Thanks to our caring and supportive community, the Red and Black Cafe was able to reach our goal of $50,000 for the downpayment on our building!
The following is an interview with AK Press, conducted just before the end of our fundraising campaign.
Interviewer: Suzanne at AK Press : http://akpress.org
Interviewee: John Langley, Red & Black Cafe
Can you give a little background on the Red & Black Café (who you are and what you do), for anyone not familiar with you?
The Red & Black Cafe is a worker-owned, collectively managed restaurant and event space that just turned 10 years old. We host benefits, book readings, shows, films, and a selection of radical and anarchist books for sale—including many AK Press titles. Our food and drink are 100% vegan and as organic and local as possible. Last year we received a lot of media attention for kicking a Portland cop out of our space. The 9 workers are all members of the Industrial Workers of the World.
How did you decide to try to buy the building? What’s in it for you? What’s in it for the larger anarchist/radical community?
We actually tried to buy this building right before we ended up renting it. Since we were priced out of our original location we’ve been interested in figuring owvut how to prevent that from happening again. The benefit of owning the building for the workers is that we won’t have to worry about rent being pushed out of reach at the end of our lease. Another possibility is having a future landlord decide not to rent to us again for political or other reasons. In the long run, when it’s owned outright, we look forward to not paying anything for our space beyond insurance, repairs and taxes. Even long before that happens lower space costs will make it that much easier to have living wage jobs while keeping prices affordable and buying the best local & organic ingredients.
We think that there’s a huge value in having permanent, public spaces specifically dedicated to radical activity and ideas. The Red & Black Café serves as a starting point for folks just learning about anarchism and radical politics. For folks who have been active for a long time it’s a place to meet, show a film, do a reading, have a tour stop and hear what people from overlapping movements are doing. It’s also a place that helps make political and social space for anarchism by making it seem both more real and doable to non-radicals. We think that long-running successful spaces like the Red & Black Cafe help the anarchist project by demonstrating how anarchism can be practical and appealing.
In addition, while we exist, we have been and will continue to be a resource and support for others running or starting other non-hierarchical, democratic workplaces and hubs of radical activity. If we own our own building it helps ensure that we’ll be able to do this indefinitely.
How did you get hooked up with Portland Collective Housing, and what is their role in your plan for the building?
Two of the people on our collective are members of Portland Collective Housing / live at one of the PCH houses. Two people who were working on starting a new PCH household learned about our potential building purchase and jumped on board. Portland Collective Housing is a non-hierarchical, resident controlled, low income, 501(c)3 non-profit that owns two houses.
Originally the plan was for PCH to own the upstairs of the building while the Red & Black owned the main floor. As it turns out it was impossible to figure out a satisfactory way for PCH to do this. A major reason was the complexity of preserving the tax exempt status of PCH while co-owning a building with the Red & Black.
PCH nevertheless remains very supportive of the project. PCH will be assisting the upstairs household in forming a sister organization that will own and control the living space in the building by and for the residents. For both PCH and the newly forming organization of upstairs residents a major part of the goal is to combat gentrification. This is accomplished by keeping housing permanently off the speculative housing market, through income restrictions for residents and by creating density in existing buildings. This model is a direct challenge to the very expensive “green” condo (or market rate apartment) approach to housing, which makes housing denser and greener at the expense of displacing poor people and people of color. In addition it is a challenge to the charity model of affordable housing development. This model expects the people running these organizations to be of higher social and economic class than the people benefiting from affordable housing.
How much money do you need to raise? How have the fundraising efforts been going so far?
So we’re trying to raise $50 thousand for the down payment and ideally a few thousand extra to kick off our major repairs budget. Currently [as of yesterday, 1/26] we’ve raised a total of $43,700! So we’re pretty happy with how things have gone so far but we still have a little way to go.
What different options are there for contributing money? It looks like you’re looking for both donations/”Friends,” and loans/”Sustainers”—can you explain this a bit?
Sure thing. The easiest and fastest way to help is to donate online at redandblack.chipin.com. Every amount donated is eligible for something on the list of stuff we’re giving away as thank you gifts that range from our very popular spoke cards to free meals and 10% off for a year!
Loans are great too. If this is what you’re interested in please shoot Rachel an email at email@example.com. If you do a loan the thank you gifts are here.
Any amount helps! Any donation gets you one of these [lovely spoke cards, picured here].
Are there any other ways that folks without access to funds can support this process?
Yes definitely. Please help us spread the word. Make us a stop on your band / book / zine / film tour. Friend us on Facebook. Figure out how to do a low cost / high impact media stunt comparable to the cop thing.
Why are your dragon noodles so delicious?
The dragon noodle sauce was secretly formulated in the kitchen of a collectively run cafe in Barcelona in 1936. The recipe was split into fragments and then lost for over 60 years. When the café was founded individuals possessing the fragments came forward. Since that time no one person has ever known the entire recipe. This helps ensure that this knowledge can never be used to wield what would be an almost unimaginable amount of power over others. So technically no one knows why they are so delicious.