Revolution #229, April 10, 2011

What People Are Saying

Professor, Department of Black and Hispanic Studies

Question: Revolution Books store carries textbooks for your class, and you take students to the store to expose them to different ideas and perspectives. Can you talk about your experience in getting students to buy tickets for the April 11 event?

Answer: Basically, that's what college is supposed to do. You're supposed to consider alternative perspectives. And that's why we visit Revolution Books. So I heard about the event. I simply went back to the students and said, this is the event, it's coming up April 11. I just put it to them, I didn't sell it to them. I said, would you like to go? And the students, without any prompting from me, they discussed it and said they wanted to go. The vast majority of students said they wanted to go… it’s approximately 18 to 20 students. I suspect that when we go back to school on Monday, the rest of them will buy their tickets.

Q: What is your sense of why the students thought this event was important?

A: Some of the students have had class with me before. Some of them had gone to events on their own that the bookstore has held. I think some of them went to the Cornel West-Carl Dix event last year. Some have been active at the bookstore. So they spoke up and said this would be a good idea, something they would like.

Q: Did the students know about Bob Avakian before this?

A: Some of them have seen his film [Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About]. Last term we went down there [the bookstore], they played a film about him. This time the bookstore didn't play the film but they mentioned Avakian and gave out pamphlets. You see, our whole thing is that Revolution Books is an independent bookstore. We don't have many more small bookstores in New York City. We don't have that many bookstores, period. Also Revolution Books is about ideas. The people there are well read and conversant. And that's how I want my students to be.

Q: You yourself are coming to the event?

A: Yeah, of course. I'm going because the majority of students are going, so I'm going as well.

Q: Aside from your desire to open up students to different ideas, why do you think this event is important?

A: When I was in college, people were much more active and there were many more things going on. And this reminds me of the old days, of people questioning the system, people challenging the policies. And we're at a point in time in which it's a healthy thing to openly question the policies of the government and of society, to openly debate them and offer solutions. I think it's a healthy thing. It reminds me of when I was young.

Q: Have you seen the new book, BAsics?

A: I understand I'm going to get a copy of it, because I made a donation for the event. I've seen some of his writings, and I've seen him on film. He gave a 10-hour lecture a few years ago. And they [at the bookstore] played excerpts from the film, "Postcards from the Lynching," and those type of things. I think it's good that they raise very important issues. And I think it's essential to be critical, to have critical thinking and see things from alternative perspectives.

Q: We've got one week to build for this event. What would you say to someone who is trying to decide whether to go?

A: I would simply say that this is a challenging time to be living in. The economy is in shambles. We're involved in a third war. Things are moving very quickly, and it seems as if the people have no say in it. I would say that it's imperative that we listen to other voices, other perspectives and try as American people to get ourselves out of the jam we find ourselves in.

Q: This event will also be a celebration—of revolution and the vision of a new world.

A: I joke with them at the bookstore all the time—there's an old saying, life is what you do when you're planning for these other things. You're supposedly planning for all these great things down the road, meanwhile that's your life. So I tell them all the time, I enjoy the camaraderie at the bookstore. They're friendly, knowledgeable. This IS the revolution, the fact that we can get together, debate all kinds of topics, challenge each other, work collectively for different things. Just the fact that my students and I, we meet at the college… We walk a few blocks, we go to Revolution Books, they're more strident, they're more vocal. But that's because their ideas are in the background, so they have to be heard. I just enjoy the camaraderie, the discussion, the cooperation together, going to different events. It's great it's going to be a celebration. We've got to enjoy ourselves as we live this life.

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