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Akwasi Evans
Clip 1: Transcript


Communist Party

AE: I would be doing research, and organizing. Organizing the community to go to protests and rallies, researching the back[ground], going to visit with these inmates. Everybody I mentioned, I went to visit, except for {George Merrick}, on death row, and interviewed them, as a reporter.   

At the time I was writing for The Daily World, which is a Communist Party Newspaper in America. I joined the CP USA in, I think, [19]75, [19]76. After being a part of the National Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression, (office noises in background) many of the members were Communists, including Angela Davis, and as I learned about the history of the Communist Party USA, and its background, I got to meet Gus Hall, I got to meet Henry Winston, who was a legend, and I learned that despite of what American propaganda was saying about it, when it came to human rights and civil rights, the Communists were more advanced than anybody in society. Case in point was the Scottsboro Boys, back in the 1930s. They were arrested for allegedly raping a white girl on the train, and it was clear that these thirteen boys were not guilty. Not even the NAACP would support them. Only the CP USA was there to fight for them and they were on the ground, in Birmingham, in Alabama, organizing in the community, [and] they were, the most instrumental group in the country in saving those guys’ lives. Then when I learned that people like Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Dubois, had been members, I was eager and enthusiastic to become a dialectical materialist. And that’s what brought me to Texas. In 1975, the National Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression sent me to Houston to cover an international woman’s convention led by Bella Abzug. And I went to cover it, I was going to write for the Daily World, and organize, also petitioning to put CP USA on the ballot because Hall was running for president, with Angela Davis as--

JR: President of?

AE: The United States. Angela Davis was running for Vice-President. And our job was to collect enough petitions to get them on the ballot. I had petitioned in Alabama, in Georgia, in Tennessee and Kentucky, and then they sent me down here. And, we were petitioning in Houston, and it started to rain. And I don’t know if you know much about Houston, [laughing], but, when they get really heavy rains, it can really flood. It flooded so bad that the people I was with, we drove around on the upper deck of Loop 610 for at least four or five hours. We could not get off. There was not one exit that wasn’t totally filled with water. So, when, crews finally got the water down enough for us to get out, they decided to send me to Austin, to organize here on the drag. And I worked with some people here who were in CP USA.

And I came here with the intention of staying just two years. I wanted to go to graduate school, applied to UT, was turned down. I was accepted at Texas Southern, and I went to TSU for a couple years working on a master’s degree in sociology. I accumulated thirty-three hours at Texas Southern, but, I was paying my own way, personal loans, and I ran out of money. I did everything but write my thesis, and I came back to Austin having not written my thesis because I was in debt, and got a job working for an insurance company. I stayed involved in the movement. I worked with the Black Citizens Task Force, the Brown Berets, I helped organize against police shootings. I was still a member of the CP USA, in fact, I was the president of the local chapter. And then around 1984, I resigned.

JR: From the CPA?

AE: Yeah. It had been brewing for a couple years. In 1982, when I was in graduate school, I went to some of my CP USA friends and said, look, I’m going to have to drop out of school, all I have to do is write this thesis and I’ll have my master’s. I can’t find any work. You know, I don’t mind working, I’ve been working all my life. This one Hispanic friend of mine who was an organizer for the bus union tried to get me on at his company. Couldn’t get me on, but he found that the CP USA from New York had just sent a young white guy down to organize 1099, which was the hospital worker’s union. And I had been a very effective organizer for years. I went and applied for that position, which would allow me to complete my master’s and stay in school. And he turned me down, because he only wanted white organizers. That’s when I began to realize that in spite of all its progressive ideology, the Communist Party was still composed of people. And communists were as racist as capitalists. I became disillusioned with the party once I was faced with that kind of racism from inside. And I’d also had problems in part because I had always been religious, and they used to laugh at me for praying, but I didn’t hide my religion. We’d be having a dinner or a lunch, and I’d have my head bowed, they’d be laughing [laughing]. I didn’t care. God was important to me, still is. And so, I got out.

 


Disclaimer:
“Oral Narrative as History.” Students received class credit for this work, and were under the supervision of Dr. Martha Norkunas, director of “The Project in Interpreting the Texas Past.”

Every effort has been made to transcribe the audio recordings exactly. On occasion a word, or phrase, was difficult to hear and this is indicated by a question mark in brackets.


Interviewee: 
Akwasi Evans

Interviewer: 
Jodi Relyea

Date of Interview: 
April 23, 2004

Place: 
Mr. Evan’s office at NOKOA, the Observer, Austin, Texas

Recording Format: 
MiniDisc Recorder

Transcriber: 
Jodi Relyea