The Community Festival Statement of Principles
The basic necessities of life are a right and not a privilege. People have the collective right to control the conditions of their lives.
People should strive to conduct their lives in harmony with the environment.
We recognize that there are primary attitudes which divide and oppress people. These attitudes are usually shown by prejudice against people on the basis of age, class, ability, income, race, sex and sexual preference/orientation. We seek to eliminate these attitudes.
The Statement of Principles is more important than any other writings of the Community Festival.
LIVE EVERY DAY THE COMFEST WAY
Welcome to Community Festival-three days of alternative politics,arts & crafts, music, reunions with old friends and introductions to new ones, sunshine (OK rain...), shared dreams and shared work in a shared space.
Those repetitions are intentional. The underpinnings of this annual festival were birthed in the cultural civil war of the early 1970's, frictions that have continued to be at the core of America's political and social change. These core conflicts in American culture developed out of the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement of the Vietnam era, the second great wave of 20th century feminism, the rise of gay activism, the sexual revolution in the wake of widespread availability of birth control, and the postwar peak of organizes labor and the prosperity it created.
It's true that the original festival was basically a street party thrown by a bunch of hippies, radical hippies, and political radicals-now that was a stew-to reinforce the OSU-area cultural-political community that had emerged from the counterculture of the late 1960's. From a few card tables, some lightweight canopies, two dozen bands, a handful of beer taps and several hundred people on a side street in the University area in 1972, Community Festival has grown into ComFest, which now draws tens of thousands of visitors from throughout central Ohio and far beyond.
From the outset, ComFest has had a political core. It grew out of a union of community organizations focused on basic needs - medical care, media, healthy food, decent housing, information resources. A set of unifying principles guides and drives ComFest. We share with others our efforts, our fears, our successes, our failures, our flaws, and our dreams as part of our commitment to, and struggle for, a more just and peaceful world.
A major part of this sharing is that, although the celebration takes place for three days, the work on it goes on for eleven months - processing what works and what doesn't; discussing fundamental issues; working with city officials; acquiring permits; choosing vendors for the Street Fair; keeping up with local music; selecting performers, and scheduling six stages; recruiting and coordinating hundreds of volunteers; collecting program ads, writing copy, and producing the program; assessing grant proposals; planning for and setting up sanitation, clean-up, first aid and safety equipment; renting tents, tables and chairs; contracting with sound engineers; preparing the site and erecting stages, lighting, and sound equipment; renting port-a-johns and trash/recycling containers and getting them set up, and much more. Some people are involved for months, some for only a day or two of the festival weekend, but it happens because volunteers give something of themselves - time, talent, labor - to a greater good.
Let this be my annual reminder
that we can all be something bigger
- The Hold Steady
This year's (2010) theme, "Live Every Day the ComFest Way," is less a directive than a nudge toward reflection on a stark reality: we need each other, and we help ourselves most when we help others.
In the recent book, How, Dov Seidman suggests that, regardless of one's political views about it, a globalized economic system demonstrates our interdependence in unforseen, surprising and often invisible ways. Our desire for inexpensive shirts and sneakers made in Asia produces pollution that melts Arctic glaciers; our desire for personal mobility props up repressive regimes that fund terrorists and underwrites corporate policies that lead to catastrophic oil spills and the destruction of wildlife, ecosystems, and local economies. Seidman suggests that, in the same way that many work toward sustainable agriculture and more limited patterns of growth, we must embrace "sustainable values," behaviors that demonstrate awareness of our interdependence and that will sustain viable employment, communities, institutions, and natural resources. In other words, you create what you do. Do nothing and you'll get that; do injustice and you'll get that; do things as a community and you'll get community. And you can't do anything worthwhile without considering and working with others, most of them unlike you.
ComFest is not simply a party. It's also an opportunity to explore community in its most inclusive, expansive sense. Any true community is something cooperative, and you can make ComFest your own by joining in making it happen. There are volunteer opportunities throughout the weekend (stop by Volunteer Central to find out more) and throughout the year (check out comfest.com).
This year's logo offers an ironic nod to part of the ethos that inspired the original Community Festival: traveling a common road and helping others along the way. And the best way to attend ComFest is to "get on the bus" - to not simply be here but to be part of it. "Get on the Bus" works metaphorically on multiple levels. For Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters (as observed by Tom Wolfe in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test) being "on the bus" described being on the same wavelength, of understanding the nature of the Pranksters' cross-country escapades. In Spike Lee's 1996 film Get on the Bus, the phrase captures a parallel theme: a diverse group with a common purpose trying to accommodate the varied experiences, needs, views, misperceptions, and flaws of its members as each person participates in a larger social action. And of course, we have a thready historic link in the reverberation of Columbus' own Royal Crescent (R.C.) Mob's punk-funk "Get on the Bus" blasting from the (only) ComFest stage in the late 1980's.
ComFest happens because people work together to make it happen. People come together to create something bigger than themselves and to sustain a belief that individuals shape a collective reality, that our own contribution does make a difference, that sharing ourselves and our efforts - to help others, to improve our own communities, to initiate and sustain social and political change -- is the best way to help ourselves. That's the ComFest Way. Indian poet and essayist Rabindranath Tagore once noted, "I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy." St. Francis of Assisi put it another way: "It is in giving that we receive."
We are our only saviors
we're gonna build something this summer
- The Hold Steady
We are our only saviors. There are no white knights, no U.S. Cavalry, no Great White/Black Hopes, no Great Leader, no manna from heaven, no rugged individualist. There's only you and me and we and us.
So, this summer, and next autumn, and winter, and spring, and as far into the future as you dare to look, it's up to you. In a culture that, for all of its benefits, teaches that out individual needs are the primary determinant of value and that the accumulation of more is our life's purpose, it's essential to accept and assert that we achieve little by ourselves. It's critical to our collective survival that we understand that our well-being ultimately depends on the well-being of others.
Let's build something together - The ComFest Way.
2010 ComFest Program Guide
IN COMMUNITY WE TRUST
educate advocate organize
The most powerful words in any language, anywhere on earth, are "How can I help?" Even more than "Yes we can!", the offer to help has power to weave people together. Especially in hard times, this deceptively simple question, a reflexive expression of empathy, is the very essence of community building.
So this is the question ComFest organizers try to answer every year.
As honorees are nominated, grant applications considered, street fair vendors juried, slogans selected for volunteer T-shirts -- at every step, the question is, does this choice help sustain the community envisioned in ComFest's Statement of Principles?
One thing ComFest can do is provide an ever more popular platform for advocates of peace and social justice, along with constant appeals to get involved by volunteering at the "lend a hand" level.
ComFest prioritizes voter registration, education and mobilization. Voting is the bedrock of participatory democracy, so nurturing smarter, more committed voters is a way of helping advance all progressive causes.
Just this month, a new study by Pew Research found that a majority (62%) of young people completely agree that "It's my duty to always vote," a 14 - point increase from 2007. That's great news, as is the upswing in general volunteerism and charitable giving over the past year and a half. Voting, volunteering and sharing the burden are the first steps in moving beyond self into community-building.
"Gen Next" sees better times ahead. But reaching that better world will require more than just getting out the vote every few years. It will mean taking on a commitment to another level of activism. So ComFest put that message everywhere you look this year.
In past years, ComFest beer mugs carried slogansabout specific reforms. This year, ComFest organizers couldn't choose just one campaign. In the aftermath of the long epidemic of greed and apocalypse fever that ravaged the economy, shredding the Constitution and the safety net, the list of top-priority causes is overwhelming. So many public institutions desperately need rescue, so many lives need healing.
Re-regulation of financial markets. Meaningful access to to health care for all. Defense of workers rights. Ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, prosecuting crimes against the Constitution and crimes against humanity -- those pivotal campaigns all need urgent attention, all at the same time. It is impossible to pick just one.
That's why the back of all 1,500 ComFest volunteer T-shirts, and every single ComFest beer mug, carries a simple theme:
educate advocate organize
The message is clear: Go raise some hell in the halls of government. Please.
Pick an issue that you can't stop obsessing about anyway. Find out what organizations are trying to level the political playing field, join one and ask: How can I help?
Ask pointed questions, demand accountability, propose constructive reforms, support real leadership. If you can't manage to get a fair hearing, sometimes a well-placed cream pie helps.
Whatever you do -- stuffing envelopes, walking door-to-door, raising funds, holding vigils -- it all helps. With every phone call, every meeting, every letter to the editor, you're sowing the seeds of change. You're planning ahead for the next harvest of ever more justice, peace and harmony and diversity. You're living every day the ComFest way.
And "that's" what we're celebrating. Happy ComFest!
2009 ComFest Program Guide
Be the Change
You Wish To See in the World
As volunteers go through their annual discussion of how best to capture the spirit of ComFest in a short statement/slogan, it's always an effort to include the linked concepts of struggle and celebration that are integral to a full life. This year (2008), no one needed to mention the obvious issues of war, economic hardship, collapsing infrastructure or a declining health care system to recognize that most people believe we're at one of those periodic tipping points when things have to be done differently, when there's a palpable need to re-assert the principle that government should serve everyone and not simply a handful of wealthy friends and business associates of those in power.
There's a lot of talk about change this year, with politicians of all stripes selling - depending on your beliefs - fearful snake oil or pragmatic hope to the electorate. Everyone, except for a handful of devil-take-the-hindmost free-market extremists, seems to understand that the current situation is drowning everyone except those with homes on gold-plated stilts.
It's not that beneficial change doesn't happen, or that ingrained attitudes don't evolve. In 1968, five years before the first ComFest, over 440,000 Ohioans voted for a presidential candidate whose platform was based on racial segregation; this year, a black man is a major party candidate for the White House. Sometimes change seems to take too long; sometimes change is regressive rather than progressive. Real life ain't easy, or predictable
When Mahatma Ghandi said, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world," he reduced our desire for a better world-and who hasn't wanted this, ever? - to it's fundamental unit: the individual. It isn't enough to simply desire change; one has to make it happen. In a street sense, one has to "represent."
Change is about more than who's president (although that can influence the pace and direction of change). It has a spiritual dimension, one without which all the material stuff is nothing more than another sweep of the merry-go/money-go-round that drives day-to-day life. Ultimately, real change comes from within and then manifests itself in the world.
In discussing his work as a poet, William Stafford noted. "You much revise your life." He was talking about the way in which writers approach their own creations, but there is a larger wisdom in his words. If we expect the world around us to improve, we must first improve ourselves - our way of seeing, our approach to living. The desire for change - for a different, more cooperative way of interacting with others - brought the volunteers of the first ComFest together in terms of how people met basic needs: health care, housing, food, communications. And the changes those people thought possible have now become accepted as the norm.
Legal segregation that typified substantial parts of American society only 40 years ago did not change because segregation was inherently wrong and unjust; the liberation of women from restricted social and employment roles did not occur because it denied women the freedom to fully realize their own humanity; widespread gay-bashing (literal and figurative) and socially enforced closeting of one's sexual orientation did not diminish because it denied individuals' inherent worth and dignity; wars have not been ended or prevented from starting simply because wars allow the awful unleashing of the worst in human beings.