Revolution #57, August 20, 2006
Correspondence from a Reader
Some Things I Want to Say
Editor’s note: We received the following correspondence from a reader who has been waging a long battle with cancer.
My name is Joanne Rojas and I have some things I want to say about my life. About how my life intersected with the world and what difference the RCP and Bob Avakian have made in my life.
I grew up in Oakland, California. All my childhood and teen years, in the 1940s, ‘50s and early ‘60s in Oakland. I grew up in East Oakland when it was all white and West Oakland was all Black and it was all very segregated. When I read Bob Avakian’s Memoir I felt many similarities to my own experiences, growing up in a very segregated atmosphere, with only one Black kid in my school. And how when I invited that friend to my sixth grade party it was very unusual and I had to be worried about what my father was going to say.
I remember going to high school football games and schools like McClymonds would be 95% Black and Fremont High would be 95% white and there would be fights afterwards.
And all the challenges of being able to cross over the separation between people of different races – and there was a big difference between interracial dating in 1963 and in 1968.
I did not conform well. By the time I was thirteen in the early ‘50s, I began bouncing in and out of the California Youth Authority (CYA). I loved the whole game of being a juvenile delinquent because I had a lot of anger against all that I saw and that was my way of rebelling. I got out of CYA and started doing drugs. I started smoking weed and before long, maybe when I was 16, I started using heroin. I started thieving and going back into CYA for another year and then I kept going in and out of jail. I got headed down that path. And when you first start out you say, “Oh well, I may be a hype but I ain’t a wino. I may be a thief but I ain’t a ho,” and before you know it you’ve done all those things until there is not too many “nevers” left in you. But I always hated the way society was, you know the prejudices and poverty and suffering for so many peoples. But at the time, either there wasn’t nothing happening, or I sure wasn’t aware of it.
Finally, when I was about 27 or 28 it was in the late ‘60s it was when everything in this society started opening up. And I stopped using drugs. I was going to a program called NA and I will give them a lot of credit for my recovery. I was working at Catholic Charities and one day these hippie-looking people walked in with no shoes on and all raggedy and I said, “What’s up with this?” And they were using our mimeograph and putting out a bunch of flyers so I went over there out of curiosity to find out what’s up. And this girl started running down to me all about the farmworkers union, all about their plight and everything. Whew, she was good! And I told her well, anytime you have anything you need run off you let me know and I’ll run it off during my lunch or after work. So that was my first little step and then the next thing I knew I was going to picket lines and I just got more and more involved until I was doing organizing for the farmworkers fulltime. And this was during the time of the McGovern campaign and the Brown Berets and what have you.
But also during this time I had my four children and I really wasn’t very political because I was a single parent, four kids, low income, no education. So I had to try and get some education and scuffle out a living. But I would come out once in a while when there was something big that I found out about, for example I went to jail one time for a couple weeks for protesting the Livermore Lab and nuclear weapons.
Then my kids grew up and I couldn’t wait to get involved politically. And I made some little attempts and was still trying to get situated with a place to live and work. But when 9-11 happened, things changed for everyone, including me. And I was ready to get politically active. Three days after 9-11 Michael Franti put on a concert in the Park in San Francisco and he announced that after the concert there was going to be a work party over at New College. And that was when I started working with Not In Our Name and I got involved with them.
But also during that time I met a guy in the RCP and we were driving out to Santa Rosa and on the way there he asked me, “Well, what do you think about communism?” And I said, “Well, I’m not down for communism.” And he said, “Well, what do you know about it?” And as soon as he said that a kind of light bulb went on in my head and I realized instantly the only thing I really knew about communism was what the system had programmed me to know about it. I kind of had this vision of communism to be a police state authoritarian place where they make you do whatever job they tell you to do, very strict, no freedom of choice, nothing appealing to me. And that’s all I knew about it.
But I was open to thinking about communism, just realizing that anything I learned from this system has definitely got to be questionable. And because I know the system we live under here is screwed up—I have known that for years. So I thought maybe I should open my ears a little bit.
So I started attending some meetings about revolution and communism. I saw some films about the revolution in Nepal. And I have had wonderful revolutionary friends who started having conversations with me, reading this book or article together and I have to say that I have never met any better people in the world than the people that are down with this Party. And then I saw the DVD with Bob Avakian. That was very very impressive to me. The man has a whole lot of smarts, insight, soul, compassion and anger! He is really right on!
And though I cannot be a communist because I do believe in God—and believe me we have had lots of debates about God vs atheism—I am still like a communist at heart, a Catholic communist if there has ever been such a thing.
I am very appreciative that the RCP is for revolution and the whole system being uprooted versus some kind of reformist approach. Because voting, I really believe is a joke. A dirty joke actually and I do believe the system has to be uprooted and changed.
They always say we gotta vote for the lesser of two evils. There is no lesser of the evil. Way back to the days of the Indians and pioneers, it’s always been a capitalistic and racist society. If it really was a good society like they say with “Equality, justice and liberty” there would have been no slaves or genocide of the Indians, women would not have had to fight for their rights, homosexuals would not have to fight for their rights. It just never has been a just system.
There are so many good causes that people get involved in; labor, housing, feeding the people, ecology, it is just unlimited. But putting our time into all these things under this system is spinning our wheels. We’ve got to get this whole system uprooted and changed.
And we can make a revolution. There are way more common people and proletarians in the world. And we need to stand up and we can. People are not down for being walked on anymore. But it is going to take millions of people to do this. One of the things I like about the RCP is that they look at the accomplishments of revolutions but they also look at and study how those revolutions were defeated and they really want the people’s input about how society should be run. They don’t want it to be top down.
A different world is possible. And I think we need Bob Avakian out there much more explaining to people what that different world, a communist world, could be. And I think this all needs to happen pretty fast because the Bush regime are trying to sew things up. And they are going to try and shut Bob Avakian up, so more people need to have his back and defend him.
A couple months back, there was the whole debate around the Sensenbrenner Bill that attacks immigrants and the whole upsurge of protest against these attacks, and there is the war in Iraq and now the government is talking about going after Iran. Like we say, “The World Can’t Wait! Drive Out the Bush Regime!"
But now, especially, I really believe we need Bob Avakian’s leadership. The masses need him and his ability to take really complex ideas about revolution and communism and “break it down” to people—like he says, “Revolution: Why it’s necessary, why it’s possible, and what it’s all about.”
In 2004 I volunteered and went to New York to organize and protest at the Republican National Convention. I was there and my daughter and granddaughter came to protest also. We had three generations of revolutionary women there protesting the Bush regime and everything cruel and rotten he stands for.
But while I was there I saw Sunsara Taylor giving a news conference and I was so proud of her because there were quite a few different branches of the news media there and the youth were behind her with their red flags up in the air, real proud like, and she gave a dynamo speech, and at the end they all put their fists up in the air, and I was like, “WOW!” Because before that I had always had a little knot in my stomach about saying “communism” in public because I thought it would scare them away but after that I felt like we needed to be out front in every way possible. We need to find the ways to educate people about what communism is instead of the way they have been misinformed by the system.
This experience stayed with me. And when I got back to the Bay Area, and when all the protests happened against these fascist attacks on immigrants, and May 1st , the revolutionary holiday of the International Proletariat came around with a protest of tens of thousands in the streets of San Francisco, I told my friends and comrades in the RCP that I really love communism and I wanted to carry the red flag of communism on May First because I may not have a chance to do it again. You see, for some time now I have been battling cancer. But still, while individually my battle has been with cancer, the overall battle is to free humanity which can and will be possible through revolution.
To all of you out there who are hesitant about revolution and communism I really encourage you to look into it deeply. And think about humanity as a whole and where we are going and how are we going to get there. And get with the revolution. Because I can honestly say, the happiest years of my life have been the last few. I have met the best people and I thank all of them. And I want to say especially to all the youth today going through the same things I went through in my life, don’t wait, get at the revolution with all your heart and life now.
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