"This is not just any bookstore"
A Late-Winter Message to the Sustainers of Revolution Books
There are the known things about Revolution Books that attract people to the store: the books; the lively exchanges between RB spokesperson Andy Zee and authors from diverse fields and points of view; RB as that intellectual, political and cultural center of a movement for revolution. Then there are things that happen under the radar screen.
Last Friday. It's the open-mic night that the Revolution Club puts together every second Friday of the month. They call it "Future People." The store becomes a performance space. People do spoken word, some do music, and others just muse aloud.
The cold of winter had charged back. Not a large crowd. In walk four people… they're visiting Harlem from Indianapolis. They had seen the signs about NO to Trump and fascism, and the books in the window. They take seats at a table, listening intently. After two or three performers, one of them comes to the stage and does a rap that wallops Trump and racism.
A young woman from the Revolution Club, the MC that night, takes the stage and introduces a song from Nigeria. It's where she grew up. She explains that the song is in local pidgin, Edo, Yoruba, and English: "It's a story about those who travel or who are forced from home, cast adrift, taking only what they can carry--with sights set on a new world and hopes for the future. But storms roll in when they reach the 'promised land.' Rain of insults, reign of terror. In this new land of America, they are as inferior beasts." She translates more of the lyrics: "they do not want us, they steal from us, they lie to us, they cheat us, and for what! WHY?" (a phrase, she says, that's the equivalent of 'what the fuck').
A sweet, sad lament: "'I want to go home again' -- but the migrant forgets in the midst of her sorrow that she's fleeing home." And the MC tells the audience that she herself, before becoming a revolutionary, had had similar feelings…but "the more I traveled and the more I saw, and learned, the more it became clear that the hooks that catch and bring crashing to the ground the dream of the traveler-refugee-vagabond-migr ant also ensnare the whole world."
A young African-American woman from the Revolution Club gets up and announces that she is going to do two songs in Mandarin. One is titled Olive Tree. "It's about a woman traveling far from where she came from to get to an olive tree. And all along the distant way, she is questioned: where are you from, and why are you wandering so far? None of this deters her." No accompaniment but utterly musical. Afterward the woman explains that for her the song is a metaphor about revolution, "It's about a goal that seems so far away for the people the character runs into, but she knows in the distance that there is this olive tree…and will wander far to get there. Revolution is necessary and possible -- and we can see and bring to life the basis and the inklings of what a new society looks like."
A new volunteer at RB -- "first day on the job" -- gets up and plays his guitar. I pass by the table of visitors from Indianapolis, and one of the women smiles and says: "This is not just any bookstore."
To you, our sustainers: a late-winter and warm thanks for your continuing support for this "not just any bookstore."
We've embarked on Women's History Month with an exciting line-up of authors and speakers, including Hope Jahren reading from her widely acclaimed memoir Lab Girl, and law scholar Dorothy Roberts, author of the influential Killing the Black Body.
We're expanding our book selections. Most important, we're doing all we can to meet the great need of this moment--including providing the books and in-depth programs that dig into fascism, especially the roots of the fascist regime of Trump-Pence. This is programming you will not find anywhere else.
To fill this responsibility, we must increase our sustainers from 65 to 100 in the next few weeks, and raise funds to get the word out. Please join us in these efforts. You can contact me or Jane Sloan here at 212-691-3345.
We'd love to hear from you. And for those who haven't been to the store for a while…drop by.
For the Staff of Revolution Books
To understand the roots and dynamics of the Trump-Pence regime, explore these two pieces by the revolutionary leader Bob Avakian: