527 W McMicken Ave #1, Cincinnati, Ohio 45214

New location and re-opening!


527 W McMicken Ave, 45214

We’re excited to announce that we are settling into our new location at 527 W McMicken Ave in Brighton and will be opening on October 9th with a fundraising event!

With our new location, we aim to grow into the thriving activist and community hub that we have aspired to since we started this project over two years ago.


our volunteer coordinator in action

Currently, we are working to build and improve our collection of alternative/radical books, zines, and educational media. More importantly, we are eager to open our doors as a meeting space for community-based groups and activist groups that share a progressive vision of social change.

If you are interested in hosting meetings or workshops in our space please submit a meeting request on our website or send an email to mcmickenfreespace@gmail.com

Thanks to everyone that has show interest and volunteered their time to this project since we began the move from our old location in Northside through the spring and summer. Please sign up for our mailing list below for updates on our opening event on October 9th, volunteer opportunities, and information on upcoming events and workshops.

Category: Cincinnati, Events, General

Big announcement coming soon…

ATTN: We will be closed for the rest of February and we have a big announcement coming soon…

Our ongoing revolutionary theory reading series will continue at the Northside Branch of the public library at 6:30pm on February 16th (Click here to RSVP) Stay tuned for updates on our website and social media.


Category: Uncategorized

$15 and a union for Walmart workers!

Source: WLWT Cincinnati

Source: WLWT Cincinnati

For three years, Black Friday has been a day of growing resistance for Walmart workers. Against a backdrop of activism and organizing on a national level, The United Commercial and Food Workers (UFCW) has led a campaign called Our Walmart to organize Walmart workers for a $15/hr. wage and union representation. In a labor force where low wages and high turnover present many obstacles for union organizing, the UFCW has slowly made progress in organizing Walmart workers in recent years. Our Walmart organizers have coordinated protests and strike actions in stores throughout the country in this growing fight for a living wage and the right to unionize.

Just days ahead of Black Friday, Walmart secured a restraining order against the UFCW in Ohio that prevents organizers and affiliates of the Our Walmart campaign from entering any of the 175 stores across the state. This restraining order prompted Our Walmart organizers to withdraw from their planned Black Friday demonstrations at stores all across Ohio. As the UFCW disputed the restraining order against their activity in stores, workers unaffiliated with Walmart or the UFCW in Cincinnati organized a series of demonstrations at two Walmart locations. In place of official leadership from the UFCW were activists and working people making decisions spontaneously on tactics and messaging.

In the days leading up to Black Friday, this group of sympathetic workers and activists spoke with Walmart workers at a particular store in Cincinnati about the planned demonstrations. Many workers in the store were already aware of the Black Friday demonstrations and were eager to share leaflets with their coworkers. We encouraged the Walmart workers to support the Black Friday demonstration and spoke with them about the national campaign. Within fifteen minutes of entering the store, management was alerted to our activity and the police were called in to escort us from the store. Plainclothes Walmart security officers were visible throughout the store monitoring our activity with the workers as we passed out leaflets about the Black Friday demonstration. A second group cooked a thanksgiving meal for the Walmart workers and was immediately removed from the store by police after delivering the food.

Black Friday


Source: WLWT Cincinnati

Roughly twenty people assembled outside of a Cincinnati area Walmart on Black Friday. Police arrived immediately, parking across the street from where we gathered. The group marched toward the store with chants of “Walmart, Walmart, you’re no good. Treat your workers like you should!” Management stood alongside the police at the entrance of the store presenting a copy of the restraining order against the UFCW. We attempted to pass them, but the police threatened to arrest us if we entered the store. The group decided to move on to a second store a few miles away, and reconvened the parking lot at the second location. We filed in slowly and met toward the back of the store in the electronics department. We led chants throughout the store to the surprise of many shoppers and Walmart workers, earning a quiet, hesitant praise from most of the workers as we exited the store.

Legal Unionism

In recent decades, the first step in workplace organizing has generally been to secure a neutrality agreement with the targeted company. A neutrality agreement allows union representatives to speak freely with workers on the job, protects workers from retaliation by management, and begins an election process for workers to vote for union representation in the workplace. With union membership in the United States at its lowest point since the 1930’s, neutrality agreements have proven to be an essential tool for unions in an era without a strong labor movement that can organize outside of the legal framework.

Instead of accepting their workers’ legal right to organize, Walmart will continue to challenge the UFCW’s organizing on legal grounds. The UFCW has pushed back on that front by filing unfair labor practice complaints against Walmart through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with measurable success. Ultimately, this campaign needs public support to succeed. The tactics of legal unionism can only go so far without a groundswell of support from working people and activists. Spontaneous, worker directed actions outside of the UFCW proved successful on a small scale in Cincinnati last week and with enhanced organization we can support Walmart workers in ways that the UFCW cannot.

Low-wage retail and service work has grown rapidly since the economic crisis began in 2007. As this model of legal unionism that the UFCW has committed itself to proves to be irresponsive to the needs of workers we must work to build a mass movement that can inspire union efforts and present a direct challenge to the corporations that have enriched themselves at the expense of workers since this crisis began.

Griffin Ritze

This article will also appear in the new issue of Streetvibes

System Change Not Climate Change

A broad coalition of over 400,000 assembled on September 21st for the People’s Climate March and Climate Summit in New York City. Activists representing thousands of environmental and social justice organizations marched in solidarity to demand action from the UN ahead of the Global Climate Summit on September 22nd.

Indigenous populations, people of color, and the rural poor constituted the bloc of frontline communities (those most directly affected by environmental crises) that led the march through Manhattan. The urgent threats to frontline communities posed by oil exploration, the sale of public and native lands to private corporations, and the disproportional pollution of poor urban neighborhoods have emboldened a sense of solidarity in the climate movement. In this massive display of collective power, this march also demonstrated the space that has been opened to frontline communities within the climate justice movement. The historically white face of the environmental movement is changing as frontline communities share their struggles and organize for climate justice.

As Bolivian water rights activist Oscar Olivera stated in his opening speech “All of us here with rebelliousness and dignity, decided to overcome our fear with our mutual confidence and joy, committed to recognize each-other, and committed not only to resist—but to re-exist.”

Connecting the dots

The effects of the fossil fuel industry on the environment are hidden from most Americans. Even as the United States is poised to become the world’s largest oil exporter by 2020 through the excavation of public lands for hydraulic fracking, the massive industrial footprint of energy production is not always visible in our daily lives. From the valleys of West Virginia through the interstates of Pennsylvania, there is little sign of the fossil fuel industry’s destructive activity. Yet only a few miles beyond the suburban sprawl, the Marcellus Shale rock formation has quickly become the world’s largest oil field. While white suburban communities are insulated from some of the most devastating affects of industry, frontline communities are faced with imminent threats to their health and well being.

“Environmental racism refers to environmental policy, practice, or directive that differentially affects or disadvantages (whether intended or unintended) individuals, groups, or communities, based on race or color” – Robert Bullard. “Confronting Environmental Racism in the 21st Century.”

In urban areas, disproportionately high rates of respiratory illness, cancer, birth defects, and developmental illnesses have been reported in poor minority communities due to negligent land use policies that secure zoning for environmentally hazardous facilities. All five municipal landfills in Houston were located in black neighborhoods through the 1970’s in an era of sharp racial segregation and a Black population of roughly 25%. Asthma remains more prevalent in Black children over whites due to the exposure to pollution from landfills and energy production facilities in black neighborhoods.

Currently, large uncovered stock piles of dirty petroleum-coke are poisoning a Latino neighborhood along the Calumet River in South Chicago. Petroleum-coke (Petcoke for short) is a coked byproduct of oil production that is synthesized with coal to produce fuel. Olga Bautista, a resident and organizer with Southeast side Coalition Against Petcoke described the psychological terror of Petcoke pollution in her neighborhood during her speech at the climate conference. On a particularly windy day, the wind carried Petcoke throughout her neighborhood: “In a little league field nearby, the game was called because it looked like the neighborhood was on fire. People were calling 911 and reporting a fire, but they couldn’t say exactly where. A friend of mine was celebrating her mom’s 60th birthday and the family had to go inside because the Petcoke had gotten all over their food and all over their guests.” No community should be burdened with these conditions.

It is crucial that we acknowledge the link between environmental exploitation and the history of US racism and its tradition of colonialism. The preservation of racial stratification in institutions of industry, government, and civic life reinforces the oppression of minorities in the historic ghettos of American cities. Indigenous populations in the US have experienced a similar re-ghettoization in the neoliberal era with the increasingly loss of land to the fossil fuel industry. It is no accident that majority white city councils are placing hazardous facilities in communities of color, where barriers to political power trace directly to the exploits of the colonial period.

The people’s climate march affirmed the urgency of the climate justice movement and inspired new possibilities for solidarity and action in the rebuilding of the american left. Our task is not only to resist the destructive system of global capitalism, it is to fight for a better world.


Griffin Ritze

This article will appear in the current issue of Streetvibes


Ryan Messer Blinded by class interests

Ryan Messer, president of the Over-the-Rhine community council, recently wrote of the need for a party that represents “urban interests.” Such a party, he says, would be fiscally responsible but socially progressive. Messer, who recently married his partner in Washington Park and lives in the highly gentrified area south of Liberty Street, laments the fact that neither the Republican or Democratic party matches the interests of the “urbanists” in the city. Without a shred of irony, Messer describes the process that the basin has undergone over the last decade or so:

In the past, the urban core of a city was predominately [sic] poor and Democratic, but that’s changing as people nationally and locally are moving back to the inner city, driving up property values. Those who are willing to pay a half million dollars or more for a condo tend to lean fiscally right yet embrace such socially progressive issues as urban renewal, transit and same sex marriage. For which party should they vote? The answer, it seems, is neither.

8f36b882638911e3907e121b5d90bda3_8He paints the transformation of Over-the-Rhine and the surrounding area as being of a natural origin, and that the new richer residents are moving in as a result of–not a constituent part of–that process. This description is tone-deaf to actual forces at play in more ways than one. His narrative is completely self-serving, Messer is a property owner and he has flaunted his class interests in the past. During the debate around the streetcar, Messer, a leader in the “Believe in Cincinnati” movement, made issue of the fact that his family’s financial interests were tied to the continuation of the project. He went so far as to threaten a lawsuit in order to “protect” his family’s investments along the proposed route. And in this latest opinion piece he ties Obama winning re-election in 2012 to his and his husband’s ability to file taxes jointly in 2014 (seeming to make the cause of gay marriage out to be over an economic relation, but that’s another discussion).

These show two great disconnects with reality. First, Messer ignores the fact that the majority of the non-voting electorate are the people he identifies as the traditional population of the urban core–”poor and Democratic.” Blacks make up about a quarter of Cincinnati’s population, and about three quarters in OTR. This population has faced obstacles to actually being able to vote that harken back to the Jim Crow Era. Black men, disproportionately targeted by the racist and corrupt criminal justice system, the “New Jim Crow,” face high levels of disenfranchisement based on criminal histories, along with a slew of other setbacks coming out of prison that affect their ability to find housing, education and employment.

Even so, in the last presidential election Historic Black turnouts were a key indicator early on of an Obama victory. However, in the area of OTR north of Liberty, which still has largely black streets and is relatively untouched by the gentrification in the neighborhood’s southern half, voter turnout in the last presidential election was lower than black turnout overall (about 40% of registered voters in the precinct turning out, with 66% black turnout nationwide). But Messer’s focus is a different population, a wealthier, more conservative group, which have not been historically apathetic or disenfranchised in the political system in America. On the contrary, this group is representative of policy makers, now and historically.

The second disconnect is Messer’s blindness to the economic interests of the majority of the residents of Over-the-Rhine. For Messer, who shares the viewpoint of many gentry, this population, utilizing social services and living in affordable housing and working low paying jobs and paying low or no taxes, represent more of a passive group to be dictated to than one to be activated for their own shared interests (which are counterposed to his).  Messer is in favor of protections for those of a minority race, gender and sexual orientation–good things–but he does not mention having similar protections for the class of people who are economically disadvantaged which the capitalist system requires as part of its base structure. And this unspoken part is very important, because what he doesn’t say is that the economic protections that do exist are for a specific economic class: his own. Messer’s financial interests rely on the continued displacement of this economically disadvantaged population, which is the policy in OTR. Property owners receive tax breaks and capital funds unavailable to residents. This is true no matter how many times he or people like him tout OTR’s “economic diversity.” Urban renewal, or “renaissance” as Messer calls it, always comes on the back of the lowest class of people. And Cincinnati’s poor, especially its poor blacks, are no exception, having been cleared out of Bucktown and Kenyan-Barr and now OTR over the course of the city’s history.

Putting those things aside for a moment, Messer seems completely devoid of any idea of what actual “urban” people want. An often circulated Pew poll from 2011 reported that youth voters favor socialism to capitalism by a slim margin (49 percent compared to 43 percent). The poll also showed very high acceptance of the idea of socialism among blacks at 66 percent. Taken as an indication of crude economic interests, this poll points to the opposite of what Messer sees: that a growing number of people favor an end to the capitalist economic system and its (disingenuous) espousal of fiscal responsibility. This dovetails with a more recent Gallup poll which showed 60% of the American population wants a new party.

Messer’s desire for a “government that’s fiscally responsible and helps those who are disadvantaged and protects everyone regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation” is a stark neoliberal vision of society that separates out economic and social policy to better control the both areas. Neoliberal capitalism, like capitalism in all forms, divides the working class along the same lines he describes (and countless others) so that business and property owners can reap the profits and exert control over the economic system at international, national, municipal, neighborhood and household levels. Such a system could never truly protect all its citizens.

Additionally, what Messer doesn’t see it that his dream party actually exists as the Charter Party in Cincinnati, which, though weakening recently, has for nearly 100 years been a somewhat electable third party alternative. It has a relatively fluid platform, but today is representative of Messer’s interests, having been led by richer, more liberal (in the classical sense) city dwellers like Jim Tarbell, Roxanne Qualls and Chris Bortz in recent years.

But really, Messer should be right at home in the Democratic Party, to which he was elected as a precinct executive. The Democrats actually have led the way in many of the more aggressive measures that would fall under the umbrella of “fiscal responsibility” both locally and nationally. Bill Clinton spearheaded historic measures for welfare reform, continuing the trend of demonization and scapegoating of the poor that was pushed by the grandfather of neoliberal policy in the United States, Ronald Reagan, back in the 1980’s. This kind of dismantling of the social safety net is central to policy around “fiscal responsibility.” Today Democrats even tout the fact that Obama’s fiscal policy more closely resembles that of Reagan than historic Democratic presidents like FDR or JFK, as if that’s some kind of virtue. Obama himself made it a point to mention repeatedly during his bid for reelection that his and Republican opponent Mitt Romney’s ideas around what to do about Social Security were more similar than different. Far from providing an alternative to poverty politics, Democrats are no stranger to insisting we need to live within our means.

In Cincinnati, Democratic or Democratic-leaning Charterites have held the mayor’s office for all but two of the last 40 years and Democrats on council have held either an outright majority or plurality for the last 25 years at least. Even so, Cincinnati’s level of poverty still stands at some of the highest in the nation, with child poverty at more than fifty percent. Racial tension has reached a breaking point more than once in this period and race relations in the city, among the most segregated in the nation, never show signs of improving.

The leaders of the Democratic party have been among the most outspoken in favor of tax breaks for companies moving their business to the city, developers doing work in OTR and property owners like Messer who are buying buildings in the neighborhood. These policies make up for the tax breaks and reduced funding by removing resources from much needed social services and social and cultural institutions, expecting the liberal free market to fill in the gaps. This trickle down economics, which fails at every step, forms the core of the modern discussion around fiscal responsibility. Democrats have been champions of policies which, instead of helping the residents in OTR who need it most, banished them from the neighborhood when they were caught up with drugs or as victims of human trafficking. This was, of course, a tactic to further clear the neighborhood and make it ripe for redevelopment. And it was Mayor Cranley who, as a Council member, pushed the Housing Impaction Ordinance, which all but openly declared that those in power don’t want the poor in OTR (though, this was couched as measure to de-concentrate poverty–read: angst–in the inner city after the 2001 uprising). Democrats have been among the most “fiscally responsible”, or “business-friendly” in the vernacular, politicians in the recent history of the city.

Messer’s apparently disenfranchised group are in reality representative of the upper echelons of policy makers in our current system. They are who would rather push for privatization than fund public schools, or who would rather prop up the insurance companies than provide adequate healthcare for all citizens, or who would rather block off roads than provide an economic system that supported poor women instead of driving them to prostitution.

In one way he’s right: there is a need for a new party. But this party should be a party of working people and the people who, even while they shout out, find their voices squelched by the likes of Messer and other economically advantaged people. We need a party that resists false notions of perceived overspending and promotes human need over all else. We need a party that recognizes that it is the working class who constitute the majority and embraces that and fights for working class issues. As long as Messer promotes ideas of “fiscal responsibility,” which have always fallen short of helping working people, this is no party he would ever feel comfortable in. And that’s a good thing.


Cross-posted from Dessemundo.com

A shortened version of this will appear in Streetvibes.

Ben Stockwell is an activist from Cincinnati who writes about class, race and social movements.

Upcoming Events (May – June)

We’re just a month into our second year as Cincinnati’s first and only infoshop! We owe the success that we have enjoyed so far to the publishers, local organizations, activists, and community members that have supported us since we started this program last May.

We have a lot planned for the spring/summer this year. The next few months will be a great time to connect with us for anyone that is interested in coming through our lending library, volunteering with us, or attending events and workshops.

Volunteer Orientation & Potluck


Saturday May 24th, 4:00pm-6:00pm

@ SoapBox Books & Zines
(1415 Knowlton Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45223)

fbrsvp RSVP on Facebook

Whether you’ve been with SoapBox from day one, started volunteering recently, or are just interested in learning more and not yet sure if you want to volunteer, join us on May 24th for a SoapBox Potluck & Orientation!

We’ll talk through:
1) A brief history and overview of what SoapBox is;
2) Library procedures (e.g. how do people check books out!?);
3) Logistics, i.e. how does this thing run, and;
4) Where to go from here if you haven’t volunteered with SoapBox and think you might want to do so!

Breakdown of the day:
4-5pm: Potluck – Time to eat, chat, browse books, etc.
5-6pm: Orientation

Since it’s a potluck, please bring a dish to share if you are able to do so. But don’t feel bad and stay home if you don’t have anything to bring though!

Bomani Shakur: ‘CONDEMNED’ Book launch @ SOS ART SHOW


Friday June 6th & Sunday June 8th

@ Art Academy of Cincinnati
1212 Jackson St, Cincinnati, OH 45202

Our good friend Robert Inhuman is curating a night of musical performances and a documentary screening featuring political prisoner Bomani Shakur as he faces execution on death row.

fbrsvp RSVP on Facebook

Saturday 06/8:

8:30pm Phone call from Keith LaMar AKA Bomani Shakur – literally from DEATH ROW – Bomani is featured in The Shadow of Lucasville (documentary to be show Sun 6/8) and will be reading from his newly published book CONDEMNED as well as discussing a legal battle which has urgent ties to Cincinnati…

SOS music following 9 to 11:30pm FREE all ages!

Preston Charles (modified violin)
Nancy Paraskevopoulos (singer/uke songwriter)
Evolve (reality guerrilla, conscious hip hop)
Decide Today (electronic anarcho-punk)
Nature Was Here (psychedelic ambiance)

+ vid projections, free zines, Realicide distro, more!


Sunday 8 June 2pm:
The Shadow of Lucasville

…as seen with the Insurgent Theatre tour in December, this excellent documentary examines a variety of perspectives on the historic Lucasville prison uprising of 1993 http://www.imdb.com/video/wab/vi2238949145/

Screening begins 2pm with discussion at 3 and SOS exhibit’s closing reception & potluck at 4:30


SOS ART is a massive annual art exhibit with supplementary events surrounding themes of Peace & Justice – SOS 2014 at the Art Academy of Cincinnati opens May 30th and closes June 8thK

How I Quit Capitalism, Going From Libertarian to Socialist

Power To The People

In the past I wrote about how I grew up conservative and was once a member of the libertarian party and how I went from those right wing ideologies to becoming a socialist. For some I hear they got into left wing politics from punk rock music or sub cultures and things of that sort. My evolution came from years in the military and rejecting what I saw as false. This evolution was largely influenced by my reading. I read a great deal. I thought it would be good to write about what I read that influenced my evolution towards the left. Continue reading

Category: Capitalism

The Threat to Chavismo – March 17th


Counter-revolutionary business interests have mounted a protest movement against Venezuela’s working class and the socialist reforms that were attained through Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution. After Chavez passed away in March of last year, Nicholas Maduro succeeded him as president and the right saw an opportunity to challenge Maduro and Chavismo: Venezuela’s revolutionary project toward a socialist economic and political system.

Susan Spronk, associate professor in the School of International Development and Global Studies at the University of Ottawa will be joining us via Skype for a presentation/discussion on the present threat to Venezuela’s revolutionary socialist project.

Jordan Sears, will then be speaking to what has been attained for Venezuela’s working class through the Bolivarian Revolution and the country’s break away from the West, and State Capitalism.

5:30pm – Snacks and refreshments

6:00pm – Susan Spronk talk / discussion

7:15pm – Break

7:30pm – Jordan Sears talk / discussion

Recent analysis on the situation in Venezuela: http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right

We will also be streaming the event live from SoapBox below:

Category: Uncategorized

I love Capitalism Because Of All The Good Things It Gave Us

index                Human innovation exists despite capitalism not because of capitalism. The assumption that capitalism makes these innovations and creations is inaccurate. Correlation is not causation.

People claim they love capitalism because of all the innovations and luxuries it has brought them. This is despite the obvious fact that we live in a capitalist system therefore must function within it to meet our basic needs. There is a more problematic element to this joke, the assumption that capitalism makes anything good or innovative happen. As stated above innovation exists despite capitalism not because of capitalism.

Continue reading

Category: Capitalism

University of Cincinnati research study looking for female-identified participants

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A friend of Soapbox is conducting this study at UC. If you’re interested in participating, please contact johnjackson113@gmail.com for more info:

Project Mission Statement: With this project we aim to deconstruct masculinity as it is experienced by female-identified bodies. Our analysis will center around how context influences gender expression across normative social constructs. The photographs will serve as playful illustrations of the various means through which our female-identified participants find themselves experiencing their masculinity.

As a team we will be seeking volunteers who identify as female in some fashion, but firm gender identity as female is not required. While we do not intend to exalt the gender binary, our focus is strictly surrounding female-identified individuals on their end of the binary as they relate to a gender expression that is typically reserved for the other end of the spectrum. Our inspiration springs from CJ Pascoe’s chapter on masculine females in “Dude, You’re a Fag.” Pascoe explores two very different groups of girls that each display or claim masculine traits and behaviors—the Basketball Girls and the GSA girls. We have crafted a set of interview questions that will guide our conversations with participants. Through these questions we will do our own exploring around mobility, contextual experience, and public/private perception similar to what Pascoe writes about in her book. Our goal is to appreciate experience, understand how it relates to normative gender expectations, and to celebrate these individuals with accurate representation and a joint effort photography shoot.

A general overview of the discussion we aim to have will be given to participants so they know what to expect, but the ten interview questions will be asked as part of a conversation and not revealed beforehand. Hopefully, there will be many instances where we ask individuals to expand upon their thoughts. We hope this process can be mutually beneficial for our work and those who participate. After the interview a photograph will be taken of the participant that will be created by them and for them based on a final question. The question regarding the photograph will be sent to participants prior to their interview so they may consider their preference.

It is our goal to present holistic portrayals of the masculine females involved by combining conversation with photography. As we gather perspectives and experiences we will let the material guide our outcome. We will recognize and appreciate the varied experiences while paying attention to overlap. Our end result should expand upon the existing discourse regarding the socialized experiences of masculine females.

***NOTE*** All participants will be asked to sign a consent form prior to their interview. They will receive a personal copy and a second one will be kept on file by the interviewers. The consent form does allow any participant to remove themselves from the project at any time, including upon completion of their participation (this includes both interview and photographs), as long as you request it prior to its presentation. Also, consent in the project will include anonymity–all participants will be referred to by pseudonyms and your face is not a required part of the photograph if you wish to exclude it. If you are interested in participating, please email johnjackson113@gmail.com to start that conversation.

Category: Uncategorized