When it comes to the work of social justice, many left-identifying people (including, I’m sorry to say, many Unitarian Universalists) resemble teenaged boys and sex: The ones who are talking about it the most, are doing it the least. Somewhat by accident today, I saw the work of some people who are not afraid to get some dirt under their fingernails when it comes to helping where it is needed.
I was taking the southbound Indianola bus downtown late this morning when I glanced east on E. 5th Ave. and saw a generously laden table and clothes rack sitting in front of the Sporeprint Infoshop at 172 E. 5th. (I have fond memories of that block, since it was the launching site of last month’s World Naked Bike Ride.) The signs over the tables said this was the REALLY, REALLY FREE MARKET. I now have a much-underlined and -HiLited International Publishers pamphlet copy of The Communist Manifesto and a shirt or two.
The Sporeprint Infoshop hosts the Really, Really Free Market the last Sunday of every month from 12-5. There are clothes, books, toys, and food. Four days a week (see the above link for the specific times), Sporeprint opens its common area to all comers, complete with computers (Internet access) and a lending library. Those with meagre (or no) funds can use the computers to search for jobs online, work on resumés, or look for social service agencies’ contact information.
I had an interesting conversation with a man named Noel, who also came to get some books and some clothes. The attitude at Sporeprint, we agreed, was different from many of the “do-gooders”, professional or otherwise. There is no sense that these are wealthy people throwing a crumb or two they wouldn’t miss. Sporeprint (and the Third Hand Bicycle Cooperative next door) are probably struggling to keep their lights on and their spaces rented. Many of the people working there are students, many are un- and underemployed. Children came during the time I was there, as did a woman easily in her late 80s, and we all felt like we were in friends’ living rooms.
Food Not Bombs operates from Sporeprint, serving vegetarian and vegan meals every Sunday from 5-7 p.m. (Much of this food comes from the two Arawak City Gardens on N. 4th St. and N. 5th St.)
Though small, the library has a very catholic (lower-case c) selection of books, from classics to textbooks to political culture. There’s a spinner nearby stocking many ‘zines (self-published magazines and journals), which was truly a pleasure to behold. I was afraid that the ‘zine and the broadsheet had been crushed under the wheels of the Internet.
The people at Sporeprint have taken their time, pooled their resources, and come together with a project and a place that is doing the work many people support in theory. (Since becoming a union steward, my favorite children’s book has become The Little Red Hen. I hear a resounding “I will!” from Sporeprint and Food Not Bombs when the hen asks, “Who will help me plant the grain? Who will help me harvest the wheat?”)