Though the high winds made keeping leaflets on the tables a little more difficult than they may have liked, the attendees at the first-ever Bronx Anarchist Fair yesterday were in good spirits, having just completed erecting their tipi after several false starts.
“We needed indoor space,” said Elliott, an organizer of the fair and its appointed media contact, clearly tired after spending an hour installing the traditional Native American shelter.
Though the Anarchist Book Fair, to be held next Saturday at the Judson Memorial Church near Washington Square Park, has become an annual tradition, this was the first time the City’s anarchist community had ever ventured to the outer boroughs for an organized gathering. Under a small tent in Brook Park at East 141st Street, vendors offered free literature about political prisoners of all stripes, urged neighborhood residents to participate in community sponsored agriculture programs and lectured on the message of mayoral candidate Reverend Billy and his “Stop Shopping” choir.
Down the street, in a private home, some were attending workshops on squatting and radicalizing the public school system. In a trailer behind the tipi, movies about the Jena 6 and the Latin Kings were screened. A DJ blasted reggae covers of Pink Floyd standards.
The event had everything one might expect from a city park festival — with the exception of much public interest. While many of the anarchists who organized the event do live in the Bronx, very few community residents seemed to want to check it out.
In fact, very few people even seemed interested in being outside, as the wind and colder weather combined to make the neighborhood a virtual ghost town, with the noticeable exception of the very loud youth football team practicing across the street. Just about everyone at the event was an active anarchist who made it his business to attend the fair. Walk-ins were few and far between.
Bronx resident Barbara was doing her best to get the handful of people who walked by the park to venture inside its gates. Manning the “Really, Really Free Market” table at the park’s edge, where individuals were asked to take and leave items as they wished, she first urged those walking by to help themselves to free clothing. When the “freegan” food arrived, she tried to entice them with OJ and bagels.
Barbara admitted she was having little success, a problem she attributed to the weather and location.
“This is not a good spot,” she said, though that didn’t dampen her spirits about the event. “I think that these events are just wonderful for the community. I bring great stuff and get great stuff, and it’s good to share things with people and see them come home happy with the nice things that they need.”
But Barbara was able to brighten the day of at least one Bronxite, who did not have the time to enter the fair but was intrigued by a pair of work boots lying on a tarp. Barbara threw them over the fence for him. “He was very happy,” she said.
While it may be old hat in Manhattan, can anarchy really take off in The Bronx? Elliott thinks it can and that now is the time, especially with the state of today’s economy. Communities that have been traditionally abandoned, like The Bronx, tend to show a resilience and an ability to take care of themselves, he said. As has been the case in the past, he added, Bronxites may once again need to fend for themselves, and that’s where anarchy becomes an option.
“All of a sudden,” said Elliott, “there’s this whole thing where people aren’t getting what they need, they might have to improvise solutions on their own.”