Correspondence from the South West
On August 18, several dozen people participated in a Night of Revolutionary Culture to Welcome Back the BAsics Bus tour volunteers and Raise Money for the Tour. And what a night it was! Inspired by various BAsics quotes, especially those that have been the themes of the bus tour, and by the tour itself, every one present in that diverse assemblage that night─audience and performers alike─walked out of there inspired and uplifted─with a deepened sense of hope for the future.
BAsics quotes alternating with scenes from all three legs of the bus tour flashing in a loop on a back wall set the stage for a what was to be, as BA calls for, “a radical revolt against a revolting culture.”
The evening opened with a one-man band of guitar, voice and keyboard. Introducing his performance with “Internationalism—The Whole World Comes First” (BAsics 5:7), he delivered a somewhat understated, yet beautiful performance of songs in the “nueva trova” tradition from Latin America.
A young poet, struck on impact by the “no more generations..” quote (BAsics 1:13) just a week before, recited the quote as preface to and inspiration for her poem. She sharply challenged the down pressed youth to reject the empty, consumerist mentality and recognize and break with what the system is doing to them.
Two musicians played a lively set of Klezmer music, which the band described as music that Eastern European Jewish immigrants brought to the New York area a century ago, much like Latino immigrants today bring their musical and cultural traditions. The clarinetist began their set introducing their first piece with BAsics 5:23: “if you have had a chance to see…” They played a traditional folk song he had found that had four parts, which he renamed, “The 4 Alls” and prefaced it by reading BAsics 2:3.
Another young poet recited BAsics 3:22, “ you can’t break every chain but one…”, followed by a piece she had written a few years ago, in response to the murder of Sakia Gunn, a high school student killed for being a lesbian. The poem ends with a declaration of pride to be a revolutionary, a communist.
Volunteers shared their experience on the New York leg of the tour, giving people a living sense of a movement beginning to tap the revolutionary potential and set up roots among the oppressed.
The high point of the night was when nationally acclaimed New Orleans native Sunni Patterson stepped up on the stage. She picked up the mic, then put it back down, and walked right into the audience, drawing everyone into her magic (and song!). Based in deep cultural traditions of Black people, especially the mix that is New Orleans, Sunni’s poetry at the same time embraced all of humanity. The links she explicitly made between the experiences of Black people and of the Iraqi people were powerful. With fierce condemnation of the current system, and confidence in the ability of the people to liberate themselves, her performance was challenging and inspiring.
And she asserted that she was (no less) inspired by the volunteers, how they put their lives on hold to get on that bus to bring this movement, and to bring hope, to the people.
Over wine and baklava, donated by a Middle Eastern store, people tossed around ideas about popularizing this bus tour and raising more money to keep it on the road. Conversations reflected the themes of the night, especially dealing with how people look at the world and each other. Like people seeing that capitalism’s “me-first” ideology saturates every aspect of society, including in sectarian in-fighting among progressive movements (vs “the whole world comes first” ). And that underscores how important cultural events like this are. Because, as one person put it, after all, “Communism is about community.”