Contrary to popular misconceptions about Orange County being an apathetic wasteland of Conservativism, it's actually a hotbed of poltical and radical activism, raised by its citizens' awareness of local and global issues. Out of that consciousness springs an event aimed at emboldening regional activists and writers who lay their thought-provoking ideas through book, zine, art, or music for the greater public: the OC Anarchist Bookfair.
Held this Saturday at El Centro Cultural de Mexico in SanTana, OCABF is a day-long series of workshops, lectures, panel discussions, performance art, bands, and (oh yeah!) books aimed at bringing the local activist community together.
According to organizer Gabriel San Roman, the idea for the Fair came from a conversation he sparked with a fellow protestor he met at a rally in Sasscer Park. (Disclosure: San Roman is a totally chingon writer-reporter on local activism and culture for our infernal rag.) From there, their separate networks assembled with more and more people jumping in and forming a collective of artists, activists, writers, labor organizers, students, parents and teachers who brought their respective experiences of fighting, among other things, police brutality, homelessness and discrimination into the mix.
In brief, 'anarchism' refers to a political philosophy that promotes the ideal of self-government and democracy, countering the model of appointed authority and oppression. This idea has developed over time from its classical iteration through different forms (from academic to punk rock) to include marginalized voices, many of which can be discovered through the various independently-published literature, zines, and books provided by vendors, including worldwide publishers AK Press and PM Press. "There are different spectrums of books where sometimes there's histories of different events as well as counter-narratives, as well as different forms of anarchism or anarchy," says OCABFC member Cheyenne Reynoso. "You can't necessarily define it as one thing, people live it out in multiple and varied ways."
Indeed, beyond tablers offering their books, the programming for OCABF provides in-depth discussions and workshops on various macro and micro issues: "Deconstructing Anarchism," "Colonialism: Definitions, History and Future," "Deconstructing Anarchism" and "The Non-Profit Industrial Complex" are just some of the titles of workshops that make up the day's itinerary. Says San Roman of the latter panel "[it's] really geared towards OC with a mix of grassroots groups like Chicanos Unidos and another panelist who headed OCCORD for years."
There are even workshops geared for children as well as a daycare room for the lil' anarchists. Dr. Andrea Smith and scott crow will also make keynote speeches as well: Smith brings a lecture on anti-blackness, while crow discusses his experiences in organizing during the Katrina aftermath to provide relief to survivors. A performance art piece brings to life a chapter in recent local history: the Anaheim unrest of 2012 after the death of Manuel Diaz at the hands of Anaheim PD. And just before the event ends, legendary Chicana punk musician Alice Bag will perform along with Iuri Lara and OC natives Cuauhtémoc.
As one can imagine, the process of organizing such an event wasn't easy: many prospective venues turned down organizers from holding their event there before the organizers decided on El Centro. AK Press suffered a warehouse fire and lost most of its inventory, effectively limiting their presence at the fair. And due to the small size of El Centro, many anarchists were turned away from participating. But the wide response to the open call definitely proves that a large network of anarchists in the county exist, becoming a motivating factor for the collective to plan future OCABF events. "People are learning about us, we're learning about people, and a lot of the folks that didn't get a chance to be a part of this first one would be great to hit up first things first next year," says San Roman. "So there's a lot of momentum to make this an annual tradition."
Adds Reynoso, "I like that we're doing this book fair and opening that up in Orange County, because that's really needed especially with the stereotype of what [anarchism] is and what that means, and for me personally living that out as a life of resistance in different ways is really important."