Revolution #244, August 28, 2011

BAsics at the Bass Island Music Festival

Posted Thursday, August 25, 2011

We received the following correspondence:

Recently a festival of music put on by the DJ known as Bassnectar took place in New York City. We found out that Lupe Fiasco was on the lineup, and given the content of his recent album and how he has been speaking out recently around Racism in America and opposing the policies of Obama, as well as his overall work and audience, this would be an important place to connect thousands of youth with BAsics. Bassnectar is also a progressive DJ who has done a lot of advocacy and raising funds for food aid for people around the world.

A group of us went out with the palm cards for BAsics and a banner that said, "You Can't Change the World If You Don't Know the Basics." There was a good-size crew of people at all different levels, including about a half-dozen people who had never gone out with the movement for revolution or done any work like this before. One of these individuals, a young immigrant and student, actually spoke with a woman at Revolution Books as the team was getting ready to go. She is a Black woman from another country who just happened to be walking by and was intrigued by the bookstore. After this young guy told her about BAsics and what we were doing and invited her to come, she was convinced and joined up with the team for the afternoon!

Not everyone who gets involved, or volunteers, or is checking things out, or wants to contribute to the movement for revolution and BA being known in the world, necessarily wants to right away actively get this out and engage people and distribute materials—and that is perfectly fine and okay, people can come and just watch and listen. But it was interesting and positive that this group of a half-dozen young people who had never done this before, including two white students as well, actually were really eager to do this in a big way and jumped right in, walking through the crowds of people lining up to go into the show and handing out postcards, doing agitation, selling Revolution newspaper. One young guy would say to people,  "Stop working for a system that's not working for you," and hand people a postcard. Another young person who came and was not entirely new to this, but in taking new responsibility he had already emailed a couple of the artists about playing a clip from the Revolution talk by BA. He is also a huge Lupe Fiasco fan, and when someone gave him a ticket was very excited to be going in and wanted to make sure he had BAsics and copies of the clip that was played at the recent L.A. Rising concert [See "An Inspiring Breath of Fresh Air," Revolution #243] to try and reach out to the artists as well.

So the scene was that one person had this banner and was reading the short quotes and telling people not to leave without a copy of the new book on revolution and human emancipation by Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party. We said that we can change the world, don't believe the lies they tell you that this is the best of all possible worlds, but you can't change the world if you don't know the BAsics. A few people stayed close to this agitation, and another person who was more experienced grabbed a couple people and started going into the line to go in and more actively sell books. Within a very brief period of time they had sold a book and less than half the way through the evening there were three books sold to people on the street. One person heard that the book was about revolution and got his wallet out and came straight up to get it. Others were involved in more back and forth.

It turned out that this was not the crowd of Lupe Fiasco fans we thought it would be, which would be multinational youth, a lot of skateboarders and other youth into different counter-cultures, and with a general bent against the status quo. This crowd was mostly white and into electronic music and had lots of sparkles and black light paint. This is not negative, just a different grouping than we expected and which turned out to be very interesting.

At first there were a lot of comments that were in some way trying to make light of what we were saying, or dismiss it, or just trying to understand it because people hadn't ever heard anything about it. Other times people made silly remarks to be contrary: "You can't change the world if you don't know the BAsics—Yes you can!" "I already know them." "What are you trying to say?" "Revolution, what do you mean?" "Wait, you're for slavery?" "Are you promoting communism or against it?"

One person responded to the quote "American lives are not more important than other people's lives" by saying, "Yes they are, and being someone living in America 1 can make a good argument for that."

Another person said they already knew the BAsics. Someone responded, "Really? You know about Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communist revolution? You know about the fundamental contradiction of capitalism? You know about the strategy to get beyond that through revolution?"

They became more thoughtful and seemed really glad to engage; they said that actually they were halfway through Howard Zinn’s A People's History of the United States and they asked if we heard of a theory called "Boomeratis," which had to do with analyzing the effect that the baby-boomer generation was going to have on society and the planet and what they would be leaving future generations to deal with. Someone said to this person that this was important history and very interesting, but BAsics was the only book today like this, looking at all these questions having to do with understanding and changing the world, from the point of view of making revolution. This young white student wanted to stay in touch with Revolution Books and said he would look for the book online.

Within this whole scene of getting out BAsics as hundreds of kids were waiting in line to get into the concert, a couple of us started reading the poem "Rain of Terror" by Abiodun Oyewole of the Last Poets, which was in Revolution newspaper, to unite with the way in which Lupe Fiasco has been doing some exposure about what the U.S. with Obama as commander-in-chief has been doing. This sharpened up the question of what kind of world is possible and desirable very quickly. There was flag-waving and "USA" chanting, and we took it right on! One person started agitating very powerfully that this flag is dripping with blood and what does it actually represent for the people in this country and around the world and the whole history of genocide of Native Americans and slavery. Then someone started chanting "USA, USA, USA!!" and three or four others joined in and were trying to drown this person out who was agitating against them. And the person kept going—they said, "Yeah, the so-called land of the free home of the brave and this is a big lie, when in reality a young Black man cannot walk down the street without being afraid of being harassed by the police, brutalized and even killed, where 40 percent of Black men in inner cities are unemployed and have little hope of a job, where youth have no future and the most dangerous place for women is in her home, and a woman is never free to walk down the street without fear of being raped and without being degraded and looked at as a thing for the pleasure of others, yes that's your land of the free and what does this country mean to the people of the planet, the little children who see that flag as their families are being slaughtered when bombs are dropped on wedding parties and schools. Where people are driven to compete more and more as part of a whole system." They connected this back to BAsics, making the point that "Things don't have to be this way" and anyone who is listening that has ever dreamt of a different world, know that it is possible because of this leader Bob Avakian and the movement for revolution that's he's leading, and don't leave here tonight without getting a copy of BAsics because we can bring into being a whole different world, but we need this leadership and we need to make a revolution and we can change the world fundamentally and this is your chance to find out about it, it's way past time.

After this died down, one of the other volunteers pointed out that there was something very significant that happened. They said that if you ever watch a baseball game, and he does, people start up the USA chant and it can get going and spread throughout the whole stadium for several minutes and that these kids were trying to get this going and there, with these hundreds of young kids, it very well could have, but it didn't stick and even the people waving the flag backed down as we stood our ground and spoke about the need and possibility of revolution and BAsics. Indeed you could feel a tension in the air and hear the conversations stop as people paused to listen and one person said they saw someone watching from the sidelines with a lot of intensity and they were unsure at first whether to approach this person and when they ran into them later at the concert decided to find out what they thought. It turns out they are Native American and said they agreed with everything we had been saying and were on our side.

We went right up in the face of the status quo and challenged everything and it was exciting and important that we did so and people took note, and also, the people who came out to make this happen, felt a little..."Whoa." They were thrown a little and that was okay. For different reasons we didn't fully expect to have a crowd with this more mainstream America suburbanism vibe to it, but it was a lot of kids coming from out in the suburbs to go to the show. We also thought it would draw a lot more people who were really looking for something radical and more broadly were against the status quo, but what we got was more the status quo. And so people that came out with us had different responses to this and went through a process.

At first some people were saying that this crowd just wanted to go party and they weren't really receptive and too into themselves and their own lives and getting more and having a good time to really care about anything. But a couple of people pointed out that actually there was a lot of that, but there was also a lot of people who were interested and intrigued and even engaging, and indeed very quickly we got out hundreds and hundreds of cards.

Another person tried to read the poem, and unfortunately they came much more under attack politically and weren't able to get through it and at first they were thrown and they hung back and watched for a while but kept getting out BAsics cards. Then they saw how this more experienced person was engaging people and selling books and they were attracted to this and paired up with them and listened as well as joined in with the conversation.

The young immigrant student pondered, "Hmmm, I think we would have better luck in the neighborhoods of oppressed people." The brand-new person who came to the store that day said, "Look, I think people would be more likely to get into this if you would give them the books for free." We talked about how there are no shortcuts to making revolution, that people should actually buy the book and donate to support this, and that actually it was a really important thing that money was being raised for the special issue of Revolution on BAsics so that 100,000 copies could be given away for free to high school and college students. Another volunteer chimed in here that actually we should have brought the RCP’s Message and Call, "The Revolution We Need ... The Leadership We Have." She said she had been reading it that day for the first time and that it was a leaflet that was handed out which gave people more information so that those who were interested in finding out would be able to. We thought this was a good idea, actually.

Another young woman who is an abortion rights activist who was doing this for the first time was taking a breather and said she was having a hard time—"I'm used to being called baby killer, but all these underhanded comments and snickering, it's just brutal." She said that she usually has a really thick skin but some of the response was really getting to her. I asked her why she was not phased by being called a "baby killer," and she said, "Well, I know it's not true, and I know what I'm doing is right. With this I see the need for revolution, but I'm still finding out more about communism."


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