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Letter in support of Sub Rosa
This is a letter in defense of Sub Rosa in response to the accusations and threats that have been made to the space.
I wrote this letter of support a year ago and it still holds true. As far as I know no one at Sub Rosa was involved with the property destruction on May Day. All that I or anyone can KNOW about the space is the following
To Whom it May Concern,
This letter is in support of SubRosa Infoshop. I am a PhD candidate at the University of California, Santa Cruz and I have been in touch with people involved in SubRosa from its inception. I was present as people labored for months gathering materials and support, and constructing the space. I often go there to study or socialize, or for arts-related or political events. SubRosa is a warm welcoming place to everyone; it has a diverse library and is part of a larger effort in the Lower Pacific area, along with the Bike Church, Ped Ex and soon to be created diy computer center, to foster creativity, community and self help, a more and more important project as the economy tightens and community and sociality becomes ever more integral to survival.
SubRosa is an explicitly anarchist space, and perhaps this draws some skepticism from the larger community. I think there is some confusion about what this means, as there is a kind of propaganda campaign that conflates anarchism with terrorism in the media at present. SubRosa seems to me to be part of a prevalent current in anarchism which promotes autonomy, free thought, and teaching as a means to changing society. For the last forty years the predominant current in anarchism has been in education, and trying to create free thinking, free spirited individuals, and SubRosa is central to this kind of project. One thing I’ve always admired about the Santa Cruz anarchist community is their resourcefulness and dedication to providing free classes. We probably have the largest free school in the country. SubRosa provides a space for this as well as an interesting and well chosen library with everything from anarchist classics to poetry, to a variety of zines and self help manuals.
Many of the participants in the SubRosa collective have been long time participants in the local arts scene, and there is an amazing cultural vitality at the space. I have gone to many of the open mic nights and have been really impressed by the diversity and quality of talent. I recently brought a visiting Korean scholar to a show and he was really impressed by the mixture of young and old voices, something he said he has never seen at a Korean event. The diversity extends beyond young and old, it is welcome to homeless people and is racially diverse. Additionally, every month the work of a different artist is featured at the space. The art has been of consistently high quality, some of the most interesting art I have seen in Santa Cruz. I attended one art opening at SubRosa, for the work of Kyle McKinley. Not only was his art original and extraordinary, but he posted an essay explaining the work that was very theoretically rich and provocative, and I enjoyed the opportunity to discuss his work with him. I am certain he and other artists who have shown their work at SubRosa will be well known and influential in the future. Santa Cruz has fostered a lot of amazing art and music scenes that have gone on to do great things, and it is spaces like SubRosa that allow this. As arts funding dwindles, it is places like SubRosa which will keep Santa Cruz a vibrant creative place.
I have introduced the space and the people who participate in creating it to three world renowned scholars, Silvia Federici, George Caffentzis and Haejoang Cho. All three were very impressed with the space and enjoyed talking to the volunteers. All three came away from Santa Cruz incredibly impressed with the creativity and ingenuity people here employ in recreating everyday life. At one point after taking an impromptu diy tour of Santa Cruz Professor Cho was contemplating writing a book on Santa Cruz, as a model of utopian living.
I firmly believe that we are entering a moment where people will have much fewer resources than they need to survive, and free, communal spaces will be vital to many people’s physical and emotional well being. SubRosa is a place where people can sit for free. Often there will be food to share or very cheap coffee. All of the events are open to waiving admission fee for those who can’t afford it. Not only does this foster the creativity and well being of young, talented under employed people in Santa Cruz, who are stretched by astronomical rents, but many poor and homeless people utilize the space, as well as the bike church and the generally welcoming communal area in lower Pacific. One thing that I was really impressed with was the number of very talented homeless and poor people, a high proportion of whom were African American, who performed during the open mic events. One can sense the well being and comfort that people get from being in a space where they are not marginalized or treated differently because they are homeless. As more and more of us enter the ranks of the impoverished, these spaces will be vital to providing alternatives to crime and despair. Especially in light of the bans on lingering in public space that are in effect in Santa Cruz, spaces like these are crucial. The lower Pacific Avenue neighborhood is a place where drugs and crime are prevalent. SubRosa and the surrounding institutions provide alternate forms of sociality.
I am a student and I have a demanding job so I cannot always be very involved with community projects such as SubRosa. But I am always really grateful that these exist. I have known many of the people who work with the SubRosa collective for many years, and I have found them to be a selfless, energetic group of people who are very serious about prefigurative politics and building utopia now. Whenever I have any extra cash I always try to send it their way because I know they can accomplish an unbelievable amount of good with almost no resources. This is because they put all their time and energy into free projects for no other reason than sustaining a community of mutual aid and cultural vitality. Many are skilled carpenters, bike mechanics or have other talents which they always share as much as possible. It is true that some of the people involved with the collective hold political beliefs that may not be general to the larger Santa Cruz community. However, everyone can agree with the spirit of mutual aid and self help, especially in the current moment when we literally cannot survive without it.
PhD Candidate, Literature
University of California, Santa Cruz