Revolution #246, September 25, 2011

BAsics and Hip-hop

Revolution received the following correspondence:

Recently, at a day-long hip-hop festival with a great line-up of progressive performers, we sold 42 copies of BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian—41 English and 1 Spanish. In addition, we collected 42 e-subs, sold about 50 papers and gave out an additional 200, collected $56 for the paper, sold four “The system has no future for the youth but the Revolution does” t-shirts, and some other literature. We had a Revolution Books booth with mainly BAsics, some copies of the BA toolkit (key works of Bob Avakian), a few other titles, and t-shirts.

Our experience was an affirmation of the way to sell the book is to put it in people's hands. Our approach was to give the book to people if they approached the table and ask them to look at the table of contents and open it to any section that looked interesting and read a quotation. Or if people asked “what is this,” we would say the same thing and open the book to the table of contents, show it to them and put the book in their hands. As people passed, we called them over and put the book in their hands. Sometimes we held up the back cover of the book and people came over. After people read, we would ask what they thought. If someone did not immediately buy the book we kept pointing to other quotations and asked them to read these. People reading the quotations is what sold the book.

In addition, we read quotations out loud, especially 2:8 about a whole new culture. When people first started coming into the concert, the first person that approached the table asked, “What is this?” We put the book in their hands and they bought it. A number of people read a few quotations and immediately asked, “How much?” and bought the book. In addition to 2:8 about a whole new culture, we also pointed a lot to 1:10 about look at all these beautiful children who are female and 1:14 on why do people come from all over the world. In addition we went to the BAsics supplement “On the Strategy for Revolution” as well as several other quotes. Many people would ask who is Bob Avakian and we would say, “He is the leader of the revolution” and show them the description in the special issue. If they wanted to know more, we pointed to 6:11. We had an enlargement of the poster with the quote about “Three Strikes” and many people stopped to look at it, many shaking their heads and some saying that it is true. After they read it we would say, “The same person who said that wrote this book” and put the book in their hands. At times, we had quite a scene, with five or six people stopped in front of our booth with all three of our team members engaging with people.

We were there for a long day, most of the time with just a team of 3 people, until the evening when a couple more people joined the team. Our goal was to sell all 30 books in English that we had. Within the first hour or so we had sold five or six books and knew we were going to sell all 30 of the English copies, so we quickly arranged with Revolution Books to get more copies. When evening came and the more prominent artists were performing, it got more difficult to engage with people since they wanted to listen to the performances and for many people, this had been a long drinking day.

The concert attracted a broad audience, Black and white, young and not so young as some of the groups have been around a while. And the people that bought the book reflected this: a white school teacher in her late 20's, a Black college student from the South, young Latino immigrants, young Black Canadian, two Swedes, a left-wing Norwegian journalist, Black people in their 20's and 30's, Chicana student visiting from California and others.

We started asking people why they bought the book and in some cases recorded their responses. The Black college student from the South said he bought the book because he has been reading Che and other revolutionaries to learn how they made revolution in their countries so he could understand how revolution might be possible in this country. A white school teacher in her late 20's looked at the book and asked, “How do we go from this (the book) to a movement?” We turned to the section “On the Strategy for Revolution.” She looked at it and then bought the book. When asked why, she said, “What you said about financial support (in reference to donating to the special issue of Revolution promoting the BAsics book) is why. I am buying this book so you can get your message out and we can get this revolution started.” She went on to explain that she teaches in a ghetto school here and 97% of her students get free breakfast and lunch. She talked about how after she began teaching she learned about the conditions her students face and became dedicated to them. Other people bought the book and that was it, off they went. At one point, one of the newer people on our team got into a too-long discussion with someone who turned out to be a Puerto Rican U.S. Migra agent. One of us stepped in and read 1:14 on why do people come here from all over the world. Off hearing that, a Black man from Chicago bought the book. A number of people read the first two quotations in the book, said that is true, and bought it.

Our booth was very simple. We wanted the booth to focus on the BAsics book and it looked very striking. In addition to an eye-catching display of the BAsics book and a small number of other titles by Bob Avakian and other authors, the t-shirts. “The system has no future for the youth but the Revolution does” t-shirts received a lot of interest.

Two of the three people on the team had not been reading our articles on “Shake Up and Wake Up.” We started the day by them reading the first editorial that came out about this and we discussed it and what we’re doing at the concert and the approach for selling the book. They really got into it and were off and running. Periodically, we summed up what people were saying and during the course of the day, one of them tweeted about how we were progressing.

BA and this book really connected with people at a time when there are some stirrings, some people looking for answers. And some people were up front looking for revolutionary solutions. We got a sense of the potential for BA and this book to connect with and impact a broad array of people and for him to become widely known as the leader of the revolution with people engaging his work.


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