BROOKLYN, NY, December 19 — “Asian, Latin, black and white; to fight racism, we must unite!” was a chant among 800 high school students attending our second annual anti-racist assembly. It centered on the theme of the “Jena 6” and students fighting back. Members of Progressive Labor Party — understanding that racism is a crucial weapon in the capitalist arsenal against the working class — see one way of building the anti-racist fight is organizing mass assemblies in the school to spread our ideas.
The assembly was exciting from start to finish, with original poetry, a skit about battling racism, some great speeches linking past struggles to today and lively routines by cheerleaders and steppers. It called on students not only to wear the Jena 6 button (see insert) but to become active in the fight against racism. The high point was a slam poet’s poem opposing the criminalization of students in the schools. It really hit home as students are increasingly treated like suspects and criminals.
The main lesson: always rely on the students and staff, especially the students. Everyone came through in a big way. Students had been meeting daily for over a month to plan every aspect of the assembly, from the program, the lighting, the music and the ushers to, most importantly, the message. We had lively discussions about the nature of racism, its history and what to do every day to challenge it.
A few teachers lent their support and attended all the discussions and planning meetings. Others were very enthusiastic about the program, thanking us for doing it.
But clearly, the students led this activity, armed with much determination and understanding. It was followed a week later by a debate in the cafeteria based on the Lerone Bennett article, “The Road Not Taken.”
We’ve taken some important steps, especially to make racism a mass issue. Our sharp assembly was even better received than last year’s program. Nationalism was minimal in organizing the assembly, but the administration’s fear was evident. One weakness was the failure to link racism here to the U.S. rulers’ imperialist wars which use racism to win GI’s to kill their class brothers and sisters in Iraq and Afghanistan
Those who run the school are afraid of our students and of PLP’s communist ideas. They understand their power and know that we can be a spark to lead rebellion. Our job is to continue this fight, explain the class nature of racism and our solution — and always rely on the working class!