Reflecting on Internationalist

adapted from Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday May 07, 2005

The great success of last Saturday's first annual Carrboro Book Fair led me to some reflection on the event's organizer, Internationalist Books and Community Center ("Ibooks").

Although the book fair was the brainchild of Ibooks volunteer and board member Ethan Clauset, sponsoring a high-profile event like this is reflective of the growth and organizational maturity of Internationalist over the past decade. A few years ago, Ibooks became an official nonprofit, increasing its options for fundraising. The nonprofit status dovetailed nicely with its member-controlled, volunteer-run collective organization.

Among Ibooks' recent accomplishments is its development of a Radical Lending Library for its members. The store also helped local activists attend anti-war rallies in Washington and Fayetteville, free trade protests in Miami and the March for Women's Lives in Washington.

Ibooks has sponsored programs on subjects ranging from the 1979 Greensboro Massacre to the Palestine-Israel conflict as well as numerous author readings. It hosts the Desert City Poetry Series with standing-room only crowds attending readings by local poets.

Last fall, Ibooks again was the center for Buy Nothing Day with a variety of events, a swap meet and plenty of free food. The store was closed for sales on what is considered the biggest shopping day of the year. Another standing-room crowd listened to an open reading as both well-established and first-time readers shared their work.

Now 24 years old, Internationalist is a local institution that should be celebrated along with other-longstanding businesses and community centers that uniquely reflect the culture of Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

Although the store has an unabashed radical, leftist bent, it is welcoming and of interest to the entire community. Ibooks offers a broad array of clever and insightful bumper stickers. A range of books covers pretty much every political topic. The many shelves of 'zines and periodicals alone offer hours of pleasurable browsing.

Like a handful of other local businesses -- Skylight Exchange, Local 506 and Schoolkids come to mind -- Internationalist creates a bridge between the local and university communities. Many UNC students are active in the Ibooks collective and a number of faculty members have been key supporters over the years.

Internationalist has just launched a major fundraising campaign called "Friends of Bob Sheldon," in honor of the store's founder. Many longtime supporters have made leadership gifts. The campaign initially sought to match the Strowd Roses grant and will now go on to help the organization retire some longstanding debt and to fund needed improvements to the 405 West Franklin St. storefront.

But meeting its financial goals is, for Internationalist, only a means to an end. That end involves continuing to grow as a center for political organizing, increasing the effectiveness of likeminded grassroots organizations, supporting alternatives to capitalist economics and holding more events and programs. Improved financial capacity will help Ibooks increase its stock of new and recent titles.

The anticipation of new titles is a key factor in bringing customers to a bookstore. At its best, Internationalist serves as a place to encounter both old friends and new, whether in print or in the flesh.

But above all, Internationalist is a place of hope politically. It embodies a sense of political history, of struggle and accomplishment, that puts the setbacks of the George W. Bush era in perspective. It is also home to a sense of political energy, engagement, fellow-feeling and good humor that is heartening in a time that often seems bleak.

This spirit that animates Internationalist grows directly from the work of Sheldon before his death 15 years ago. Sheldon was known for his unflinching radicalism, his fierce intellect, his wide-ranging interests, his genuinely affectionate approach to people and his commitment to connecting activists across issues and campaigns.

The political mission that one man once dedicated his life to now characterizes a collective of dozens. It was well expressed at the many tables and events and among the participants at last weekend's Carrboro Book Fair.



Community Guidelines

By using this site, you agree to our community guidelines. Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will result in moderation or eviction.


Content license

By contributing to OrangePolitics, you agree to license your contributions under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Creative Commons License

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.