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Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008

Sustainable Communities

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TheMilwaukee Network for Social Change (MNSC) is a group that formed to promote “free culture,” the ultimate goal of which is a sustainable society that offers shelter, clothing and warmth for all. John Revord, one of the founding fathers of the group, talked about their mission and tactics.

What is the network’s goal?
Our objectives are fairly open-ended. The biggest thing is working on sustainability issues and eliminating dependence on overproduction and unequal distribution of goods. This causes societal and environmental waste and at the same time forces people to work extra hours that would be better spent with their families. We want to create a working, sustainable partnership community in Milwaukee that has open lines of communication despite differences such as socioeconomic status and race.

What are you currently working on?
We have the “free van” project. For that, we collect clothing donations and redistribute them to people in need. We’ve gone, for example, to St. Ben’s on Ninth Street during their weekly soup kitchen hours. Ultimately, we’d like to have a free store that can be used for community space and at which people are able to bring what they no longer use and take what they have use for. We’ve partnered with a few like-minded groups locally, such as Food Not Bombs, Faith Community for Worker Justice, Friends of Garden Park, and People’s Books Co-op.

Why have you chosen to work on this particular issue?
In the beginning, there were three of us who wanted to work on something political because we were kind of sick of the direction we saw the anti-war movement going in. Our initial aim was to do something “direct-action” and street-based, grassroots. Politically, it’s almost impossible to make change from the top down. We wanted to get together and start bottom-up politics, bottom-up change.

What is the philosophy behind your actions?
We’ve labeled it “free culture.” Our group has agreed that there’s enough stuff in this city for everyone if you include all the things in people’s basements and attics, but that, unfortunately, it’s disproportionately distributed. What we want to do is balance that displacement. Basically, clothes, warmth and food are human rights, especially in a country filled to the gills with excess, and for people even to have to pay that $1.50 at a secondhand store, I personally think, is ridiculous.

Meetings are held Tuesdays at 7 p.m. at People’s Books Cooperative, located at 2122 E. Locust St. For more information, go to MNSC’s Web site at www.myspace.com/snscmke.

John Revord - Photo by Don Rask

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