Revolution#113, December 23, 2007
"Jena, Louisiana Goddamn" at Rush Gallery, NY City
December 11, 2007 a special fundraiser for Revolution newspaper was held in New York titled, “JENA, Louisiana Goddamn, a conversation with Revolution reporters fresh from Jena.”
The event was held at Rush Arts Gallery, located in Chelsea, the heart of the art world in New York City. It is a small non-profit space, considered by some to be one of the cutting edge galleries in the city. Its audience includes an important cross section of the arts—young and old, mostly Black but still very multinational and quite hip.
About 35 people gathered to hear Revolution reporters Alice Woodward, Hank Brown, and Li Onesto discuss their experience in Jena, developments in and the significance of the Jena 6 case, the importance of revolutionary journalism and Revolution’s $500,000 fund drive. The audience for the evening was a hot mix and in some ways reflected the unique array of people that read Revolution. It included nationally known artists, independent filmmakers, stand-up comics, a fundraiser and strategic planner for a national arts foundation, art historians and proletarians from the Harlem Revolution Club.
The evening was organized by Dread Scott and grew out of a conversation he had with Danny Simmons. Simmons is a painter, writer, philanthropist, activist, and founder of two galleries in New York, including Rush. He knows his scenes attract an interesting combination of artists and intellectuals, many who are very concerned about the many important questions confronting humanity. He wanted this scene to connect with and contribute to Revolution.
A statement from Simmons welcoming people said in part: “Rush Arts has been since its inception a center for those whose voice and vision is different from those in power, whether it’s art or politics. Our mission has been to empower artists and the public to bring to the forefront issues of social justice, inclusion, and social change. It’s long past due that the arts community raised its voice to bring about necessary change in all areas of society. It is no longer sufficient that we remain the silent creative community when our collective voices can stand for so much more… Please take what’s going to be said here today seriously. And then begin to commit yourself as an agent of social change.”
People listened intently as Hank and Alice talked about their experiences in Jena -- from having people show them recent photos on their cell phone of nooses to hearing Black residents talk about how a Black man was stomped to death for bumping into a white woman. They talked of segregation in a small town and how the federal government is backing up the local racists in their efforts to punish the Jena 6 for standing up to “a southern way of life” which means white supremacy, segregation and KKK-type terror.
Li Onesto talked about the role of Revolution newspaper in bringing “truth in preparation for revolution” to the people—and how this newspaper connects people, engaging its broad and diverse audience in an ongoing conversation about how to understand and change the world.
During the Q&A, the audience asked many questions, wanting to know more about what it is like in Jena and expressing shock at the blatant conditions of white supremacy and segregation. A woman from the Harlem Revolution Club talked about her experience going to Jena for the September 20 protest. She recounted how she had been shocked at the impoverished conditions of Black people in Jena and told how she had come upon a tree with “No Trespassing” carved into it along with a racist caricature of a Black person.
After the presentation, people stayed around for wine, cheese and conversation. The mix of people from different strata was electric, giving impetus to the artists to think more deeply about the situation, to contribute to the drive, and become more involved. The Harlem Revolution Club felt empowered and left determined to bust a move for the program the next night at Sista’s Uptown.
The inspiration and challenge of the evening had people digging into questions of why didn’t white people step forward in greater numbers and how can we change that situation, people wrestled with questions of revolution and communism. Some made donations on the spot, others agreed to meet soon, including making plans for fund raising parties.
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