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The Big Dance

July 3, 2009

I used to play in a park across the street from the county jail while growing up. I vividly remember (when I was really young) heavily armed policeman guarding those facilities. The pictures of state troopers with shotguns, on the covers of the local papers, burned into my memory. And the activity of so many government agencies surrounding the town.
I would learn later in life about the “Brinks Armored Car Robbery” and its connection to many radical organizations of the sixties and seventies. The images and memories of my childhood are from the change of venue of the trial of Judy Clark, David Gilbert, and Sekou Odinga to the county courthouse across the street from my swingset.

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One night, a couple months ago, Josh was looking through the window of a new used bookstore in Brooklyn and pointed out a title on the shelf, The Big Dance. He told me it was about the failed armored car robbery by the BLA in the early eighties, and it immediately sparked my interest and I purchased it the next day.
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The Big Dance: the untold story of Kathy Boudin and the terrorist family that committed the Brinks robbery murders by John Castellucci is an interesting book written a couple of years after the robbery and trials. Castellucci was a journalist in the county where the events took place and he gives a very detailed account of the robbery and history leading up to it. Castellucci wanted to write a book that would display the motivations by providing a biography, of sorts, of each of person involved.
He follows the political development of everyone from Kuwasi Balagoon to Marylin Jean Buck, and gives his analysis of the inner dynamics of the various groups.
There is a lot of radical history from the 60s and 70s that I encountered for the first time in The Big Dance. He illustrates the involvement of these individuals in groups like the May 19th Communist Organization, Republic of New Africa, The Black Liberation Army(BLA) The Weather Underground Organization, and the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee
And talks about events like the occupation and takeover of Lincoln Hospital, in the Bronx, by the Young Lords and other radical groups. This led to a drug detoxification unit being created to serve the neighborhood which, at the time, was suffering a severe heroin epidemic. It was in this program that Mutulu Shakur and other Panther 21 defendants would volunteer and help junkies kick their habits with alternative methods, such as acupuncture. The detox center would be a main component of actualizing the radical politics of many involved in the expropriations, and continued at BAAANA (Black Acupuncture Advisory Association of North America) after being ousted from the hospital. It also explores the jailbreak of Assata Shakur in detail.
The book is practically a primer (for the 1980’s) on living underground. It illustrates how the various expropriations were achieved, the materials they used, and the networks that sustained them.
Even though the writer expresses that he is attempting to be unbiased, his judgments come forth when discussing the politics and development of each individual involved. He writes with clear disdain on the idealism and anti-racism of the white revolutionaries in the group, Kathy Boudin receiving most of the direct criticisms.
The information in this book is pretty invaluable and hard to find elsewhere, just be ready for some problematic politics and perspectives of the author.

Anti-capitalismCulture & MediaGlobal SolidarityPolice & PrisonsSocial Movements

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