Revolution #274, July 8, 2012

Open Mic in the Park

As part of the saturation weekend of June 22-24 (to get BA everywhere and raise money for the upcoming bus tour), a group of us held an "Open Mic: Speak your mind—speak from your heart" in a park deep in the 'hood. The overall theme of the open mic was how people responded to BAsics 1:13; and 25 people came forward to contribute in many ways ... from selling hot dogs, to a children's art exhibit (children also took part in selling food, bundling up palm cards and even posting them), to poetry, spoken word and rap.

Starting in the morning, crews went out in a sound truck and cars distributing 2,300 palm cards and gathering people's reactions to the quote. We didn't simply settle for people saying they liked the quote ... they had to at least know who said it for one thing!

So back at the park later in the afternoon, the stage was decorated with various displays like the girl skipping rope in Haiti amid desperate conditions next to big replicas of the cover of BAsics; as well as the children's art exhibit. A boom box played "All Played Out" and a CD from a cultural night at Revolution Books the night before. The open mic began with a call and response of 1:13 by one of the children, and this was followed by a long time neighborhood resident reading nine different statements (see separate report) in response to the BAsics quote!

These statements went to the heart of how BA connects with these people. Some examples:

One woman with four kids, mentioning Oscar Grant who was killed in Oakland, said "No more police killing here and around the world. ... We need to make revolution all over the world."

A 15-year-old high school student said, "We need to help youth all around the world, not just Blacks. If we can stop the system in doing that, we can do the 'no more.' I'm open to finding out the ways to do just that."

A 18-year-old Black youth said, "It's TRUE that youth are condemned even before they are born all over the world" (using Hiroshima to highlight his point). He ended by saying, "I think people need to hear BA, what he says about revolution and communism. He speaks in a way that even people like me can understand."

Some of the featured poets came to the 'hood straight from a Revolution Books poetry night on the night prior. It was quite something to see the mix of the crowd, in age, race, and even in what 'hood they came from. A couple of teachers came specifically to this area to share their poetry and rap about "Revolu-SHUN" which was a call-and-response from the crowd. Another poet began her poem specifically off the last line of the quote "I say no more of that." One of the rappers from the 'hood offered a personal poem about Trayvon Martin; and this was followed by someone reading the Gil Scott-Heron poem "Jose Campos Torres" which rings eerily with the Trayvon Martin case. More readings followed from BAsics; and then another rap group performed.

The emcee announced the main points of BA Everywhere through this summer, using a Revolution paper article to emphasize the upcoming bus tour back East and also referring to the bus tour to Sanford, Florida last May. People were encouraged to stick around later to discuss how to raise funds, etc., for this major bus tour.

The people from the surrounding neighborhood were deeply involved in actually pulling this whole event together; and this was quite different than something we just plan and carry out. Quite a few of the audience were pulled together by one of the local women; and then many stuck around later to plan for an anti-July 4 picnic fundraiser in the same park. A major theme of this upcoming anti-July 4 is around "internationalism, the whole world comes first"; and this led into a lively struggle over how we view revolution..... some were arguing that we had to "take back our communities" from the police, while others struggled to bring the internationalism more in focus rather than trying to "fix the system"; and the slogan of "fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution" came to the fore in this discussion. We DO need to fight the power, but if we are talking about revolution, it can't be only about the community. There was also a lot of emphasis on this anti-July 4 of being against U.S. patriotism and imperialism, and some basic plans were laid about how we could show this graphically at the picnic.

All together for the saturation weekend, we distributed 5,700 palm cards in this area of the city, most of which were in bundles of 40 and 100, and those taking the bundles had various ideas of how to distribute them. $45 was raised from selling hot dogs on Saturday. Close to $200 has been raised for BA Everywhere by selling hot dogs, candies and water over the last couple of weeks in this same park.


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