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Moving Forward: The grand unveiling of the new and improved Wooden Shoe!

By kate | October 2, 2009

Wooden ShoeMost folks engaged with the radical movement here in the United States have heard of Philadelphia’s Wooden Shoe Books & Records. One of the nation’s oldest, and most beloved radical projects, The Wooden Shoe has been making radical books & lit available to the public for longer than AK Press has been publishing books! It was founded in 1976 by Philadelphia Solidarity, a group of labor-orientated libertarian socialists, all of whom were active in anti-war organizing, the civil rights struggle, and the growing New Left movement. For more than 30 years, the Shoe (as some of us lovingly like to call it) has been a bastion of anarchist principles carried out in practical action – operating as an all-volunteer collective, making decisions by consensus, demonstrating that there’s hope for any movement that wants to build a new world in the shell of the old. Lots of us who came out of the West Philly anarchist scene in the 90s found our first eye-opening books, records, zines, pamphlets, and cheeky bumper stickers at the Wooden Shoe, heard some of our first radical talks there. I personally remember my first trip to the Shoe’s original space – a dusty basement on Sansom Street in the downtown – in ’95 or ’96 with a somewhat misty eye: my boyfriend and I happened upon it somewhat by chance, if I recall correctly, spent hours browsing the shelves, bought a copy of Deleuze & Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus, which still sits, much beloved, and horribly dog-eared, on our bookshelves today … and proceeded to go back to the Shoe again and again. We moved to West Philly a year later, started organizing in the anarchist scene there, and well … you know the rest of the story.

The Shoe’s original space caught fire in ’97, and burned to the ground. Thankfully no one was hurt, and the stock was insured, so the then-collective took some months to find and build out a new space just off of South Street, an area that was, at the time, at least, something of a counter-cultural hive of activity. The new space, fittingly, had also housed the radical Jewish Anarchist newspaper, Forward, in the early part of the century when the South Street area was a Russian-Jewish immigrant neighborhood. For eight years, the project sustained itself, through thick and thin, through good economic climates and bad, at 508 South 5th Street.

And last year, the collective decided it was time for another change. After six months of intense meetings, and tremendous amounts of planning, thinking, debating, and visioning, the Shoe announced its plan to restructure and expand the project in March 2009. It’s been a fascinating process to watch – because of my work with Red Emma’s, and because of my long-standing relationship with the Shoe, I’ve been fortunate enough to play some small role in discussing the restructuring plans with the collective, and I’ve been completely awed by the careful attention that every person I’ve spoken to has paid to even the smallest details of collective process, of bylaws and other structural plans, of economic viability, of interpersonal relationships, and all of this with a sharp eye towards building a project with long-term sustainability on a myriad of levels.

As a part of the restructuring, the Shoe has made the decision to move to a new location, just around the corner from the building they’ve occupied for the past eight years, right on South Street, which continues to bustle with activity. This weekend is the grand unveiling of the new space! It’s set to open around October 10, but this Saturday (October 3), anyone in the Philly area (or anyone who’s available to travel to Philly!) is welcome to join the Wooden Shoe collective, and their friends and supporters for a day of workshops, discussions, panels, and celebrations … and a chance to see the new space! Please come and join the fun – and if you’re not in the area, be sure to drop the Shoe a line ( to congratulate them on the new space, and wish them luck for another thirty years!


Moving Forward: All-Day Convergence to Celebrate the Wooden Shoe’s New Space on South Street
Saturday October 3rd, 2009 11-7 pm
Politics, Skillshares, Organizing, and Fun
At 508 S. 5th St. (old) and 704 South Street (new)

Wooden Shoe Books Collective is moving about two blocks away to 704 South Street in the fall. For 32 and a half years, we’ve been distributing radical literature, serving as an informational space for radical movements in Philadelphia. In early October, we will be relocated to 704 South Street, in a bigger space with a little more flexibility and a bit more foot traffic than we have now. We have been at our current location for twelve years and it has been nice, but we feel like we have reached the limitations of what we can achieve with the space.

We are excited to announce that The Wooden Shoe will be opening our new space on October 10th and invite you to a preview of it on October 3rd for a full day of workshops and a roundtable discussion on “Sustaining Radical Spaces in the Capitalist Crisis” featuring local and regional activists…

Saturday October 3rd, 2009
11:00 am-7:00 pm


@ 704 South Street (New Space)

@ 704 South Street (New Space)

Prometheus Radio Project
“Prometheus builds, supports, and advocates for community radio stations which empower participatory community voices and movements for social change. To that end, we demystify technologies, the political process that governs access to our media system, and the effects of media on our lives and our communities.”
@ 704 South Street (New Space)

Union Organizing Basics with Dorian Lam and Daniel Duffy
If you wanted to start a union at your workplace, what would be the very first things you’d do? How do you keep it going?
@ 508 s. 5th Street (Old Space)

Know-Your-Rights with Aaron Marcus
A Basic Know-Your-Rights in encounters with the police.
@ 508 s. 5th St. (Old Space)

ACT UP Philadelphia
Aids Coalition to Unleash Power, one of philly’s oldest and fightingest organizations, in a presentation on the fight to end the AIDS crisis.
@ 704 South Street (New Space)

Coalition to Save the Libraries
A Presentation on the year-long fight to Save the Libraries and other Essential Services in the face of a relentless mayor and a tough economic crisis, and how you can help!
@ 704 South Street (New Space)

TransHealth with Kelly and Carolanne (in assistance) of Babeland
This interactive, candid workshop explores sexuality for transsexual, transgender, genderqueer, intersexed, and gender variant folks and partners. Learn sex toy tips and advanced techniques, communication skills, and negotiating partner play. We will… cover tools and information for choosing toys and products that are right for every BODY and how to incorporate them into your sensual life.
@ 704 South Street (New Space)

Running a Radical Newspaper
with the Defenenstrator Collective!

@ 508 s. 5th Street (Old Space)

4:15-5:30 BREAK

A Roundtable Discussion
“Sustaining Radical Spaces In the Capitalist Crisis”


James Generic of Wooden Shoe Books (Philadelphia)

Clarissa of A-Space (Philadelphia)

Kate Khatib of Red Emma’s (Baltimore) and the AK Press collective

Suzanne Shaffer of the AK Press Collective

Vallan Anundson of the DC Space (DC) (a new space in the works in Washington DC area)

Come help us welcome in our new space and learn a thing or two, with our friendly staff and friends!

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