Taking Revolution to a Harlem Showing of The Central Park Five

December 16, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From Revolution Club, NYC

Soon after it came out in November some of us saw the new documentary The Central Park Five at a special showing in Harlem that drew over 600 people. In New York City, for a lot of Blacks and Latinos over 40 years old, the Central Park 5 case is a little like a very public lynching that happened in their youth; an event that deeply affected them, but has been rarely discussed for decades. Lots of people need to see this movie! It reveals deep realities about the brutal nature of this system and the screaming need for revolution.

The Revolution Club devised a simple plan to encourage people to see the movie and to take revolution to them. We called for people to join us in going to see the movie at another Manhattan theater in a middle class area, and being a part of the discussion about why things are the way they are and how they can change through revolution. We sent a small flyer out by e-mail and texted and called people. We got 20 enthusiastic replies from an interesting mix of people of different ages, a former prisoner and his family member, a Columbia University student, people in the projects who wanted to bring their adolescent sons, people from Africa and Latin America, an actor and an older Black intellectual.

As people went into the theater we handed out our quarter page flyer that began with BAsics quote 1:1—“There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth.” Then it asked two simple questions—“What does this quote have to do with the Central Park 5 case? Why does it matter? Meet us in the lobby after the film to discuss.” It also gave resources—“Postcards of the Hanging” and “Emmett Till and the Oppression of Black People” from Bob Avakian on youtube or go to revolutiontalk.net to listen to whole talk, “Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide” a talk by Carl Dix at vimeo.com, Revolution newspaper at revcom.us and NYC Revolution Books.

We had bought 15 advance tickets, figuring we could raise the money later if not everybody showed.  A woman working in the box office read the flyer and watched us discussing it with people going in. When she saw we might have tickets left over, she offered to buy them back.

After the film, one of the directors, Sarah Burns, and two of the exonerated, Yusef Saleem and Korey Wise, were there. They spoke about how the film had given them their lives back.

About a dozen people hung around the lobby discussion. There was a young woman and her father from Eastern Europe, an older Black intellectual who had fled to Europe to live to escape the racism of the U.S., some 40-something Black professionals, and an older white couple. People spoke passionately about the wrenching effect of the film and how it intersected with their life experience. Suddenly a loud exclamation rose above the buzzing crowd filing out. A patron, seeing people wearing “STOP Stop & Frisk” buttons loudly declared Stop and Frisk saves lives.  “Stop and Frisk does NOT save lives!” a Revolution Club member shot back. Heated debate ensued. Two young concession stand workers listened intently along with others. They excitedly told the club member that they agreed with him. One of them arranged to get BAsics.

At the same time, the discussion of the quote continued 30 feet away. It had gone on for nearly half an hour when a manager advanced to shut it down. It continued as rapid negotiations were initiated with him. When the one big discussion did break up a few minutes later, people stayed around talking to each other in bunches about the nature of U.S. democracy, its history, and the need for revolution. People continued to discuss the need for mass resistance. Some debated the ways in which the film did and did not indict the system.  Several people bought Revolution Issue 144, “The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need.” A graduate student asked for a link to Avakian’s work on Jeffersonian democracy. Most signed up to keep in touch.

Another discussion had been going on across the street between a Revolution Club organizer, an artist and a Latina student who was deeply affected by the truths revealed about the police orchestration of the Central Park Five legal lynching. Her professor had encouraged his students to see this film. We met up with them and continued the discussion and debate, and getting to know one another onto the subway.

We certainly plan to mobilize all that came to life in this outing and go back to other showings of The Central Park Five with the piece by BA, "Propaganda Instruments of the Ruling Class... And the Railroad of the Central Park 5" in Revolution #288!

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