A-Zone of our own

(Dis) Connection was “a networking journal for radical collectives and infoshops.” The second issue was written by Chicagoans, and was largely about the Autonomous Zone Infoshop, a collectively run space that operated in the northwest side of Chicago for over ten years in five of its own storefronts and in the back room of another Collective’s space. The words “Left Bank donated $50.00 to assist in our goal of one Uzi per A-Zone member” on the inside cover of the November ‘94 issue instantly sparked my interest. Left Bank Books is a Collectively run, Leftist bookstore in Seattle which has been going since 1973. Successive issues were done in turn by the various cities that had collectives that were part of the project. The other Collectives were also Infoshop/radical community space Collectives that were maintaining storefronts, and thus shared common concerns about interpersonal relationships, gentrification, if paying rent to keep a space going made sense, and what not. I’d only discovered this journal when my comrade, ex-A-Zoner Rachel A., lent me two copies to help with my research for the A-Zone Essay Project. Networking with a radical organization that has been able to keep going for so long is a great opportunity, and journals are a great way to do so for people who can’t make a trip to Seattle or whatever other cities have been able to maintain such long term spaces such as May Day Books which has been going in Minneapolis since 1975.

I would Love to help try to organize a New Connections journal for Punk and/or Collective Houses, Infoshops, and other radical spaces and projects. The fact that we can use the Internet to easily distribute the journal, and allow various Collectives and independent organizers to print an appropriate number of copies and save money on shipping and share the printing costs are just two of the reasons why we can have a similar project now that could go really well. I would like to use a similar format where cities take turns publishing issues to share about the trials and tribulations in the Anti-State of their local movements, without airing too much dirty laundry. Maybe we can have a list serve for that! I would also greatly appreciate input from people who were involved with (Dis) Connection. Articles in the second issue such as “Against Half-Assed Race and Class Theory and Practice” by Ken Wong, “Gentrifuckation and White Frontier Collectives” and “On Boys In Collectives” were somewhat painful reminders about how many current Leftist activists in general, and participants in the Infoshop Movement in particular are pretty good at re-inventing faulty wheels. Bringing back these past discussions and insights is a large part of the point of that project.

When asked to be on a panel about “Zines & Libraries” at Chicago ‘Zine Fest in 2010 when I was doing the research, I made a point in inviting Ken Wong and bringing the two copies of (Dis) Connection with me, and talking about how Wicker Park was still 70% Latin@ at the time the A-Zone was there according to the journal. I brought this up while talking about the current gentrification of Pilsen, for anyone there who still might not be taking it seriously.

In the other issue of the journal I was able to check out, #3, Winter 95, one particular article stood out to me, “A-ZONE!? WHAT THE fuck?!?” The article is mostly an analysis of the discussion and its follow up, and a larger one was produced as a pamphlet, Existentialist Blues. I would Love to see a copy, and possibly include it as an appendix to a future edition of the project, or a new one. In an era of so-called “social networking” websites, these journals were a real challenge to get a hold of, and I’m sure I would have read them repeatedly if they were new, and that they would have spurred even more discussions than these old issues have recently.

It was also fascinating to see Food Not Bombs in Chicago declared dead forever. There were three different neighborhood chapters going strong when I was reading the journal years later! The death of the Earth First! Movement was also pondered in this 1990s journal, showing how we can often despair when there still is hope. The networking that came formally out of the journal culminated in Active Resistance, a series of events that were held in Chicago in opposition to the Democratic National Convention that met there in 1996. We had an Active Resistance banner hanging on the wall in the main room of the Bucktown space the whole time I was in the Collective, and the events were the stuff of local legend to me.

I had started the A-Zone Essay Project while volunteering for a space in El Barrio Pilsen, Chicago which had opened to the public as the Sowing Circle in the fall of 2008, and slowly changed to the Lichen Lending Library then La Biblioteca Popular del Barrio by the fall of 2009. I mentioned the A-Zone a great deal in meetings there, and was asked many questions which gave me the idea to put some of the history and lessons learned into print for people not involved with La Biblioteca, but other similar projects. As I’ve traveled the country since then, I’ve shared the ‘zine, The Autonomous Zone Infoshop: The A-Zone & a Decade of Anarchy in Chicago, which came out of the project, with volunteers, collective members and/or hangers-around at such projects as the Dry River Radical Resource Center, the Long Haul Infoshop, and the Taala Hooghan Infoshop. I’ve made a point of making the ‘zine available for free on zinelibrary.info where it can be read online easily or printed out.

Right now I’m mostly involved with the Taala Hooghan Infoshop in Flagstaff, Arizona, and the Collective is currently updating their 2010 DISORIENTATION GUIDE for students, which they’ve made available for free on their website, another great format which I first became familiar with while hanging around the Madison Infoshop in Wisconsin. There has been talk about making a state-wide Disorientation Guide for some time, and after I wrote the first draft of this article, there has been some talk here of making the it the first issue of this journal!

If you are interested in supporting this project, I can be reached at alextheweaver at yahoo dot com.