"Claim no easy victories..." Amilcar Cabral, 1965
As of Friday June 26th - Gilbert's Shoes passed final inspection by the City of Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections and gained its certificate of occupancy, ending a 7 year process of legalization.
Brought on by an illegal, warrantless police raid on the property in 2008 that involved multiple police and fire departments, homeland security, various city agencies and the private sector, Gilbert's Shoes was condemned by the city and the residents were locked out of the property for a little over two weeks. During that period a broad, multi-community based response campaign put pressure on politicians and the city bureacracy to re-open the property to the residents, which ultimately was won on the condition that the property be brought up to current building standards and codes. Not fully understanding at the time that meeting this requirement would take years of work and tens of thousands of dollars the residents agreed and set to it.
Over these past 7 years, even though the residents were tied up working on the building and raising money for it, Gilbert's Shoes and a network of neighbors and community organizers have managed to establish the space as an independent, grassroots community center - not beholden to any corporate or city funding and free for community use. In today's age, a truly rare and precious thing indeed!
It is with the deepest gratitude that we honor and thank all the people who have helped make this moment a reality - everyone who pitched in volunteer labor, made small donations, lent their professional assistance, helped from within the bureaucracy and organized within and for the community center - we could never have done it without you and it is with happiness that we can claim this small, but hard won victory, together!
Looking to the future, we hope to honor all that commitment and hard work by continuing to build and support community based institutions and organizations bent on liberation and free from the influence of corporate/elite money or the dominant political parties. It is our hope that the infrastructure we've been building collectively through this process will stick around for many years to come, and will continue to play some small role in all the work the goes into building and sustaining movements for social, economic and environmental justice. For all the work that is still to come, let us remember the power we have in working together to overcome what can seem like insurmountable odds!