So for this blog post, I’m going to break from tradition here to talk about one specific place. Joe’s Garage is what is called a squat. Squats are situated throughout Amsterdam, and are basically locations where people inhabit previously unoccupied spaces without paying rent. Squatting was legal in Amsterdam until 2010, when the Dutch government declared the practice illegal and punishable of up to one year’s imprisonment. The squatting movement began in the 1960s when buildings that were considered unsuitable to live in were scheduled for demolishments that never took place. Slowly people began to take over these places themselves.
Currently, many squats continue to exist illegally throughout Amsterdam and many of them are like Joe’s Garage, social political centers that greatly contribute to the liberal culture of the city. The reason they are able to continue to exist is that European law conflicts with the new Dutch law, and states that although when you break into a property you are trespassing and therefore violating the law, once you’ve moved in you are considered an occupant and an occupant cannot be evicted without a court order. (http://www.amsterdamtourism.net/squatting.html)
Joe’s Garage specifically is focused on social justice movements. Throughout the week, they have free entertainment, do benefits for social justice movements, and what originally attracted me to this squat, is that twice a week they have 4 euro three course vegan meals, called the People’s Kitchen. As a cheap vegetarian, when I heard about that from my friend, I knew I had to go. It was only when I began to look more into the squat itself that I truly fell in love with what it stood for. All of the cooking and cleaning is done by volunteers and all profits go to social and political struggles, two things I can totally get behind.
When my partner came to visit, I knew that as he was probably one of the few people I could force to attend a vegan dinner with me, I had to seize the opportunity and check out this Joe’s Garage place. When we arrived, we had absolutely no idea what to expect. We awkwardly walked in around 7:10 to find the place empty save a few people behind the bar. Not knowing what the protocol was, I indicated that there were two of us to see if they would seat us. They looked at us, and said “There’s two of us too.” Blushing, I asked if we just sat anywhere or…to which they indicated that we could go sit out back in the garden, where we saw that there were a few others already seated. Not knowing what to do, we carefully watched and followed others, slowly getting the hang of things and understanding that we had to go serve ourselves soup for our first course and could grab beers at the bar. After a while we noticed stamps on people’s hands and realized that we should probably pay at some point. Slowly figuring things out, we were able to get our main course with no problem and slowly began to feel more comfortable surrounded by all of the people who all seemed to know each other. At the end of the meal, they asked us to wash our own dishes, reminding us that everyone who worked there was a volunteer and help was always appreciated! But it was okay because we got dessert after washing dishes, so who can complain about that?
Before going to dinner, I was extra excited, because I had gone to the website to make sure the vegan dinner was definitely happening, and discovered that not only was the dinner happening, but that after dinner, US singer songwriters Taina Asili and Evan Greer from the Break the Chains European tour would be performing. Now, I didn’t know anything about these two lovely individuals, but I saw that they did music for social change so I immediately got excited. Reading more about them, I discovered that Taina Asili is a Puerto Rican singer who combines a fusion of Afro-Latin, reggae, and rock sounds of rebellion, while Evan is a radical genderqueer singer/songwriter from the Riot-Folk collective. Both of them are extremely active in movements of resistance in the US, specifically in the prisoner justice movements and movements to free US political prisoners, and recently in the Black Lives Matter movements. Despite reading all about them, hearing them sing and watching them perform was an experience I could never have anticipated. I’m not someone who cries in public at all, but I struggled to hold back tears multiple times throughout the performances. There’s just something really powerful about standing in a room with strangers, singing songs of rebellion together, and knowing that these are your people.
I wanted to dedicate an entire blog post both to Joe’s Garage and to these amazing activists because I truly believe in the work they are all doing. Below are the websites for Joe’s Garage and for both performers. I really encourage you to read up on the two performers and read about the movements that they are so passionate about. From anti-capitalism, to anti-heteronormativity, to more inclusivity in the LGBTQ movements, to freedom for political prisoners, to anti-Zionism, to racial justice, these activists are involved in so many causes. Plus they’re fantastic musicians and performers. Listen to their music, buy their music, contribute to the causes they support. Nothing has made me feel so overwhelmed with emotion as listening to these two. I felt inspired, saddened, encouraged, uplifted, heartbroken, empowered, and proud. I felt like I was surrounded by people who truly cared about the world and who understood my passion and my fury and my desire to make a difference. And this solidarity was such an amazing feeling. I also felt challenged as they continuously challenged societal norms and norms within social justice movements and encouraged me to expand my way of thinking and my personal activism. I am so thankful for spaces like Joe’s Garage that encourage these kinds of social gatherings and for performers and activists like Taina and Evan who refuse to step down or allow their voices to be silenced.
Joe’s Garage: http://www.joesgarage.nl/
Taina Asili’s Website: http://tainaasili.com/
Evan Greer’s Website: http://evangreer.org/
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<p>A rising senior double major in Politics & International Affairs and Theatre, with a minor in Women's Gender, & Sexuality Studies, Andrea Anderson is passionate about social justice, exploring the world through different lenses, and tea. Though she may come across as shy and timid at first, this 4'10" girl never backs down from a feminist debate and she is is as willing to try something new as she is inclined to sit back with a glass of wine and an episode of Gilmore Girls. Her favorite things in life include hugs, Harry Potter, and Indian food, and she is so so excited to explore the beautiful culture of Amsterdam this summer.</p>