Friday the 8th of August. The opening event of the Break the Chains conference, it was a beautiful day in Eugene Oregon, at the Lutheran Church and a bevy of revolutionary minded people poured into this small space to hear speakers like Safiya Bukhari and Ward Churchill, and music by Jim Page. Around two hundred people from various places across the country arrived to hear the opening speakers. Sadly, we shortly learned that Safiya could not attend the conference due to illness and her replacement for the opening ceremony was Chrystos.
Chrystos is a Native american activist and author. She brought out elements of what it is like to be an indigenous person and how they are oppressed. She used anecdotes about police harassment from her personal life to illustrate that no matter the amount of oppression, we must continue struggling because one day we will overcome. She spoke at length about women in prison and the prison industrial complex, political prisoners and some facts surrounding their cases. She was visibly affected by the amount of people that came out to support this conference and the struggle of political prisoners and all prisoners, including the ones that arent not behind the bars. It was an inspiration to hear her words and her personal struggle.
Shortly after Chrystos spoke Jim Page came up to sing a few songs.
After Jim Page sang Ward Churchill, another Native american author activist and "all around ass kicker" (as the BTC schedule notes) stood up to close the opening ceremony with his reflections and passion towards eradicating the imperialists and colonizers from his native land. He also went on at length about the Black Panther Party, the Black Liberation Army, and the American Indian Movement, and their struggles as colored people. He used comparisons between political prison sentences of colored people to non-political prison sentences of non-colored people, and made it clear to everyone in the room that the system of government and control in this country is protecting its own ass by keeping the political revolutionaries locked up and silenced as best possible. Towards the end of his monolgue he began asking the crowd questions.
He asked questions about change. Specifically how we plan to change the evils of the system that surrently rules over us, he asked us the definition of freedom and if we really felt free. He demonstrated that we were not free by any means, and that by the definition of freedom that we agreed upon (the absense of regulation) we were actually the least free people in all of the world. He demonstrated that NO aspect of out lives is "free" because all of it is regulated in some way or another. Some people challenged this and Ward explained each action and how it is regulated (going as far as bodily functions.)
After the question he went on to illustrate to the people in the crowd that working with this system to change it would not work, that there is NO REFORM in this corrupt system. The only solution to the problem of our oppressors is to over throw them BY WHATEVER MEANS NECESSARY. His closing comments were very impassioned and I do not remember the exact words clearly enough to do them properly. Needless to say, the crowd was very turned on by the closing comments and he left to a roar of applause and a standing ovation, it was one of the more moving speeches I have ever heard.