Reflections on the Oakland Tragedy

We're all devastated by the tragedy in Oakland last weekend. As an arts collective that is running a space that could be described with some of the same phrases used in descriptions of the 'Oakland Ghost Ship': "vibrant community space", "eclectic mix of artists and musicians", etc, we are heartbroken and horrified as the details emerge. But this is also a wake up call to the entire "underground music scene" in aggregate, everyone involved in any capacity in any of these sorts of events, whether it's booking, managing, performing, or simply attending: we need to look out for each other, for our friends and everyone else, which means first and foremost paying attention to the basic safety of the spaces we use. It's the responsibility of each of us to point out hazards and potential safety issues in the spaces we love, and make sure that they are dealt with. It's mostly common sense stuff: smoke alarms, exit signs, emergency lighting, fire resistant building materials.  

Our entire existence as an organization has been motivated by the need for safe, accessible, and affordable spaces, so we have made physical safety a priority from the beginning, and done everything possible to maximize the safety of the space. We also try our best to be pro-active and prompt in dealing with potential hazards as they appear, and to continually improve our ability to foresee and plan for emergencies that might occur.  We are convinced of the vital importance of creative hubs, community gathering places, and self-organized culture, and also that if there are no safe and legal spaces available for these uses, they will be more likely to occur in substandard and unsafe conditions. Socially and economically marginalized groups looking for places to gather, without being harassed or targeted, tend to have even fewer options and are particularly in need of safe, protected spaces. More strict enforcement of fire and building codes will tend to push cultural organizations into potentially even less safe conditions, without a willingness to help bring these spaces up to minimum safety standards rather than simply shutting them down.  At the same time, all of us involved in the scene need to do whatever we can to improve the safety of our own spaces.

In the aftermath of the Oakland disaster, a self-audit of DIY spaces is already underway - here's a list of harm reduction strategies that has been developed as a public google doc over that last few days, which is in a 'working draft' state and still being updated, but very helpful and well-organized:

Here's an archived snapshot of that document from Dec.5 2016, in case the above link expires.

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