Opening Up Big Questions:
Watching the Film at UC Berkeley of the Cornel West-Bob Avakian Dialogue

March 23, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


Dear Revolution Newspaper,

We wanted to share with your readers the experience of showing excerpts from the film of the Dialogue on March 17.

The film was shown at the Multicultural Community Center and was sponsored by the Department of African American Studies and Revolution Books. The event opened with a welcome from a professor, who also helped lead the discussion. The audience was about 25 people, about 10 were students and a couple were from the larger East Bay community. The students included some who were involved in the protests against police murder, including some who participated in the freeway takeovers. Several students were from other countries, from Africa and Southeast Asia. A few were Latinas and Asian. The people from the community were older. One man was visiting from Spain. Overall it was a very multinational crowd of different ages.

Most of the people who came had not known about the Dialogue prior to hearing about the event on campus. One person from the community had seen a poster in Oakland, looked up BA on the Internet and came. He said BA looked at things, especially religion, differently from other Marxist groups that he has known about before. People came because they were curious about the topic.


We showed the trailer and excerpts from the new film. The part that got the biggest applause was when BA said it wasn’t weak to love. The parts that got laughter included when BA said Ice-T went from writing a controversial song, “Cop Killer,” to playing a cop on TV. One person said “that’s true” several times during the film, such as when BA said they throw people out when they can’t make a profit, that the youth who were caught up in the Harlem raid don’t have the right to express themselves, and when Cornel West said the 11th Commandment is “Don’t get caught.”

The discussion after the excerpts got into several questions. The professor who welcomed people on behalf of African American Studies noted Avakian’s statement that “to love is not weak,” and asked the students what touched them. Several people agreed with this and commented on it and on the need to change the culture and to develop culture that doesn’t divide people or keep them down, but uplifts them. One student liked Cornel’s comment that sometimes the only way out is through a song, and someone brought out the Selma movie song as an example. Some people criticized capitalist culture as being too financially driven and agreed with a comment from the film that there’s a cultural and spiritual COINTELPRO. One student said she had been involved in the protests against police murder, but noticed how much the police were trying to intimidate people and make people fearful of getting involved, giving the example of them using helicopters that flew over the protests shining spotlights on the demonstrators and constantly flying over the areas all night.

People got into how BA and Cornel West contrasted rap music with misogynist lyrics to music like J. Cole’s rap about the murder of Michael Brown, and how a new and different culture is needed. There was debate over the need for fundamental change versus devoting efforts to things like permaculture (a practice and philosophy of ecological sustainability); there were questions about whether protest does any good—for example against police murder and during the “Arab Spring” in Egypt. Some people brought out how the people in Ferguson changed the entire discussion in the country by refusing to accept Michael Brown’s murder and the lack of indictment of Darren Wilson and how this illustrated Cornel West’s point that when Black people rise up, everybody can “get in on it” and be part of resisting. Someone brought out the need to have organization. The point was made that the uprising in Egypt was very positive, but didn’t lead to a real change because they didn’t have revolutionary leadership.

The discussion was very rich, with people dealing seriously with a number of questions about how to change the world. An Asian student said he was really frustrated with the discourse on campus that frames things in a neoliberal Thomas Jefferson perspective and he really welcomed watching the film and being part of the discussion.

Some people got tickets for the upcoming March 28 film premiere and some literature. Some went to Revolution Books afterwards to check out the store and talk more.

Readers in the Bay Area

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