Revolution #264, April 1, 2012
Getting BA Out at the Public Library Association Conference
From RCP Publications:
Last week, Revolution printed a short piece about getting BAsics into public libraries. Now is the best time to accelerate those efforts, especially because fresh in the minds of many librarians will be the experience of encountering BAsics at the Public Library Association (PLA) biennial conference in Philadelphia during the middle of March. Here is a snapshot about taking BAsics out to the PLA conference.
The BAsics exhibit hall table, featuring a large banner with the distinctive lettering from the back of the book ("You can't change the world if you don't know the BAsics") as well as our BAsics T-shirts, generated a lot of favorable comments and drew hundreds into conversation. We connected with thousands of librarians and library staff people, many with a desire to see their institutions play a bigger role in helping library patrons understand and change the world. We figure that of the 4,500 participants, about 40 percent left the conference with a copy of RCP Publications' sell sheet. (Sell sheets contain all the information libraries and bookstores need to order literature. Our sell sheet had a sampling of BAsics quotes, blurbs of praise for BA and the book, a photo of the April 11, 2011 event On the Occasion of Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World in Harlem, in addition to the information on how to order BAsics as well as the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America [Draft Proposal].)
The PLA is a division of the American Library Association. The ALA has played an important role in recent years in fighting for freedom of information and against the "Patriot Act" that attempted to demand librarians inform the government about who was reading what in the library. The PLA describes its core purpose "is to strengthen public libraries and their contribution to the communities they serve." A speaker at the PLA conference keynote session said that librarians need to be agents of social change.
The keynote speaker was Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., whose talk on the environmental destruction and the cost in human lives helped set a favorable atmosphere for speaking with librarians about the exciting answers BAsics has to questions about the world, society and the future.
When people came up to the table or wanted to know more after getting a sell sheet, we put the book in their hands and pointed to various quotes in BAsics. The stark truth of 1:1 ("There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth.") let people in on the fact that BAsics and Bob Avakian cut to the core of what is foundational about a fundamentally outmoded system and gave them the sense that this book and author are important. We pointed out how crucial it is that Avakian has done the work no one else has to recast understanding of the first wave of communist revolution and has re-envisioned the socialist transition to classless society and communism itself.
This was a new thing for all those we spoke with, even for those who thought they knew all about socialism and even for those who glibly regurgitated faith in the "free market" of capitalism.
But even more, it tapped into deeply felt sentiments among the mainly middle-class attendees about how this cannot really be the best of all possible worlds, connecting with an openness to explore a way to change the world in the interests of humanity.
Here are some comments from RCP Publications volunteers:
"I was struck by how much commitment there was by librarians across the country, big cities, small towns and rural areas including Native American reservations, to reach out to the dispossessed, the oppressed and poor people. I sat at a table having a snack, and started talking to someone who is a librarian on a Native American reservation in the Southwest. We talked about the Native author Sherman Alexie and how he brings to life some of the contradictions as well as the humor and dignity of Native Americans. I told her about our table, and how we were there to introduce Bob Avakian's BAsics to librarians to get into libraries across the country. I read 1:13 ("No more generations of our youth...") and she listened intently and said how what BA says is true in terms of the youth having no future. Then I read 1:5 about the military representing the 1 percent. I told her that in other parts of the book Bob Avakian develops the solution to the horrors of the system and the present situation. She said, "My library is for the young and the old to get knowledge. I want to get two for the library." I told her she needed to get one herself to get an understanding of the path-breaking work of Bob Avakian that leads the way for the emancipation of humanity. She looked in her purse and pulled out her $10 and said she would read it that night and look for [us] to talk about it."
"After reading 1:13 another librarian responded that many young people she encounters have no hope for any kind of future. She felt the quote was a very important position to take, that this cannot be tolerated. A librarian who works with teens said that one of the most frequent questions he gets is about the presidential election race now going on. He said teens see 'Obama, who is not doing much for people, on the one hand; and three guys on the other side who may or may not be crazy, depending on your perspective.' He appreciated the perspective of Bob Avakian in 1:13 and thought that BAsics should be part of the dialogue and debate about the future of society. Another librarian in a smaller city said he was looking for material to do a salon on current political thinking and that BAsics might be a good component for that."
"I went to a workshop about 'taking the library' into the prisons and working with individuals and families on the 'outside.' The MC for the workshop opened with the fact that 2.3 million adults are in prison in the U.S., and there are 1.5 million children with parents serving time. The people on the panel leading the workshop go to Rikers Island in New York City, serving hundreds of prisoners every week. They have developed all kinds of creative ways for prisoners to increase their literacy and to connect with their families. I raised the question that there is mass incarceration going on in this country as the MC pointed out and I asked, 'How can librarians aid in the movement to stop mass incarceration and how can certain books be promoted more than others, for example, The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander?' Some on the panel addressed the question and said that they agree that we need to find ways to stop mass incarceration but that it is difficult given that they are trying to develop literacy on different levels and also to getting families connected to those in prison. After I asked the question, a Black woman came over, asked for the BAsics handout, walked out and bought the book."
"A librarian from Wyoming talked about how much she teaches critical thinking, and spoke about John Lennon's 'Imagine' as an example for her thinking outside the box. She said her son thinks way beyond the box, to millions of years in the past and into the future and she digs that and wants to convey that kind of imagining to young people who come into the library. She said how this system tries to stifle that kind of thinking and imagination, the thinking that does not adhere to the values of this society. She said how much her family argues with her because she has rejected religion, but she says she is fine with the arguments because she will not go back to being a Roman Catholic. As she bought the book, I told her that BAsics will give her a vision of a world full of creativity and energy, not the degrading culture that is dominant. As she walked away from the table where she signed up to be contacted by RCP Publications, she looked back at the big bright displays of BAsics and had a huge smile on her face."
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