I have a souvenir of the Bulls championship. It's a copy of the Revolutionary Worker newspaper, the voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party. On the cover is a picture of Chiang Ching, the recently deceased widow of Mao Tse-tung.
I bought it at the victory rally. It cost $1. The guy who sold it to me was standing on the corner of Michigan and Jackson, a white guy with a beard and a T-shirt that had Mao's big face on the front and "Mao More Than Ever" on the back. He stood among the shouting capitalist opportunists selling their T-shirts and newspapers and anything else that could hold a Bulls logo and handed me a flyer entitled "West Siders Celebrate With Festival of the Oppressed."
The flyer said a lot of things. It was on both sides of a page, single-spaced. But basically it said that the looting, rock throwing, and other raucous revelry on the west side was really a "poor people's press conference," a spontaneous eruption of revolutionary fervor against capitalist oppression. "The powers even use the game of basketball to promote their own interests," it said. "They hold up awesome stars like Michael Jordan as 'proof' of the tired old lie that with hard work and determination anyone can make it out of the ghetto.
"The underlying weakness of the whole rotten system is revealed when even the victory of a sports team shows the deep class divisions.ÉThe outbreaks on the north, south and west sides show the cracks and fissures which can break open...providing the openings for a torrent of revolutionary struggle."
The guy in the Mao shirt conferred briefly with a skinny white guy with a stubbly beard and a red bandanna wrapped around his head. Then he headed up Jackson while the guy with the bandanna took over the corner.
"Fuck this racist decision Daley made!" the guy with the bandanna shouted. "Why couldn't the celebration be held on the west side? What's he afraid of? We've got to tear down some apartheid walls in Chicago."
A few people took flyers. Most passed him by.
"Hey, check this out," he said. "Why couldn't the celebration be held on the west side? It's right to rebel."
A white guy in a Bulls shirt stopped and looked at him as if he wanted to make some crack. But he thought better of it and moved on.
"Why couldn't the celebration be held on the west side?"
A fat black woman said, "It couldn't be on the west side because they burnt it down!"
I asked the guy in the bandanna why he was doing this.
"This really concentrates on how polarized shit is. Here you've got this playground for the rich, and around it these projects that are like prisons. The rich people buy $500 plane tickets to go to the game."
A guy with an empty gym bag at his feet shouted, "Get your Bud Style T-shirt, last one in the city, right here!"
The guy with the bandanna held out a flyer to a black woman who shook her head and kept walking. Another woman folded hers into a neat square and put it in her purse.
"Why can't oppressed people celebrate? What, only people on the lakefront can celebrate? It's right to rebel."
A black woman read a few lines and dropped the flyer on the ground among dozens of others discarded around her feet.
The guy with the Mao shirt came back and said to me, "What do you think of this?" He pointed to the flyer.
"You're the only ones not selling anything," I said.
"Actually..." he said, and that's when he pulled out the newspaper with Chiang Ching on the cover. "Do you know who she is?"
"Mao's widow," I said. "They say she killed herself."
"Don't believe it! If you believe that shit they told you about the Persian Gulf war, you'll believe she killed herself."
"It's really important to know what her life was all about. You won't hear about it from the regular press. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he said, with a salesman's passion that would have been the envy of the T-shirt peddlers around him.
So I gave him a buck. I thought, what the hell, maybe I could push my way up to the band shell and get Michael Jordan to autograph Chiang Ching.
The guy in the Mao shirt stepped out onto Jackson and started to work the crowd there. "We need more festivals of the oppressed," he said.