Revolution #211, September 12, 2010
The Revolution Summer @ the Hip Hop Festival & World Cup Party
When you came around the corner to the hip hop festival, it was difficult to miss the red flags and Revolution talk banner popping out right in the front. A crowd of mostly Black but also many white and some Latino, a whole range of ages, but including groups of young middle school and high school students, and groups of friends in their twenties, were coming to check out this festival that featured De La Soul and both new and old school hip hop.
We were something really dynamic and attractive and different, electrifying the scene. At the table people handed out postcards for our upcoming screening in the park of the Revolution talk, while all throughout the crowd we got out 800 of the multi-colored cards with the image of BA on them. You might have seen it placed along the route coming into the festival, and then had it placed in your hand throughout the day. People asked, "Who is that?!" and when we responded, "Bob Avakian, the leader of the revolution," the most common response was "what revolution?" So we had a lot of work to do in putting revolution on the map. People would come up to the table and want to talk more; it was a really receptive crowd. One person asked, "Well, what is the ultimate goal? And we pointed to the description in the Message and Call, "The ultimate goal of this revolution..." People especially wanted to talk about what exactly we were talking about when we said communism, and did we mean like Cuba or like Stalin. And people wanted to talk about whether there was something innate in human beings that means you cannot get to the kind of society that's talked about in the Message and Call. Whether it be "sin" or selfishness, this was a big question. We encouraged people to go online to Revolutiontalk.net and to come this Thursday to a special outdoor screening of the film of Bob Avakian's historic speech. People were really drawn to and some actually bought Away with All Gods! and Preaching from a Pulpit of Bones, as well as the t-shirt that says, "the system has no future for the youth... the revolution does."
The table itself developed throughout the day, right off the bat we were thinking about how to involve people in this whole revolution summer, we made a big sign inviting people to run with us, listing what we were doing and when for the next week. At the table people were encouraged to give their information and subscribe to Revolution newspaper.
As the afternoon progressed we summed up that we had to more bring out our response to the injustice of the verdict of involuntary manslaughter for the cop that murdered 22-year-old Oscar Grant, and we had to compel others there to actually voice the outrage and become part of the struggle against this and the movement for revolution. We made a sign about it, and chalked on the street in front of our table, saying "Involuntary Manslaughter: Not Acceptable!" and "The Whole Damn System Is Guilty." We also had the poster from the 4th of July with the Frederick Douglass quote and we put that out, and we opened up the current issue of Revolution to the article on Oscar Grant, and we had the statement from the Berkeley Revolution Books for people to read at the table.
Throughout the day we interacted with a lot of the artists at the festival hanging out near the backstage, putting to the artists that people should speak from the stage about the verdict for the killer of Oscar Grant, and bring the revolutionaries on stage to speak to this in a way only they can and bring out to the festival that there's a movement for revolution and a leader. A lot of the artists were really receptive to this. One young hip hop artist in particular really agreed. We said it would be a different festival and it would really matter, if people heard from the artists and the revolutionaries about this injustice and that there is a movement for revolution to get rid of the system and a leadership right now. He had been feeling really angry about the verdict and said if he hadn't already performed he would have for sure let us come up with him and say something. We strategized about who might be up for this and he took some materials back to try and talk to people. We need to do a lot more of this kind of interacting with the artists at the festivals too.
We decided to really go all out to make an impact as people were leaving, because while we had created a lot of intrigue throughout the concert, and a whole revolutionary scene at the table, we hadn't yet made a broad impact. So we got in position to get out the Message and Call and postcards for the screening in the park as people flooded out of the concert. There were thousands of people coming out and we stood up on a chair holding the Message and Call and agitating, "You came and heard some beats, now come and get some truth. This is not the best of all possible worlds, and we don't have to live this way." We spoke about the injustice of the verdict of involuntary manslaughter when everyone saw the video of 22-year-old Oscar Grant being murdered. We talked about how when we have state power there will be no more murdering cops, and how we're building a movement right now to get rid of the whole system, and there's a leader, Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, that has reenvisioned revolution and communism. People came out of the crowd and grabbed up fliers. There was also a lot of response about the verdict, several people said things like "That's bullshit" and "It should have been murder."
We distributed 900 of the BA image card, 500 of the Message and Call, and 1,500 of the postcards for Thursday's screening.
Sunday we went out to the park to distribute the Message and Call and the postcard for Thursday in a major way, and to tell people about the leader of the revolution, with the idea that people would come through and see the image of BA on postcards being passed out and then later they would see live, a clip of the Revolution talk previewed up on a wall in the park as thousands of people streamed out.
There's an art to the image card of BA, and there's also an art to sharpening things up and putting front and center the other future that's possible and the need for revolution, by actually finding ways to bring the leadership of BA, as concentrated in this talk, to people on the street. That's what this projection is doing. Flash Previews are what we've been calling them.
There's a really interesting example of this from the hip hop festival, just to jump back for a minute. In the scene at the end of the festival a young Black guy came up to us, "Man, I just found out about Bob Avakian this week," he says. Then goes on to describe how he saw a comment on Facebook where Avakian was mentioned and he looked up who he was and watched some of his speech on line... and then watched some more, and then kept watching and watching. He was so impressed with how deep BA is, how much he knows, and concluded that he was really getting into him. We made sure to get this guy's contact information to talk more.
So when we got to the Okay Africa concert celebrating the World Cup, we came across several people who said they saw us the day before at the hip hop festival, who came up and asked who that was on our shirts because they had gotten a card with this face on it. One person said, you're in my neighborhood all the time, you guys must be working hard this summer because I see you everywhere. A couple people even said they had seen us at the U.S. Social Forum.
We persevered in having a whole scene which was very hard to ignore and that you probably wouldn't have missed if you came out of this exit. All along one of the walkways leading up to it there were copies of the Message and Call pinned to the fence, and people getting out materials. Then when you came to the exit, as thousands and thousands of people flowed out in a few minutes they saw us standing up above the crowd reading the call and telling people, "Okay, people all over the world have seen some incredible soccer over the past few weeks, they've also seen a lot of hype about South Africa being a country of wealth, prosperity and equality for all when in reality brutal segregation still exists and the majority, just like the majority around the planet, live on less than $2 a day. This is unnecessary and the people of South Africa and the world need a revolution. We're building a movement for revolution right here, right now, and we have a leader."
There were a lot of people who out of the crowd would ask, "Who's your leader?" and we would say, "Bob Avakian!" And this was really a controversy, one woman said, "I already have my way of changing the world, why are you coming and telling me how to do it?" But other people were really curious. Three middle school students, 13 years old, came up and listened to us for a long time and asked us who our leader was, they asked us where we meet, and how they could be a part of this, they thought it was really "cool." We told them about discussions at Revolution Books and about how we are going to the Warped Tour and they said, "We'll be there" and they took some postcards to help get out. Some people would come up and ask us for the image card, they'd say, "Let me get a yellow one," or if they got something else from us, "Do you have any more with the two faces? I want one of those." At the hip hop festival a tattoo artist told us it was pretty amazing, and coming from a visual artist we took it as quite a compliment. Half way through what we were doing at the park, a young European immigrant in his 20s sat down and read most of the Message and Call, then he very passionately told us that he really wanted to be right there doing what we were doing, he wanted to, but he just felt it was a pipe dream, it's not possible, people are too happy just consuming in this country. We had to tell him, a couple different times in a couple different ways, "You don't understand. You don't actually know about the possibility for a revolution, if you haven't really engaged what Bob Avakian is saying." He was really challenged and excited by the brief conversation and he bought a copy of Revolution newspaper and gave us his information; we really encouraged him to come to watch the Revolution speech in the park on Thursday and he was excited to hear from us and talk more.
At the World Cup celebration quantitatively we distributed more. 2,200 copies of the Message and Call, 400-500 copies of the image card, and several hundred copies of the screening-in-the-park postcard. We are wrestling with how to make an impact with a small group when you have thousands and thousands of people. We got out more materials when we didn't have 2-3 people tied down with the table. Sometimes it's good to have a table and sometimes we need "all hands on deck" to really reach a lot of people very quickly and saturate. There are a lot of ideas cooking about having big visuals and a variety bringing out the horrors but also the heights of where we are going, and more theatrical ways of doing this, as well as concrete ways to fund-raise (!) And bring people into the revolution on the spot.
Overall there was a lot of struggle to accomplish what we did, and a lot more we could have done, yet we made a beginning that was an electrifying current at the summer concerts. This happened through people taking a lot of initiative and thinking about and taking responsibility for things they hadn't previously, like how to bring people into this revolution, how to saturate, and how to not just be a presence but really impact the whole thing, challenge people's assumptions and change the terms of debate.
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