[sixties-l] Fine Young Radicals

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Wed Jun 06 2001 - 03:36:59 EDT

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    Fine Young Radicals

    In a bare-bones storefront, young people gather to talk
    about changing the world through peaceful means - and to
    listen to bands. 1968? No, 2001.

    By JEANNE MALMGREN, Times Staff Writer
    St. Petersburg Times, published June 4, 2001

    In a bare-bones storefront, young people gather to talk
    about changing the world through peaceful means -- and to
    listen to bands. 1968? No, 2001.

    ST. PETERSBURG -- They sit in a ragged circle, on chairs and
    sofas retrieved from trash bins. A single bare bulb lights
    the room. A red-and-black Che Guevara poster looks down from
    the wall.

    They're mostly under 30 and all are intense, these radicals
    who call themselves "the collective." Elaborate tattoos
    encircle ankles. Braided cotton bracelets decorate wrists.
    One young woman has a silver hoop in the center of her
    bottom lip.

    Tonight's meeting has a Facilitator, a Taskmaster, a
    Timekeeper and several Decisionmakers, but no single leader,
    no authority. They move through the agenda in a calm,
    orderly way. Everyone raises his or her hand before
    speaking. Each time they're ready to decide an issue, a man
    wearing a baseball cap and holding a notebook on his lap
    looks around.

    This time, the discussion is about an upcoming record swap,
    and whether dealers will be allowed to sell their goods or
    only barter with each other. The group agrees to "see what

    "Any stand-asides?" the man in the cap asks. "Any blocks?"

    No one says a word.

    "Okay, then, do we have consensus?"

    The young people slouching on the couch raise their right
    hands, cupped like C's.

    Motion passed. The collective has spoken.

    The Center of Radical Empowerment, open one month, is a
    narrow storefront in St. Petersburg's 16th Street S business
    district, just down from Red's Snak Shak and the Prayer
    Tower Thrift Shop. It has bars on the window and a sign on
    the front door: "No Drugs or Alcohol in This Building."

    The center, or CORE as its members call it, is the
    brainchild of nine friends who started talking last summer
    about a place where they could hang out and discuss things
    they care about: animal rights, justice, globalization,
    women's issues, oppression of Native Americans.

    Oh, and punk rock.

    "We're trying to build a community, and also a culture,"
    said Anthony Ateek, 24, of St. Petersburg. "Hopefully, we
    can empower people to talk about problems and solutions.
    Because City Hall doesn't always listen. They have their own

    Ateek, a senior education major at the University of South
    Florida, said CORE is one of several "info-shops" around the
    state, mostly in college towns. Others include the Civic
    Media Center in Gainesville and the Stone Soup Collective in
    Orlando. Most are bare-bones storefronts, like CORE, where
    left-wingers can pick up literature, check out books and
    listen to live bands.

    "To me, it's a place to bring activists together, regardless
    of what particular issue they are involved in," said Ronnie
    Wright of Gulfport.

    At 45, with a chin of silver-gray stubble, Wright is the
    senior member of the CORE collective. A retired U.S. Army
    drill sergeant, he now lives on a military pension and
    attends St. Petersburg Junior College, where he is studying
    to become a social worker. He spent years campaigning in the
    animal rights movement, leading demonstrations outside the
    Derby Lane greyhound racing track and at local performances
    of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

    In 1996 he and a companion were arrested at the Times
    Bayfront Arena when they stood up during a circus
    performance, shouted slogans and unfurled a banner that
    read, "Abolish Animal Slavery." (A judge dismissed the

    Lately, Wright has become interested in activism that
    combines animal rights with human concerns and the
    environment. He feels at home at CORE. "It's like my dream
    come true, to bring all the issues together," he said.

    The center consists of two rooms. Up front,
    plywood-and-block bookshelves house a lending library of
    used books donated by collective members. Neatly typed
    labels denote categories: Anarchism. Labor. Alternative
    Health Care. Fascism, Conspiracy and the Far Right. Peace &

    A bulletin board offers petitions to sign protesting police
    "repression" of homeless people in downtown St. Petersburg.
    A handwritten note on a scrap of paper advertises for a
    reggae drummer.

    Fliers are stacked on a table: How a Rape-Free World Could
    Benefit Men. Protect Our Public Lands. The Bank of New York
    Kills Puppies.

    One wall holds new books for sale. They range from vegan
    cookbooks to civil disobedience tracts to sex manuals for
    gays, bisexuals and transgendered people.

    "This is stuff you can't find at Barnes & Noble," said
    Ateek, grinning.

    The back room of the CORE center functions as a meeting and
    seminar space and makeshift concert hall. Strips of pink
    eggshell foam are tacked to the masonry walls to absorb
    sound. Two microphones stand on a homemade stage covered in
    recycled carpet.

    In its first month, the center has hosted four concerts,
    said Ateek. "Three punk rock and one jazz."

    Coming up are bands called the Skabs ("on tour from NYC"),
    the Backstabbers and Civil Dissidence ("anarcho-crust from
    Fort Myers"). Ateek said the concerts usually draw about 50
    people, many of them teens who are too young to get into
    bars where other bands play.

    The center is also open afternoons for those who want to
    browse in the library and talk activism. So far, traffic has
    been slow.

    "The days are kind of dead," Ateek said.

    Still, 41 people paid dues (sliding scale, $10 to $100) to
    join CORE. Members can check out books and receive
    discounted admission to concerts and other events.

    The collective's decisionmakers decided CORE would offer a
    diversity of events, to make it an everyman-and-everywoman
    kind of place. The Radical Men's Group meets the last
    Thursday of the month. There's a knitting workshop and a
    sign-language class. Guest speakers talk about animal rights
    and the Zapatista movement in Mexico. The center gives
    anti-oppression training and classes in consensus, the
    cooperative decisionmaking process used by Quakers and other
    groups that promote peace.

    "We're kind of trying to be open to everyone," said Jenny
    Becker, 19, of St. Petersburg. She is one of four female
    members of the original CORE group. She has been an activist
    since earlier in her teens, working with a grass-roots food
    distribution group called Food Not Bombs.

    Women's issues are important to CORE, according to Becker.
    But she acknowledged that the collective is all "young,
    white, privileged kids" so far. They would like that to
    change. The outreach-diversity committee has been
    distributing CORE fliers in coffeehouses, record shops and
    health food stores. They also get the word out on an
    Internet listserv. They were pleased that several seniors
    showed up at the CORE grand opening in early May.

    "What I really want to do is empower people, so there's no
    hierarchy and no oppression," said Grommit, who has a first
    name but prefers not to use it. Another of the original CORE
    members, Grommit, 24, lives in a mobile home park in central
    Pinellas County and works on a cooperative organic farm in
    Tampa. He has mutton-chop sideburns and a burning passion
    for social change.

    He said he has campaigned against North Carolina chip mills,
    which process clear-cut trees into wood chips that are
    shipped overseas to make pressed wood products. He worked
    for the radical environmental groups Earth First! and Ruckus
    Society. He did "tree-sittings" and civil obedience
    demonstrations. During the 1999 riots outside the World
    Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, he was tear-gassed,
    pepper-sprayed and hit by rubber bullets, alongside
    thousands of other protesters.

    He's proud to call himself an anarchist.

    "If people have a sense of autonomy, if they are
    self-reliant, then we won't have to oppress each other,"
    Grommit said. "We'll be able to solve our problems without

    There's no violence at the monthly meetings of the CORE
    collective. Fueled by pizza (Becker brings it from her job
    at Lenny & Vinny's), the group spends hours patiently
    resolving issues without oppressing each other.

    First, a member of the "A-hole committee" reports on what
    bands it has booked for upcoming shows.

    Next, one of the Decisionmakers gives a financial report:
    $2,000 in the checking account; $104.91 in petty cash. (CORE
    has applied for non-profit status with the Internal Revenue

    The group discusses who's staffing the center for the next
    week. The members decide to spend $50 to get T-shirts made.
    Then they wrestle with an ethical problem: Should CORE carry
    publications that advocate violence as a vehicle for social
    change? The group can't come to a consensus. They table the
    discussion until their next meeting.

    Finally, there's the problem of housekeeping.

    "We've got to clean up around here," someone says. "It's
    getting unruly."

    "Yeah, and we need to keep the cleaning supplies out of the
    bathroom," someone else says. "At that jazz thing we had,
    somebody was in there huffing the bleach."

    The Center of Radical Empowerment is at 1615 16th St. S, St.
    Petersburg. Hours are noon to 9 p.m. daily. For a schedule
    of upcoming events call (727) 821-2673 or visit

    Browsing through a radical library+

    Here is a selection of titles in the CORE library.


    Spanish Anarchists: The Heroic Years 1868-1936
    The Nutritional Yeast Cookbook
    Green Rage: Radical Environmentalism and the Unmaking of
    Spiritual Midwifery
    Media and Power: From Marconi to Murdoch
    Where White Men Fear to Tread: The Autobiography of Russell
    Solar Living Sourcebook
    The Ethical Slut

    Newspapers and zines

    Green Anarchy
    Vegetarian Journal
    Mother Jones
    Auto-Free Times


    Showdown in Seattle: Five Days That Shook the WTO
    The True Malcolm X
    Drumbeat for Mother Earth
    The Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism
    Zapatista Women


    "The FBI's Current Campaign Against Activism in Indiana"
    "What Your Mother Never Told You About Tampons"
    "Transgender: What Is It?"
    "Floridians for Humane Farms"

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