On Memorial Day three supporters of the BAsics Bus Tour went to a popular beach park carrying our beautiful BAsics 1:13 banner, copies of BAsics, “Twelve Ways That YOU Can Be Part of Building the Movement for Revolution – Right Now” and Revolution newspaper.
The park was filled with clusters of people barbecuing , talking with each other, or just enjoying the day. Most were proletarian: Filipinos, Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. There were obvious gatherings of military guys and church groups. Entering the park the first group we saw was a huge church group where homeless were being given lunch while a preacher carried on nearby. We spotted individuals from other conservative churches leafleting amongst the picnickers. We felt a little awkward getting into the mix with our own banner and wondered what the reception would be.
Children from the first family group we approached stepped up to read the banner while their parents watched skeptically. As we got into it with the kids, their young parents perked up and began asking their own questions. “What’s this all about?” “What do you want us to do?” We introduced them to the Bus Tour and BAsics. They talked about their dreams of a better world for their kids, signed the banner, and invited us to share their lunch. Their welcome erased any misgivings we had about wading into the park and inviting people to discuss, debate, sign the banner, and get down around BAsics.
We went from group to group, standing quietly while they read the banner. When we explained that this quote was being taken out to parks and gatherings across the U.S. on Memorial Day, and that the quote was the focus of the Bus Tour that was in Sanford FL, the town where Trayvon Martin was murdered, people began seeing that we were part of something larger and many stepped forward to sign the banner. Some wanted to share their own experiences. A few disagreed but almost everyone agreed that there should be more discussion and debate like the ones we were having. Most took materials about the BAsics Bus Tour and we observed several young people lying on the grass studying the pages of Revolution newspaper soon after we left their group.
Here are a few snapshots of our conversations:
A family group read the banner and shook their head in agreement. We asked a young man sitting there what he thought, and about his own experiences. He shared that this was his last picnic with his family before heading off to boot camp and the military because he “had no focus”, no job, and needed to prepare himself for a career.
A woman enjoying the sun on a beach wall with her friends watched us carefully as we approached. When we stopped in front of the group they appeared apprehensive and then read BAsics 1:13 and enthusiastically nodded in agreement. One said she was from Oakland but had moved to the Big Island to “heal” after being a community organizer for many years, but only feeling frustration over the divisions among the people and the brutality of the system. “Where are the 60’s” she lamented. Another woman, reading the banner, said she was reminded of Oscar Grant and said that her husband had been Oscar Grant’s school teacher in Oakland and had had a really hard time getting over his murder because he was “such a good kid.” Another in the group jumped in and talked about how desperately we needed revolution. “Capitalism is the problem!” “How can people just let this war on women go on…where are the Gloria Steinem’s?” “My blood boils when I see the Bible thumpers come near me! At first I thought that’s who you were but now I’m really happy I met you. “ They took materials and we exchanged contact numbers. And as for Gloria Steinam? They got introduced to Sunsara Taylor!
A woman tending a barbecue stood by silently while her husband asked what we were doing. As soon as we mentioned Sanford he said that “Trayvon started it” and then that “we don’t know what happened.” His wife countered him quietly said that Trayvon was murdered. He said Blacks were going to retaliate and she quietly countered saying it was racial profiling and it was a good thing Blacks were speaking out. It was obvious this was a new conversation between them. Given the sparks in the air no one signed the banner from the group but a woman had found her voice.
A young man read the banner and said it wasn’t true. “Everyone can do what they want. Anyone can go to college.” He said he’d just graduated from high school and was headed for community college. He could do what he wanted and so could anyone else. “People get into drugs because they want to. It’s their fault.” But then he got quiet when we asked him if he could get through college without huge college loans and whether we shouldn’t be fighting for a future where youth weren’t burdened down with debt for a lifetime just because they wanted to learn. We’d obvious struck a chord and he quietly walked away with something new on his mind.
A girl of about 12 years with a sparkle in her eye read the banner eagerly and said, “That’s me! I get blamed for everything. My teachers don’t like it when I ask questions. I’m right but they just want me to listen. “ She eagerly signed the banner and went to talk about it with her dad who was sitting nearby. He agreed with his daughter, saying that too many kids had the “fire” taken out of them while they were young. He wanted his daughter to “think for herself” but said it was hard because she was so outspoken and people thought she should just “shut up.” At his daughter’s urging he signed the banner and got material about the Bus Tour.
When we approached a family group of picnickers several young people turned away. An older man of who was barbecuing in the background suddenly stepped forward and shouted: “It’s the government! That’s what I always say but my kids just say ‘shut up Dad.’” He had been influenced by uprisings during more militant times and we got into the importance of connecting young people with a movement for revolution, in new ways, and that that is what the BAsics Bus Tour and BAsics was all about. He took materials, said he’d go to the Bus Tour website, and that everyone should speak out like we were.
A young man was laying on the grass giving his friend a massage when he looked up to read the banner. “Just a minute, I’m a critical thinker.” He deliberated a moment. “That’s really deep. Every word is concentrated.” Then he shared his own story. He dreamed of being a teacher and got his degree. When he began teaching he tried to tell the truth like “Columbus didn’t discover America.” He was terminated. He was inspired by the Bus Tour and got more information, saying he’d be to the store to get down deeper.
These are just a few experiences we had within less than two hours. We learned a lot. BAsics 1:13 is a really powerful quotation that elicits response on many different levels. It opened conversations and enabled people to tell their own stories. When people learned that this quote was the focus of the BAsics Bus Tour, and that it had gone to the site where Trayvon was murdered, their curiosity was aroused. They were inspired to sign the banner when they learned that when they did so they were part of a larger movement. Through focusing on BAsics 1:13 we could give people a sense of the kind of debate and discussion a single quote could provoke, and how BAsics could be a real handbook in the hands of activists (whether on the streets, in their homes, at their churches or their classrooms). We still have a lot more to learn and are studying the experiences people are having in taking out BAsics, and this quote in particular from the BAsics Bus Tour and around the country. We left the park knowing that we had engaged around BAsics with about a hundred people we’d never met before and that there had been rich exchanges through which both sides learned a lot. We’re now focused on doing even better next weekend when we go to the Gay Pride Parade.