on 11 January 2012
The first time I visited an Occupy camp in the first month of the movement, I was completely mesmerized. Occupy Dallas had what seemed to me to be an enormous camp, an endless colorful sea of tents bustling with optimism and energy. Almost immediately I got to be a part of a HUGE march and really discover firsthand what was so special about the Occupy Movement. Across the camp, people seemed to be thoughtful, active, informed and energized. I eagerly absorbed their enthusiasm but understood instantly that I could not contribute to the conversations that were going on across the camp with the level of expert knowledge that many others seemed to have. Instead I listened and tried to understand everything I could and tried to remember what I needed to learn more about. I wanted to know more. And so I made a list of books that I thought were directly relevant to the Occupy Movement that I wanted to read and began the process almost immediately. Two months later (alright, I may be a slow reader) I’m four books down the list and ready to begin BOOK CLUB WEDNESDAY. Every Wednesday (at the very least for the next five weeks) I’ll be reviewing one of those books.
There is something that happened in America in the 1960s and 1970s that gets no mention in classrooms across American schools. This thing, this important event in history gets very few mentions in history books. In fact, it is this strange media cover-up that is exactly why I turned to this book (and other autobiographies of black revolutionaries) for the real stories of what happened during the great insurgency led by black leaders that swept this country in the 60s and 70s. The United States backlash to this movement was so severe that hundred of revolutionaries from the Black Liberation Movement lost their lives (much more than today’s Occupy Movement thus far) and MANY MANY more have ended up living out their lives behind bars. Among the real survivors of this movement are Angela Davis (whose autobiography I will review later) and arguably Assata Shakur. Through powerful writing and poetry, ASSATA tells the story of the horrors that Shakur experienced throughout her time as a prisoner of the United States. It also paints a grim picture of growing up in the 50s as a black girl in America. Additionally it gives insight into socialist ideology and how it relates to black communities. After escaping from prison, Assata now lives in Cuba and the United States continues to have a $1 MILLION bounty on her head. She continues to occasionally write essays from Cuba.
This book has fundamentally changed the way I see white racism. To see how disgustingly overt, extreme and endorsed by the United States violent racism has been as recently as the 1970s (and undoubtedly still today) has been a revelatory experience for me. Additionally, this book is full of stories and information that can help the current revolution refine tactics. After reading this book I understand that the Occupy Movement MUST look at the Black Liberation Movement to emulate its successes and avoid its failures. Read it.