Friday, February 17, 2017

Ron Jones And The Movement At Chemeketa Community College

I was fortunate to catch Ron Jones' performance of The Movement:50 Years of Love and Struggle  yesterday at Chemeketa Community College. Jones put together a powerful acting and and visual presentation on civil rights movement history, simply but movingly told through the eyes of a Black man working his way up, preachers, an activist, a prisoner, the son of the Black man working his way up, and even a Klansman. If you lived through any of the events described in Jones' fifty-year history of the civil rights movement it might have been difficult to keep your eyes dry or stifle that catch in your throat as you watched his performance; at least it was difficult for me to do this. And if you're young or not from the U.S., the presentation pointed you towards what you need to check out and learn in the most helpful of ways.

Ron Jones is a more-than-talented actor. It takes special skills to put together a video presentation of fifty years of political and cultural struggle and to break that down to its most human and necessary components. It also takes special skills to make history human and accessible. Jones is warm, human and engaging and his work and his methods of work are exactly what is needed to give us a starting point for teaching movement history in places like Salem.

I don't know if Jones has studied Dario Fo or Paulo Freire, Howard Zinn or the Living Theatre, but his project takes something from what they did and applies it to civil rights movement history. There is something of Gramsci there as well since The Movement really sees history from the point of view of the organic intellectual. Jones is telling us something about ourselves which we may already sense but not know or understand in its full details. And after we engage with The Movement it becomes our responsibility to transcend fifty years of history by owning it and building on it.

This is a presentation which should have special value to the young people stepping into politics and protest for the first time. We need to answer every one of their questions and be accountable and helpful to them. Jones' work will raise plenty of questions.

If I have any doubts here they form around a legitimate disagreement I have with Jones about how much of a pass whites get. He's more generous in his views than I am, more of a humanist and more forgiving. This leads him to an emphasis on class which I am not as quick to embrace as he is. My Marxism builds on intersectionality within the working-class and the class struggle. His Christianity and humanism are more grounded in a sense of democratic norms, fairness and evolution. He needs to put "firsts" in his presentation (as in the first Black astronaut) and show interracial cooperation because he needs to show progress in this society. I come to this more interested in the vanguard role of the Black working-class. Whatever our differences, I know that I still have much to learn from Ron Jones and I want to see more of his work. I want to live in that moment of collectively discovered history and movement which he helps to make real, and I want others to live there as well.

Linda M. Ringo-Reyna and others at Cheemeketa Community College who worked to make this event happen gave our community a great gift. We need to thank them and support them.

Ron Jones is on the road with his presentation. Make a point of finding him and attending one of his events.


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