Radical spaces – Islands of tenderness

Compiled by Jesse D. Palmer

Here are some new radical spaces as well as some corrections to the Radical Contact list published in the 2018 Organizer. Our existence, our resistance — it only really matters on the local level. It is inspiring that so many people nurture DIY community projects against all odds that serve as islands of cooperation, tenderness and humanity in this soulless capitalist world.

Slingshot has an on-line version of the contact list (slingshot.tao.ca/contacts), but because of a series of computer hassles, we have been unable to update it or fix errors for almost a year (!) We receive lots of emails pointing out errors in the on-line list — for instance the entire continent of Europe disappeared — but we can’t do anything and we’re sorry. We are trying to create a new on-line radical contact list at our new website slingshotcollective.org which we thought would be easy, but 6 months after buying a new domain name and server space, it still isn’t working and it just points to the old broken-down website. So anyway, let’s all play 1980s — get the 2018 organizer and look it up on paper!

Slingshot has received an increasing number of emails asking us to take particular spots off the contact list because they are not safe spaces to women, queers and/or people of color. We don’t want to include such spaces. But it isn’t simple for us to make decisions about de-listing a space based on a single email because there are legitimate internal splits within communities when some people reject a space while others do not. Case in point is 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley, a punk club that faced a boycott a couple of years ago. At close range, it really seemed like there were various sides of the story and de-listing Gilman St. wouldn’t have been a good move. It is also important to recall that the FBI has used single-source allegations to engineer splits within radical groups such as the Black Panthers. There are security culture concerns with acting on information without checking it out carefully.

Because we are a tiny collective in Berkeley with few if any resources to check out any information we receive as an email, we’re still working out what to do when we receive tips like this. We did remove a few spaces from the 2018 Organizer after we contacted them. For the moment, we’re going to print reports here (see below) and if there are folks in the town mentioned who can give us more info, that would help us figure out what to do in August, 2018 when we publish the 2019 organizer.

Here’s the latest info as of mid-January:

Flora y Tierra – Long Beach, CA

A community space “prioritizing QTBIPOC” that “honors all of life, our fungal & plant ancestors, all the seen and unseen.” 811 E. 7th St, Long Beach CA 90813

On Pop of the World DIY Collective – Greensboro, NC

They host shows and have a recording studio. 1333 Grove St. Greensboro NC 27403 336-383-9332 onpopstudios.com

Otto’s Abode – Wanakena, NY

A community-based experimental art center with a zine store. 6 Hamele St. Wanakena, NY 13695 (mail: PO Box 1) 315-848-3008 ottosadobe.org.

Comic Girl Coffee – Charlotte, NC

An all-vegan, queer-worker-owned coop cafe and comic shop. 1224 Commercial Ave. Charlotte, NC 28205 704-456-9276 comicgirlcoffee.com

Hasta Muerte coffee – Oakland, CA

A people of color collectively run, worker-owned coffee shop with a bookstore. 2703 Fruitvale Ave., Oakland, CA 94601 510 689 2922 hastamuertecoffee.com

South City Art Supply – St. Louis, MO

An independent art supply store and bookshop with politics and theory books that hosts workshops and an art gallery. 1926 Cherokee St. St. Louis, MO 63118 314-884-8345.

General Store Co-op – La Jolla, CA

A student-run coop that hosts events and has a hangout/studying space for students. University of California San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, 0323 F Student Center, La Jolla, CA 92037 858-450-3080.

Rincon Zapatista – Mexico City, MX

A shop supporting the Zapatistas by selling goods and publications that hosts events. Calle Zapotecas no. 7, Obreros, Mexico City. Near Isabel la Católica y Doctores Metro stop. Tel. 57614236.

Autonome Wohnfabrik – Salzburg, Austria

A radical house project. Poschingerstrasze 10, 5020 Salzburg, Austria

Planning a visit to South Dakota?

Drea emailed and suggested adding these spaces to the radical contact list. They are mostly businesses so “maybe”.

• Breadroot Natural Foods Co-op – 100 East Blvd N, Rapid City, SD 57701 605-348-3331 breadroot.com.

• Ernie November’s (record store) 1319 W. Main St, Rapid City, SD 57701 605-341-0768

• Black Hills Vinyl (record store) 622 Saint Joseph St, Rapid City, SD 57701 605-791-4040 blackhillsvinyl.com.

Planning a visit to Mexico?

Pez emailed these suggestions:

• In Mexico City visit Tianguis Cultural El Chopo flea market, which has happened every Saturday for 30 years and has a well established anarchist/antifascist area at the north end where they sell vegan sandwiches, literature, zines, patches, etc.

• You can visit Cafeteria Beneficio de Abajo at Av de los Insurgentes Sur 228, Roma Norte, Mexico City.

• Check out TierrAdentro, Real de Guadalupe 24, San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas.

Stores that now stock the 2018 Organizer & seem interesting

• Green Noise Records 720 N. Killingsworth St. Portland, OR 97217 503-208-3751

• Urge Palette Art Supply 3635 9th St. Riverside, CA 92501 951-782-0414

Changes to the 2018 Organizer

• Boxcar Books in Bloomington, Indiana closed. They existed for 16 years and posted a thoughtful closing statement on their website that is worth a look. (See the very end of this post for the full text.)

• The Rad-ish Collective in Boulder, CO moved. The new address is: 465 S 39th St. Boulder, CO 80305.

• 1919 in Fort Worth, TX had to close, but they are working on re-opening at the same location. Contact them before you drop in.

• We got a report that Backspace in Fayetteville, AR is not a safe place for women, POC and queer people and should not be listed in the organizer. As noted above, Slingshot is trying to figure out how to handle such reports and requests. Send us info.

• La Furia de Las Calles in Mexcio no longer exists.

• Centro de Informacion Anarquista CEDIA in Mexico no longer exists.

• We got an email indicating that all the spaces we have listed in Taiwan are “normal places, not radical … similar to any capital-hungry business.” See above – it is hard for Slingshot to verify this information. The emailer suggested the Neng-sheng-xing Factory in Tainan, which appears to be an eco/rad hostel that has an art gallery, hosts events and provides free space for NGOs. The address is in Chinese but there are directions at ffffactory.blogspot.tw or search NSXFactory on fuckin-facebook (vomit). Even NSXFActory might be about to move, according to the email we got.


Boxcar books
The climate and landscape in Bloomington has been changing rapidly. This is clear on any drive or walk around town, particularly around Kirkwood, the Square, and in the areas off the B-line trail. Massive luxury condo developments, the bank and future hotel on Kirkwood across from the Monroe County Public Library, the Hyatt Place hotel, and further projects off Kirkwood and elsewhere are constructed with a particular population in mind. It is not for those of us struggling to find ever-elusive affordable housing near our jobs or schools, and it’s surely not the numerous community members who are left homeless without a year-round shelter: temporary shelter or places of gathering set up by people experiencing homelessness are regularly attacked and evicted by police, often to make room for developments like the “Artisan Row” houses on the B-Line off Dodds, Echo Park development South of Country Club Rd, and the forthcoming Switchyard Park. We saw this more recently with the clearing of People’s Park’s homeless population by the police, which coincided with both increased surveillance downtown and the construction of new micro-apartments on the site of the Bloomington Bagel building overlooking People’s Park.
Boxcar Books and Community Center has stood throughout all of this. It’s no secret that brick and mortar bookstores have struggled, and folded, in an increasingly digitized age. We’ve watched independent bookstores and infoshops around the country, including Bloomington’s own Howard’s, close in recent years. Rising rent and a Kirkwood increasingly geared toward techies and wealthy students and their families did not bode well for an independent, radical, volunteer-run collective bookstore.
Boxcar has existed as a bookstore in Bloomington for 16 years — occupying our current location on 6th St. for 9 years — but our role as a community center was often backgrounded. In the last couple years we have focused on promoting ourselves as a place to gather, and often simply exist, in an increasingly policed and surveilled downtown. As the wider community has struggled with homelessness, addiction, and hyper-policing of the poor, so has Boxcar Books. In addition to serving as a hub for marginalized and underrepresented literature and radical thought, we, to our knowledge, continue to have the only open-access bathroom in the area. We offer free coffee, wifi, device charging, a place to engage with ideas and meet, and a warm space to rest or hang out for anyone, regardless of their background, housing situation, or financial standing.
At times, this led to a struggle to establish healthy boundaries as we worked to offer space for all people, including those experiencing homelessness, addiction, and mental illness. While our dwindling collective struggled every month to raise enough money to pay our exorbitant rent and bills and combat the structural decay of the building, we also struggled with the reality of what creating open space actually entails. As the downtown area was transformed, Boxcar became a locus of the city’s refusal to deal with those social problems highlighted by development. We struggled to be able to continue to offer space for those people who most desperately needed it, while still having a store that felt accessible and enjoyable for customers and groups holding events. It was a learning process, and we did not always succeed. Even with this constant crisis over the last two years, we felt that it was incredibly important to continue to offer what little we could: an open community space to all. We understand that poverty, housing insecurity, and, to a large extent, addiction are the manifestations of those issues highlighted by the books and zines we carry. Oppression and gentrification are more than ideas – they live and breathe, they transform towns and they quash independent thought.
While we ultimately learned how to balance the needs of the bookstore with those of the community center, the strain put on our volunteers during the heightened cleansing of Kirkwood was immense and many left. The extreme pressure we felt from our landlord, the police, and, most fiercely, our neighbors to make our space off-limits to people without homes, combined with our own emotional ability to handle constant crises, made it hard for us to focus on what we love about running a radical collective bookstore.
When Boxcar started in 2002, we paid $350 in rent for a storefront at 3rd and Washington. We were able to expand our collection and even start renting the storefront next door during those years. Then, in 2008, the building was demolished to make way for the new downtown bus station, and we were forced to find a new location to house both Boxcar and Pages to Prisoners. We found a new space closer to IU campus, and our total rent for Boxcar and Pages to Prisoners nearly quadrupled overnight. Since then it has steadily gone up, and we are now paying 725% more rent than we paid 15 years ago. We now pay more rent than Bluestockings infoshop in Manhattan, NY. Our sales, and bookstore sales in general, could not and cannot compete with that staggering increase. We’ve definitely had some good times, but for many years we have been burning through savings to keep the space going. We got to the point a year or two ago where we could no longer afford to buy new books. Our only new titles were from donations. Even as we sold titles from our shelves, we could not afford to restock the books we were selling because every dollar earned was being spent to pay for rent, utilities, and supplies to keep the place open, leading to a situation where our sections have been shriveling over time. This then fed the problem because having less new and interesting titles, and a constantly shrinking collection, made the store less exciting to browse and led to even slower sales.
Prior to our renovation of the space in 2016, which followed a protracted hunt for a new location, we knew that staying afloat at our current location would be a struggle, but with downtown rapidly changing and prices increasing, our rental options were very limited. We came close to renting a new exciting space, but at the last moment it was sold to an “anonymous investor.” Out of options and not able to move, we decided to continue our lease with an increase in rent. It’s not news that bookstores have been feeling the heat to stay relevant in an ever digitized world. We have been told countless of times by shoppers that, while it was easier and cheaper to get books off of Amazon, they come to Boxcar to support us and our mission. That’s a wonderful thing and we wholeheartedly thank those people, but we also see which way the wind has been blowing.
Unfortunately, our declining sales, constantly rising rent and bills, and a neighborhood that no longer has space for places like Boxcar has finally caught up to us. To say that we have tried everything we could to remain open would be an understatement. From hosting numerous public fundraising events, online fundraising campaigns, special store sales, and adjustment of store hours to looking for new buildings and new partnerships, we have all but exhausted our ability to dream and feel inspired by the project we have committed years to. Boxcar and Pages to Prisoners volunteers have spent their own money buying supplies, sometimes even covering bills, in an attempt to buy us more time. After well over a year of operating at complete scarcity, we feel we are in a financial place that can’t be recovered from in the long term without a $20-30k investment in new books, new computers and software, and funds to pay off and leave our unaffordable rental space. We also simply lack the volunteer power to make good on these dreams. It is easy to get folks excited about helping out with a new venture; it’s much harder to get those people to stick around for years to do the hard work that has to be done to keep a project open, particularly when that work is all volunteer.
It is remarkable that the people that started Boxcar in 2001 were able to pass the reins off to new volunteers after only a few years. So many different groups of volunteers have come and gone and somehow the project has persisted. While we feel a definite sadness and weight at being the last group of volunteers, we also hope folks will take their sadness at the ending of this particular Bloomington place and not simply say “Oh well, Bloomington is changing,” but fight for a different kind of change – change for the better.
We understand, in a world that is forcing people to become ever more isolated, that nothing can quite take away from the charm of meeting people face to face in a physical space. We have valued being able to offer a place where people could exchange ideas freely and gather to discuss the storm that is the current political climate. Our most valued memories will be witnessing the awe young folks have in discovering zines and radical literature for the first time, being able to host outdoor and indoor movie screenings, readings, and political meetings, and, most importantly, being a place that strived to be a voice for prisoners. We understand the necessity of spaces like this to exist and hope another will again in Bloomington. Thank you to everyone who has supported us financially, materially, emotionally – you may not know it, but often your support came at a time when we couldn’t have continued without it. Our future projects may look different, but we’re not going anywhere. Whether under the moniker of Boxcar or not, we’ll be fighting for change and finding new places to meet. We hope to find you there.

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