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Lake Worth Activist Center the Night Heron Folds Its Wings

"Fuck me open like a prayer book," the poet declaimed, setting down his guitar to recite. It was Sunday evening on the grounds of an aging, pink/orange stucco home in a Lake Worth immigrant neighborhood, and the Monkeywrench Cafe -- a one-time-only affair -- was drawing to a close.

The first in a series of events to memorialize and celebrate the passing of the Night Heron Grassroots Activist Center, the cafe made for a day to mist an aging hippie's eyes: homemade vegetarian fare, untutored acoustic music, a youngish crowd of many genders, and barefoot children scampering across a garden and yard of primitively tended tropical flora.

That spirit of community and concern is what first brought the Night Heron into being three years ago this December, in a faded commercial complex by the FEC railroad tracks north of downtown Lake Worth. Entirely self-funded, it was exactly what it claimed to be -- the hub of the quirky little city's political counterculture, seriously intended, light of heart.

An unusual project anywhere in the U.S., the center and its DIY idealism were almost freakishly so in South Florida. Environmental and immigrant rights groups met and planned there. Reading groups studied the roots of racism. Discussion groups mulled gender and power. Tutoring was offered to neighborhood children. Prisoner outreach included shows of prisoner art. Films were screened. Yoga was practiced. Sometimes folks just got together and danced.

The Night Heron's core was a lending library, with shelves full of labor history, feminist thought, environmental tracts, anarchist and Marxist theory -- not the kind of stuff found at the airport book shop. It reflected the center's avowedly radical philosophy, which set on edge the teeth of many of Lake Worth's more mainstream residents. They'll be relieved to see the center disappear, no doubt. (But you can't kill the word: the library will live on, as will the center's co-tenant, the radical environmental journal Earth First!, both at locations TBA.)

The center's demise has several causes. The activists' energies have become dispersed, with informal collectives grown up around local land trusts and individually owned spaces. Funding has always been erratic. Faced with the need to renew their lease in November or carry on elsewhere, by other means, the Night Heron's core group decided it was simply time to move on.

A better world is possible, the center's people believe, and for a few hours yesterday at the Monkeywrench Cafe--and a good many more throughout the utopian project's three years--that dream was brought to life. The Night Heron will soon be just a memory, but the dream lives on.

[The Night Heron will not go quietly into that good night. A full slate of events is set for the next two weeks: A clear-out/clean-up pitch-in (volunteers now sought) is set for Friday, October 12, a yard sale/bake sale/craft sale/car wash (to benefit Earth First!) for Sat. October 13, and--ringing the curtain down with a barbaric yawp--the End of the World Dance Party on Sat. Oct. 20.
Address: 1307 Central Terrace, Lake Worth. Call: 561-249-2071.

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