Fred Hampton Commemoration—
What is Worth Living and Dying For?



From the Revolution Club Chicago

The week of the 50th anniversary of the murder of Fred Hampton, posters from Revolution Club Chicago went up around the South Side of Chicago announcing a commemoration event with the title “What is Worth Living and Dying For?” They included a picture and the powerful quote from Fred Hampton, “When I leave, you can remember I said, with the last words on my lips, that I am a revolutionary.” and this quote from Bob Avakian, leader of the revolution today:

If you have had a chance to see the world as it really is, there are profoundly different roads you can take with your life. You can just get into the dog-eat-dog, and most likely get swallowed up by that while trying to get ahead in it. You can put your snout into the trough and try to scarf up as much as you can, while scrambling desperately to get more than others. Or you can try to do something that would change the whole direction of society and the whole way the world is. When you put those things alongside each other, which one has any meaning, which one really contributes to anything worthwhile? Your life is going to be about something—or it’s going to be about nothing. And there is nothing greater your life can be about than contributing whatever you can to the revolutionary transformation of society and the world, to put an end to all systems and relations of oppression and exploitation and all the unnecessary suffering and destruction that goes along with them. I have learned that more and more deeply through all the twists and turns and even the great setbacks, as well as the great achievements, of the communist revolution so far, in what are really still its early stages historically.

This poster, and the statement issued by Revolution Club Chicago, brought something important to people, posing something that affected people’s thinking. In talking with people, we got a sense of the appreciation and even a hunger for opening up the question of really living and dying for something liberating, the feelings it gives people to think about someone like Fred Hampton who did live and die for the people, and this up against the degradation of the “me, me, me” outlook and so much wasted lives and deaths that prevails today. At the same time, we ran right up against these ways of thinking and had some opportunities to struggle with people about this and learn more in the process. There is an intensity to the contradiction of the hope that somebody like Fred represents and the pain of losing that and the lack of hope that is weighing people down today.

One thing many people said to us in one form or another is that people don’t care about what’s happening to the masses of people because they feel like there’s nothing they can do about it. Taking care of myself is something I can try to control. Of course, this is really an illusion anyway, but it is bound up with how people are finding meaning, the callousness people have built up to not look at what is happening to masses of people. One young woman in Englewood said, “Everybody dies so YOLO—you only live once so I will live my life doing whatever I want to do.” Another followed that up saying, “I have my own shit to worry about: court, school, work,” and said what’s happening to people being mass incarcerated, bombed, locked in cages, etc. doesn’t have anything to do with her and she can’t do anything about it anyway. We challenged people with the fact that this system is responsible for the unnecessary suffering of millions and billions of people, and they could put their lives to getting rid of that system, for humanity, that there is the leadership and science for that in Bob Avakian and the new communism he’s developed, and they can start now to live by and fight for the Points of Attention for the Revolution.

A man in the same neighborhood was drawn and challenged by what we’re talking about—actual revolution to emancipate humanity—including in contrast to where he had started in the conversation, which was talking about needing to make America better. After engaging the materials and checking out, he reached out to tell his son about this, telling him it’s about humanity, not people just looking out for themselves. He told us that people hesitate to act in the interests of others because there are no real leaders. He also reported about the struggles he gets into with his friends when he talks to them about what’s going on in the world, and they say things like “it’s fucked up but it’s not happening here,” and “why should we fight for them, they won’t fight for us?”

We ran into that sentiment directly as well a number of times, for example a man who used to be in the life and now is a small-time entrepreneur heard and watched the video clip playing of Bob Avakian struggling with people about breaking out of the system way of thinking. The man said he respects what BA’s saying and what Fred Hampton was about, but “I’m not going to die for these people who don’t care.” He went on to explicitly say, “I’m not Harriet Tubman,” and said if he had been alive during slavery he might have been killed fighting back for himself, but he wouldn’t have done it for other people who sometimes didn’t even see the need to free themselves. There was a woman on the same corner who argued that it’s right and good for people to look out for themselves and not worry about what’s happening to other people. While she was loudly proclaiming this, another Black woman came up inspired by what we were talking about and got on the microphone and said Black people need to see that they are worth something and need to come together with all kinds of people to fight for HUMANITY.

The Commemoration

The commemoration at the Revolution Club Organizing Center drew new people and supporters of the Revolution Club. It was mainly a South Side crowd: a few older men, a family with a pre-teen son, a couple who were probably in their forties. The new people mainly heard about it through seeing the flyers or posters or seeing it on Facebook. There were a number of other people we’d been talking to who we thought might come and didn’t, but there was important engagement with some of them and there’s a good basis to keep working with them.

It was a good program, with a video clip about Fred Hampton, a video clip from Bob Avakian, and a presentation given by members of the Get Organized for An Actual Revolution Tour including Joe Veale who in the 1960s was a member of the Black Panther Party in the Bay Area. The presentation gave a picture of the revolutionary character of Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party and focused up the question of what is worth living and dying for. Joe included some of his personal experience in this, the way he was living on the edge of dying for nothing before he got recruited into the revolution and put his life on the line for something that mattered.

The presentation highlighted the importance of the leadership of Bob Avakian and the science we now have because of his work. It drew from his new talk, Hope for Humanity on a Scientific Basis—Breaking with Individualism, Parasitism and American Chauvinism, including the contrast of the hope people had in the 1960s with the lack of it today and the focus on self that flows from and reinforces that lack of hope. Joe also talked with a lot of joy about Bob Avakian’s memoir and how the best recollection of the BPP can be found there, and went on to describe some of the impact the Panthers had on BA and the impact he had back on them.

A significant focus of the presentation was the need more than ever for revolution and what it would look like for there to be a growing revolutionary force living by and fighting for the Points of Attention for the Revolution. The question was posed to everyone there to help work on together: what is in the way of people taking up and fighting for these POAs and how do we change that? There were a few people who spoke to this and tried to work on this together in a good way. After a fund pitch for the tour, the club did a good performance of All Played Out.

Afterwards everyone got the flyer for the #OUTNOW protests on December 14 and the film showing on December 15 of Bob Avakian’s speech, Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution. We raised $84 for the tour, including from the sale of a beautiful hand-knitted scarf donated by a supporter of the revolution.

One man who came to the commemoration lives in the area where Bernard Kersh had his head slammed into the curb by police on Thanksgiving. He described seeing the poster up and it getting inside of him. He didn’t know about Fred Hampton, but he knew he was feeling at a crossroads in his own life, struggling to just keep going, and when he read that poster, he wanted to learn more about it. When asked what he thought after being part of it, he said, “It’s more serious than I thought,” and said he plans to come back for the film showing next week.

“Bob Avakian Straight-Up on the Revolution... and the Gangs” an excerpt from Why We Need An Actual Revolution and How We Can Really Make Revolution.

Video made to promote the event




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