A friend from back in the day recently sent this photo my way. Here I am in 1989. Now 20 years ago. No, I am not going to tell you which one. Friends will know and chuckle. Nor am I going to name anyone else. Anonymity in cases like these is preferred. I lost touch with most of this crew a long time ago. Most have moved on, some have not. Some are dear friends and lifelong comrades. Some are dead, some in jail. Some were the biggest fools I ever knew. And of course there was always a solid 15-20% full-on psychopath segment in any scene and ours was no different.
One day I am going to write some of our history in all this through Anti-Racist Action in the 1990’s. The ISO initiated Anti-Nazi League would have broken up between the punk scene and the college scene (broadly speaking) a year or so before the photo was taken. Cincinnati was and remains a city with “race issues.” Racists organized openly and these were days of street fighting. Real street fighting.
Not long after this photo was taken this crew wouldn’t have existed. I am at pains to remember what we called ourselves at this time. There was SHARP, but there was something else…help would be appreciated. Some folks in this picture would be fighting each other not long after. The scene was getting politicized. The Syndicate happened (an important milestone in the history of what would become Anti-Racist Action years later).
If you wanted to exist in the, broadly speaking, punk counter-culture at that time you were confronted with fascists. We had to beat them out of the scene if we weren’t going to give it to them. Some of us looked beyond the geography of the scene and chose to fight them elsewhere and everywhere. The cores of new groups and crews did come out of it, including what would become a half-dozen or so hardcore teenage Trotskyists.
Sometimes I blush a little in embarrassment at those more “extravagant” years of the late teens and early twenties. Then I hear a song that was pounding through the air at the time and I am reminded of just how vigorous we all were then. In many ways I’m more rebellious now than I ever was then, but it was in that scene that my rebellion was first fostered and encouraged if not entirely realized.
I have been known to spend a few late nights telling war stories with friends and comrades from those days and I won’t belabor this blog with that. It was an awfully male environment. I would like to present a little soundtrack to those days as I remember them though.
So, hair styles aside, why can’t I be ridiculously proud of my “infantile” rebellions? It was where I, and many thousands more, were first acquainted with a world beyond the little one we had been raised in. This was no more true than with the world of politics. One must learn to crawl if one is to walk, so it goes, and now I harbor an adult-sized rebellion; my poor mother might say a pathological one, but it serves a Marxist well.
Some songs then. I saw all of these bands back then. In praise of all rebellion; infantile and otherwise.
Fugazi proving why they are in a league all of their own with Waiting Room in ’88
A smoking hot SS-20 with Radioactive at Sudsy’s
DC’s Government Issue plowing through the Blending In on the Crash tour