise up. He’s [BA’s] talking about pull the people together, you can tear down the system and build up a system that will be relevant for us and be more positive.

BA is the voice for the voiceless. I’m going to stomp for the revolution, we are going to rise up!

Part Two: Leading the Revolution Newspaper Reading Circle Outside the New Revolution Books Under Construction: “I take it seriously into my heart”

Revolution Books: Tell the readers about the Revolution newspaper reading circle you started to lead on the sidewalk outside the new store, while it’s being renovated.

My revolutionary friends surprised me on my birthday, telling me I would be leading a Revolution reading circle. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought about that, leading a reading circle from the most important paper in this society, Revolution newspaper.

It’s a joy because first of all, BA said all of us can be leaders in some way. To lead the reading circle, you have to pick out the articles, you have to get together the materials. The most important thing is to pull the people in the community to be involved.

Stolen lives poster
Poster PDF (for print) color | black & white       JPG (full size, for web)

Part of the point of me leading, I decided to play the tape from August 27 [the Rise Up October event at First Corinthian Church] when the mothers spoke. People watched it and had tears, they commented on it. Each time I demand that we have the Stolen Lives poster out there and that impacts people. The children who live on the block run to the poster and they know some of the lives and what happened to them. People in the community come over to that poster. It gets people outside their own comfort zone. It challenged me! Sometimes people shrug it away, but it can be good. You’re not concentrating on your worries, you’re concentrating on other people and how you can make their lives better.

When you lead the reading group, you have to come correct, you have to read, make sure what you are reading is correct, you have to talk to other people, your comrades and look to leadership and ask questions. To be a leader you have to also be a follower first and be led. Leaders are not born, they are created. And have a love of the people, not just your own people. The people are in a shithole and we have to find a way to get them out. It takes sacrifice, it means your time. Like Mr. G [an elderly participant in the reading circle]. I called him eight times and his voicemail was full, so my co-leader of the Revolution reading circle and me, we made a plan for going to get him. Mr. G, he and I are connected because I was a former Black nationalist and he’s into Black nationalism.

We need to bring people into the reading circle because they need to hear what BA has to say, that he has this scientific basis and our people right now don’t know way which way is up! And it’s a political year, how many Republicans are running for president, and the House Speaker just quits! No one knows what’s going on. South Carolina, there’s a flood and the first thing coming to my mind is Katrina.

People come by, they are curious, I tell them what it’s about and invite them to sit down. But I also insist that they have to be serious. We introduce ourselves so people know who we are, this is not business as usual, this is about revolution. When people come up and ask about the topics we are discussing, we ask them to get involved. We give them organizing kits with palm cards, Stolen Lives posters, and any information we have. We talk to them and take their information and follow up with them. Getting ready for Revolution—Nothing Less! T-shirt day, one woman asked for the shirt and said she didn’t have the money, but then she bought the shirt and put it on right there. We told her about the responsibility of wearing that shirt, it’s not just any shirt, it represents a movement, the people, you have to be serious about wearing that shirt.

BA and the other leaders inspire me a whole lot, so when I hear them speak I want to be like them. I am serious about what I’m doing so I can lead other people. I take it very seriously into my heart.

Part Three: Raising $700 for Revolution Books among the people in Harlem

From the Revolution Books web editor: $700 was raised among the people in Harlem for Revolution Books by the Revolution Club and the Revolution newspaper reading circle that has been meeting once a week on the sidewalk outside the new Revolution Books space under construction.

Revolution Books: How did you all decide to raise money for Revolution Books?

Reading Circle Outside Revolution Books

A "Bookstore Without Walls" while the store space is being renovated: here the Revolution Newspaper Reading Group meets to discuss the July 20 Revolution editorial, "An Audacious Plan... And the Ways to Make It Happen." The group raised $700 towards the renovation costs, collected from Harlem residents on the street in front of the new under-construction store, at the Harlem Week street fair the previous weekend, from residents of a West Harlem housing project and including $225 from a used book sale a few weeks earlier. Photo: Revolution Books

We decided to help Revolution Books make plans to go out in the community to raise money and we also sold the Revolution newspaper. We did different things to raise the money, mostly by going out into the community asking for donations. We told people about the bookstore, that’s how we did it. We told people where the store was going to be and why it needed the money. The best way was going into the community, letting people know it’s a bookstore in the community and why the bookstore is needed and asking for support.

Some of the money raised was from selling used books; the Revolution Club and the Revolution newspaper readers circle, we all pitched in. We all were out getting people involved in Revolution Books and telling them why it matters. We told people about police brutality, about Bob Avakian (BA), about why we need a revolution and how the bookstore has events, debates about what’s currently happening, important authors come, and there are artists that support Revolution Books. We are in the community as a vital destination to bring different people to know about this, to spread the word about BA everywhere. We told people how the youth could be involved in the revolution.

Revolution Books: What do you think about Revolution Books being a bookstore for the world that’s in Harlem?

That’s the exciting part; people come from all over the world. For the store to be in the center of Harlem, we’ll have more people coming into the bookstore and this is a way to bring more people into the movement, to let them know that this movement for revolution exists and why we exist. Then there’s also a legacy of the bookstore itself, not just in Harlem, as a point of information, it’s known around the world.

Revolution Books: You mentioned going out with used books. I know that when the reading circle started out raising funds for Revolution Books, part of it was tabling with a lot of really great used books as well as new books. What was that like?

We were at 125th and Lenox and it was exciting, lots of people were asking about the books, and some people donated books, too. Students were buying books and also older people who have been around for a while. They were interested in the books about the Black Panthers; there were a lot of people who came out of prison where they had read a lot. They were interested in Black history and the books about slavery; Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow. I sold BAsics, from the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian to someone who was aware of BA and wanted to know more about him. He wanted to get involved with the movement.

When people asked what special thing should they buy to know more about the revolution, I would refer them to BA’s writings, to the BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! film and to the film of the Dialogue [REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion; A Dialogue Between CORNEL WEST & BOB AVAKIAN]. I told people if you want to know about BA, read From Ike to Mao [BA’s memoir].

Raising the money was challenging because we had set a goal and a deadline, and at the last minute it was exciting when we accomplished it and knowing it would have a purpose, it would help people and make people aware of what’s going on. When we reached the goal, for me, it made me feel so good! I know the money goes to a good cause and it will be spent wisely. It will go to the movement and the debates and important conversations at the new bookstore. It will go to the renovations and the heating and plumbing, whatever is needed to open the bookstore. The grand opening is now set for November 15! That’s one year from the date that Cornel West and BA came to Riverside [Church, for the Dialogue]! I remember that very well.

Revolution Books: What does Revolution Books’ opening have to do with everything that’s happened in this last year since that extraordinary Dialogue?

Right now, since January this year, 908 people have been murdered by the police. People were rising up in Ferguson, and there’s been far more killings since then. We let people be aware of BA, we let them know they can rise up and fight the system. Plus the fact that now Rise Up October is coming and we’ll be able to bring 100 families to New York so they can tell the world what happened to their loved ones, raise the consciousness of the people who may be in a similar situation. It is so very important that people be aware, know there is hope, the hope that BA says a beautiful thing could rise out of this ugliness. Most definitely it’s important to have RB at this time!

* BA, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party and whose work is at the center of Revolution Books [back]




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