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Politics, Activism, and Mutual Aid

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  • Dan Clore
    News & Views for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo “When people realize we are an anarchist group, which I don’t think anybody
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 29, 2012
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      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

      “When people realize we are an anarchist group, which I don’t think
      anybody can ignore with our zines and banners, we explain to them what
      the word anarchy means,” Shiller said. “A lot of people say they feel
      the same way; they just never labeled it under anarchy."

      http://www.newschoolfreepress.com/2012/11/28/politics-activism-and-mutual-aid/
      November 28, 2012 6:48 am
      Politics, Activism and Mutual Aid
      by Kayla Goggans
      Brooklyn’s In Our Hearts Tries to Redefine a Movement

      In Our Hearts hosts several “free stores” in Brookyn and now one on
      Staten Island on Fridays. This free store was open from noon to six at
      Herbert Von King Park in Bedford-Stuyvesant. (Henry Miller)

      Every Friday — weather permitting — a free shop pops up on the corner of
      Marcy Avenue and Lafayette at Von King Park in Brooklyn’s
      Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. Residents are welcome to donate goods
      and take goods at no cost. While passersbys look at the sidewalk with
      piles of neatly folded t-shirts and pants, bed sheets, and crates
      stuffed with old books and magazines, they cannot help but notice
      something that appears to be more than just a donation center. Some
      volunteers huddle underneath the white tent to stay warm, some help to
      fold clothes, and others hula hoop by crates of books. Just behind the
      folded clothes stands a table with stacks of anarchist zines, are two
      red banners hanging over head that read “ANARCHY” in hand-painted white
      letters.

      This sometimes weekly event is hosted by In Our Hearts, an anarchist
      “network” founded in 2005 by Thadaeus Umpster. The name “In Our Hearts”
      is from a quote by José Buenaventura Durruti Dumange, cofounder of the
      armed anarchist group Los Justicieros during the Spanish Civil War and a
      coordinator in the resistance against Francisco Franco; “We carry a new
      world here, in our hearts.”

      Anarchy has a long and storied past mostly known for a violent
      reputation and assassinations of a famous industrialist and even the
      president of the United States at the turn of the last century. But now,
      people like Umpster want to remake anarchy into a more socially accepted
      and viable mold. Community is the new mantra. One corner of Bed-Stuy is
      the testing ground.

      *****

      The term “anarchy” comes from the ancient Greek word, “anarchia,”
      meaning “without a leader or ruler.”

      Ramesses Kane is a 20-year-old social inquiry student at Eugene Lang
      College who considers himself an anarchist. “Anarchy means to me what
      the word was intended to communicate — being ‘without rulers.’ It is
      one of the most beautiful expressions of freedom — freedom from
      economic, political and cultural oppression,” Kane said. “At the same
      time, it means comprehending the reasonable and necessary limits of that
      freedom insofar as one is responsible to his or her community on a local
      and global scale.”

      Notable 19th century anarchist thinkers, such as Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
      claimed famously, “Anarchy is order without power.”

      It was during the turn of the last century that anarchist groups began
      to justify violent attacks. The slogan “Propaganda by Deed” became
      popular. Numerous assassinations and violent acts were traced back to
      different anarchists. On July 23, 1892, anarchist activist Alexander
      Berkman attempted to assassinate American industrialist Henry Clay
      Frick. There was also the assassination of President William McKinley at
      the hands of anarchist Leon Czolgosz, who shot him in the abdomen on
      September 6, 1901. Two domestic policy acts, the Immigration Act of 1903
      and the Immigration Act of 1918, passed, both of which suppressed
      anarchists from entering the nation. Anarchists were labeled as a
      domestic terrorist group in the U.S. and in 1919 were investigated by
      the FBI.

      However, David Plotke, professor of political science at The New School
      for Social Research, says that despite what people think, violence as a
      means to an end was only ever a small part of anarchism.

      “Some of them decide that acts of violence against property and then
      against persons are necessary to shock the community into recognizing
      the need for deep change,” Plotke said. “So some anarchists become
      violent, not because anarchist doctrine in principle requires violence,
      but because repeated political failure leads them to imagine that
      violence will provide a way of exiting from their marginality.”

      In 2012, 111 years after the murder of an American president at the
      hands of an anarchist, In Our Hearts is disavowing the violence
      associated with their political beliefs.

      The idea behind the creation of In Our Hearts, as Umpster said, was to
      foster a strong and positive community between different anarchist
      groups — which have been historically, politically, and socially
      disenfranchised.

      Rebekah Shiller, a member of In Our hearts, responded to the depiction
      of anarchists as being a dangerous group. “We are not a violent network.
      Most anarchists are nonviolence advocates,” she said. “We have no desire
      to assassinate people, even though people out there think we are still a
      violent movement. Really, we just want to help people in need, and do it
      with no ulterior motive.”

      *****

      In Our Hearts founder Thadeaus Umpster (right) discussed books with a
      customer at the group’s “free store.” “There are a dozen or so active
      folks keeping the [free stores] open,” Umpster said. (Henry Miller)

      In 2007 In Our Hearts joined together with activist groups Food
      Not Bombs, North Bed-Stuy Cop Watch, and NYC Anarchist Black Cross
      Federation and acquired a storefront, calling it the 123 Space. The
      space was run by volunteers and funded by donation. While hosting events
      such as free food giveaways, and bike rides, it also had a library, a
      bike workshop station, and screen printing and sewing classes. Two years
      after it opened, they received an eviction notice and were forced to leave.

      In response to the eviction notice, they wrote a blog post directed to
      local Council Member Al Vann. “For those who might look at our appealing
      to an elected official as capitulation, we reply that we’re using a
      diversity of tactics,” the post said. “In no way are we resting our
      laurels, hoping and praying that some higher-up will take care of this.”

      Members of the group were convinced that the eviction was because of
      their political beliefs. For Umpster, who thinks of In Our Hearts as a
      positive neighborhood organization, this hit hard.

      “We are an anarchist group, but we are also a community group,” Umpster
      said.

      Coming to New York from Boston straight out of high school in 1999, he
      began to partake in protests in the city in 2000, around the time of the
      second Bush administration. He found a group of people with similar
      political stances through these protests. In Our Hearts was formed.

      “We were doing free markets, free events calendars and organizing, but
      making an official name for our group made it easier for people to join
      us.” Umpster said, straightening out his blue trucker hat. After
      squatting in the Bowery for a few months and then moving into the Bronx
      for a year, Umpster now resides in Bed-Stuy. He lives on Nostrand and
      Lafayette, only a block away from the current free store. “When I moved
      into Bed-Stuy, my neighbors already knew me because of the 123 Space,”
      he said.

      Rocco Fama, another In Our Hearts volunteer, explained the reasoning
      behind free stores. “We want to build a gift economy. That is our goal
      with the free store and the community dinners,” he said. A gift economy
      is one where people can bring items they no longer need, and take things
      they want or need, on a somewhat regular basis, creating a circulation
      of items replacing barter and market economies.

      The 123 Space caught the attention of Rebekah Shiller, an ex-high school
      Physics teacher and self-described anarchist, three years ago. Shiller,
      like many other members of In Our Hearts, leads a seemingly regular life
      in addition to being part of the anarchist group. After going to one of
      the community dinners, she became involved. Soon enough, she began
      hosting the dinners herself.

      While simultaneously disassociating itself from anarchism’s violent
      past, In Our Hearts is instead trying to help out others through public
      service.

      After Hurricane Sandy hit New York, In Our Hearts immediately began
      taking donations by bike over to the Occupy Sandy “headquarters” at the
      St. Luke and St. Matthew Church at 520 Clinton Avenue. They brought
      their donations along with their anarchy banner to the church.

      Jonathan, one of the organizers behind In Our Hearts’ “free stores,”
      posed behind the group’s information counter. (Henry Miller)

      “I’ve been here since it started, and have been to the Rockaways a
      couple times, providing people with hot food and helping them clear the
      streets,” Shiller said, with her blonde hair held away from her face in
      a loose braid, and her round-rimmed glasses resting on the tip of her nose.

      The donation center at the church comprises a row of fold-up tables with
      hundreds of food items, clothes, diapers, and tools ready to be shipped
      to the areas that are still without power and heat — including Red Hook,
      Long Island, Breezy Point, and The Rockaways. Shiller joined up with
      Occupy Sandy and Food Not Bombs and headed to the Rockaways with hot
      food for the cold night.

      *****

      Alfonso Quattlebaum is a local resident and subway repair worker for the
      MTA. He moved into Bed-Stuy seven years ago and now lives on Nostrand
      and Lafayette. Sporting a navy blue MTA jacket, he came to the Free
      Store to drop off old coats and check out the books. He shook hands and
      greeted Krystal Woods, another In Our Hearts patron. Woods dropped off
      donations as well, including old sweaters and t-shirts.

      Initially, Quattlebaum was put off by the group’s anarchist beliefs.
      However, he ignores that aspect and simply acknowledges this as his
      neighbors just having a stoop sale.

      “I see this as a community event, religious and political beliefs
      aside,” Quattlebaum said.

      Despite the commitment to their cause, Umpster and Shiller would
      undoubtedly be pleased with Quattlebaum’s acknowledgement of the group
      bringing people together.

      “When people realize we are an anarchist group, which I don’t think
      anybody can ignore with our zines and banners, we explain to them what
      the word anarchy means,” Shiller said. “A lot of people say they feel
      the same way; they just never labeled it under anarchy.

      For Shiller, the initial willingness of a stranger to learn about a
      different political belief is just a start for In Our Hearts.

      “When we got here today, there was a man who owns a daycare around the
      corner, and a few of his friends here are waiting to help us set up.”

      With reporting by Emiliano Bombieri-Morales


      --
      Dan Clore

      New book: _Weird Words: A Lovecraftian Lexicon_:
      http://tinyurl.com/yd3bxkw
      My collected fiction: _The Unspeakable and Others_
      http://tinyurl.com/8puuzuc
      Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
      http://tinyurl.com/292yz9
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

      Skipper: Professor, will you tell these people who is
      in charge on this island?
      Professor: Why, no one.
      Skipper: No one?
      Thurston Howell III: No one? Good heavens, this is anarchy!
      -- _Gilligan's Island_, episode #6, "President Gilligan"
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