Revolution #270, May 27, 2012
The First 48 Hours on the BAsics Bus Tour
Editors' note: The following has been slightly edited for publication.
Bus riders, it's only been two days and it feels like the BAsics Bus Tour has swept through Atlanta with the leadership of Bob Avakian and the revolution we need. A lot has happened that's new for everyone who has become a part of it. This bus has stopped at a high school twice, housing projects, an immigrant community, a radio show, a forum on the murder of Black men, and an excellent Caribbean restaurant that donated a meal to the volunteers.
The first night volunteers were in Atlanta, a supporter of the bus tour brought us to a neighborhood where the bus would touch down for the first time the next day. This is a Black neighborhood with run-down housing complexes lined with stark black iron fences. All the public housing in Atlanta has been torn down recently and some people who were pushed out live here.
On a hot sunny afternoon in Atlanta, Georgia, with a federal penitentiary barely a stone's throw away, the BAsics Bus Tour marched into the neighborhood. Soon the bright palm cards with BAsics 1:13: "No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that," and Revolution newspaper were in people's hands, from the four- and eight-year-old kids, to the adults with babies in their arms, and their grandmothers. These were read with seriousness by older people and some guys in their early twenties who were just chilling out before we got there, but took some time with us and got into things in a serious way. Also connections were made and people were smiling and laughing and talking.
Some of the laughter comes because people are nervous. One young woman who was giggling at a volunteer today said it was because he sounded so serious, but later, when she heard more about Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, she turned to her friend quietly confiding in her, "This is cool." Another type of laughter is when people are shocked and amused and agree to hear people speaking some truth about the world and calling out the system and those that enforce it with total contempt and clarity about the illegitimacy of this system.
So many were drawn to the "Three Strikes" quote by Bob Avakian (Revolution #247, October 9, 2011), reading it, shaking their heads, giving themselves permission to join the conversations going on, or pointing at the picture on the bottom with the police pressing the face of a young Black man to the pavement saying to us, "I've been there." People opened up and spoke about being harassed and criminalized, tortured in the prisons, women being brutalized... "Yeah. That goes on here. All the time," one woman quickly responded.
Day one: the BAsics Bus Tour had started bright and early when a crew rolled up at 7:30 am sharp, starting off on time! This is a high school with a lot of different nationalities, but mainly Black; a hoodie day for Trayvon Martin had been organized there weeks ago. The kids were coming up to our banner and wanted to know what we were talking about. The administration at the school didn't like that this was going on and asked us to move across the street. After that, students crossed the street to come over and talk.
The banner has BAsics 1:13 in English and Spanish and will be signed by people throughout the tour.
The first day at the school was very concentrated, but with a lot enthusiasm. The second day we went back and got deeper in with people and spread the word that people can meet us on Friday to take a group photo. Thinking about how they can be a part of this, one person said, "I can't quit my day job to be a part of this, but I can donate!" People took stacks of postcards and had ideas about where they could get them out in school, like the political action bulletin.
The second day a parent came out to meet the revolution, saying "My daughter saw you out here and came home with the postcard. That's why I came, I wanted to see if you guys were out here today, I wanted to come just to see what you guys are about." He was coming from a standpoint of personal responsibility being the answer, but we got into that and talked for a while, he wants to bring his wife and daughter to the bus tour kick-off party.
It was mainly Black people who came to sign the banner; there was one young white woman who signed the banner whose brother was incarcerated for eight years for drugs, and then a young white guy who had kind of a punk style, he heard the word "communism" and he was taken aback, we asked, "What do you think about communism?" he said, "What I heard doesn't faze me." Which a volunteer explained means what he heard about it doesn't mean shit to him, and he's open.
The first night came to a close watching the section from BA's Revolution talk on reparations under socialism and getting way deep into the question of national oppression and real liberation with Clyde Young. People wrangled with the relationship of a visceral hatred for the oppression of Black people and a theoretical understanding of where this comes from and how it can be done away with. There was struggle to understand why overcoming this centuries-long oppression must be a part of going all the way to communism, and at the same time how just winning the right of self-determination for Black people, as righteous as that is, does not get you all the way to emancipating all humanity, and we got to be about that.
More will be written about the outing in the immigrant community, but one thing that struck me from the stories today is that one, the volunteers were remarking on how in contrast to the Black community, there wasn't really anyone around in the area, and we realized that this was because people were working in this community where as in Black communities there tends to be higher unemployment so they are around during the day which was explicitly why our tour guide recommended we go in the afternoon. The other thing was in both communities I heard about conversations where people came to understand that if you want to change the world, not just be angry and express frustrations, or find a way to get along within it, you can't do it alone, people have to get together. This is not unrelated to the new postcard we're getting out on this bus tour with "12 things you can do" to be part of the revolution, and the fact that people are beginning to get some sense of this has a lot to do with the fact that the revolutionaries are beginning to tell them about how much they are needed and how they can be part of a whole movement that's about getting to a better world. All this, both the immigrant community, and the new ways in which people are getting organized and taking up the revolution will be part of future posts.
Right now we write from a town hall meeting entitled "Race and Justice: Empowering Mothers to Preserve the Life of African-American Men," hosted by a local radio station. People came because they don't want their sons to continue dying unnecessarily, but what they got was not a serious discussion about the problem and the solution but a program that was more trying to cool people out and settle them back into the deadly status quo than organize and mobilize them to be part of changing things. A predominantly Black audience of all ages gathered in the auditorium of a high school in Atlanta, Georgia, to hear a panel of speakers and families of Ariston Waiters, Robert Champion, Canard Arnold, Erving Jefferson, and Trayvon Martin, all victims of unjust violence, were part of the discussion. The BAsics bus crew was invited into the auditorium where people stopped by to check out the revolution and get a copy of BAsics. There was a whole scene at the table of people looking at a poster with BAsics 1:1 "There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth," and opening up the book to read more, getting the "No More Generations..." card, talking with volunteers, signing up, signing the banner, getting involved in a lot of ways. People told stories of police violence, and stories of being part of the uprisings of the 1960s. We've sold six BAsics, including to a young white guy from an activist group here in Atlanta, who bought the book and has been reading for almost an hour now. The BAsics Bus Tour banner is on display. From what I hear about the forum, there was far too much blaming the youth for the situation the system has put them in and way too much religion, but many people wanted more than what they heard and there was a lot of openness and eagerness to connect with the movement for revolution; one woman after hearing Sunsara Taylor speak inside came out to talk saying "I agree with what she's saying, because I'm FED UP!"
One person came out and said, "I love this word." The volunteer couldn't hear her so asked, "What word?" "Revolution." She was dismayed at the discussion inside the auditorium. "I don't know what's going on in there."
A few people when they heard about the BAsics bus asked us, "Can I get on the bus?"
I can understand the feeling.
So bus riders, all of you out there, whether you're literally on the bus, or one of those "pushing behind it" with support and with your hopes for a better world, and the many ways, big and small, people are contributing, today the BAsics Bus Tour prepares to get on the road.
If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.