Random Row — Part 3 of 3 Politics

December 31st, 2013 · No Comments · By

Most powerful about Random Row was its merging of the political and personal. Ryan Deramus, the owner, has merged the two inextricably. This is at odds with many people considering themselves liberal. Charlottesville sees itself as progressive, but doesn’t really act all that progressive. We are much more inclined to stay in our comfortable spheres, speaking about liberal issues, never really working to actually resolve them. Random Row provided a space for a variety of these political efforts, some of them listed below.

Occupy C-ville: Say what you will about this movement, it was an exciting moment (if only a moment). The very first meeting of Occupy C-Ville took place at Random Row and had the most diverse (on as many levels as Central Virginia can provide) population ready to talk about the issues of society. That changed over time, but I will forever remember that initial meeting and its sense of inclusiveness and possibility.

American Indian Festival Attended by the many councils and associations in Virginia, with the main structure and impetus for the festival provided by the American Indian Student Union at UVA. Happened twice.

Charlottesville Anarchist Book Fair A really fantastic complement to the Virginia Festival of the Book, two UVA students organized this gathering of so-called radical peoples great and small from the mid-Atlantic region. Before the first in 2011, the Charlottesville Police Department actually came by to see if there were to be any insurrectionist or treasonous people attending they should be concerned about. It was mainly a bunch of rad literature and speakers. This also happened twice before losing organizational steam.

Petrol-free Gypsy Carnival Tour This was a crew of people from Harrisonburg that traveled around Virginia by bike. They performed an evening of music and, along with being foot-powered, they also had an entire PA system rigged up to a series of bikes. During the performance, there would have to be three people pedaling to power the system. A really great way of calling attention to something that at least I typically take for granted.

Community Soup Dinners For a period of three years, on Monday there would be a scuttle about town for produce. Food Not Bombs would glean tons of produce during the week (if you’re not familiar with FNB you should check it out) and sometimes we’d be assisted by other gleaners. For a good while we would have a massive bread donation from Albemarle Baking Company. Then, the tables that typically held books would be lined up along with these long benches and everyone would sit around and share a meal. No agenda, just providing a meal for people during the winter.

History of Struggle Against Colonialism in Puerto Rico An often underlooked issue is that of Puerto Rico, a piece of property in the eyes of the United States but not granted issues of representation. This talk was given by a non-academic and it made all the difference. Was able to provide a passionate and comprehensive perspective on an issue that only gets one side represented, if at all. This was one of the many talks given at Random Row that would have been difficult to fit in somewhere else but needed to be given.

Bread & Puppet The famous puppet crew performed at Random Row twice and camped out there as well.

Medea Benjamin Right AFTER Medea Benjamin had interrupted John Brennan at one of his press conferences but BEFORE she interrupted President Obama during a huge, live, televised press conference on American tactics of killing abroad, she came and gave a talk about drones at Random Row. It was a book tour for Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, and it was before people had really begun to talk about drones as openly as it is done now. She is one of the core members of CODE PINK.

Publius Press Ryan and I started doing little mini publications out of Random Row and named it Publius Press, after the only Roman emperor to actually willingly give up his throne. Five items were published in total: 1. An excerpt from the book Empire of Illusion by Chris Hedges 2. Visions of a Wazir Farmer a fictionalized account of a drone strike by a farmer in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan. 3. The NPR Complex a satirical pamphlet written about the distorting effects of NPR on rhetoric, later expanded. 4. Christians on War Quotes taken from Pre-Nicean Christians concerning war and the killing of others. Collected and compiled by Ryan.

The Really, Really Free Market / Buy Nothing Day / The Magpie Store Not related, but of the same spirit. The Really, Really Free Market took place on the Friday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and comprised of things people were willing to give away. Not a trash dump, there were all sorts of treasures that could be collected along with Food Not Bombs and others providing meals throughout the day. Later, in the last stretch of Random Row, The Magpie Store was setup. This was a store built on a ‘pay what you can’ model. I was dubious of how long it would last, but it was a great success and continued until the end. It provided a good model for knowing what to pay, “Pay enough so you don’t feel like you’re getting ripped off, and you’re not ripping off someone else”

CrimethInc.: Capitalism and Resistance in the 21st Century: A talk given by two of the members of CrimethInc., a really interesting graphic design collective based in Carborro, NC. They have released a few books, such as Days of War, Nights of Love and Work. You might be more familiar with their posters, which tend to occasionally appear on some liberal arts college dorm walls. This was a talk based around the recently released Work

People’s Forum for Charlottesville City Council Candidates This was born out of Ryan wanting to be able to have a more interesting, less canned political dialog in the City Council races. Friend of the store Brandon Collins was taking the bold step of running for the Socialist Party in Charlottesville and Ryan wanted to be able to give Brandon a platform for speaking about the more controversial or difficult policies. This was hard, if not impossible, in other debates.

Slave Narratives in response to Confederate Month Virginia celebrates Confederate month, and as a counterpoint to that Ryan organized a day-long reading of slave narratives describing the absolutely grotesque and inhuman conditions of slavery the Confederacy sought to preserve. A PA system was setup at the front of the store, facing Main Street, and people read all day. There was some slight confusion for people walking by in the middle of a recollection of a slave masters words, other than that really powerful.

Ross Caputi on Seige of Fallujah Caputi served in the military during the Siege of Fallujah, an insane military snafu that happened in 2004 in Iraq and was never fully understood by the American public. Four Blackwater employees had been killed in this town and as a result the American military turned an immense amount of human resources to supposedly pacify the city. Surrounded by 2000 American troops, the city endured massive, indiscriminate shelling and destruction at the hands of our American military. It has been glossed over, mainly because the Americans lost, but Ross Caputi provided a chilling account of the brutality and blind rage exhibited during this time.

Film Screenings Murder of Fred Hampton, Z, Lumumba: Death of a Prophet, Battle of Chile, Killer of Sheep, Aristide and the Endless REvolution, Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping

Thus ends the Random Row retrospective. RIP. Would love to hear from people thoughts and experience if they feel so inclined.

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