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The Heat of Commitment

Boiling Point collective spreads the word within sight of the money towers

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North Graham Street would seem an unlikely setting for an anarchist/ socialist/ progressive reading room-cum-coffeehouse-slash music hall. It's a road littered with temp agencies, abandoned semi trailers and junk shops. Most of the acreage is covered with medium-sized warehouses making things one would never imagine a person could make money on -- shrinkwrap, cardboard gidgets, and the kind of amorphous little plastic gewgaws you find while sweeping the house and then spend an hour trying to figure out what they are.

So imagine the surprise of coming face to face with a building that seems better suited to, say, San Francisco, or Ann Arbor, or maybe Asheville -- somewhere where everything is a cause either worth celebrating or fighting for. Where young folks worry about political unrest in the Philippines.

Where young people think about politics at all.

Where young folks play games like Magic The Gathering to clear their heads of the grinding, grating world right outside the door. Where kids go to drink coffee and listen to bands with names like Angel Named Israfel and Choke Their Rivers With Our Dead. Where bands play benefit concerts for the Zapatistas of Chiapas, Mexico. Where you can sing (or sing along) with anything or anyone you like as long as you're not smoking or drinking.

You're at a place called the Boiling Point. And yes, part of the Boiling Point's Graham Street existence is economic. It's run as a collective, and survives on donations and the spark-a-fire beliefs of the individuals who make up the collective. However, there's a certain poetic beauty to the location as well. If change has to start somewhere, why not here? Graham Street. It was a radical, progressive thought at the time. If you listen to the collective, it's to be merely the first of many.

"We would identify as anti-capitalist," says Dave Phillips, speaking along with friend Leanne Finnigin on behalf of the group. "But 'anti-capitalist' can come across as being pessimistic. We like to think that we advocate more than we oppose.

"It really breaks down to your faith in people and their nature. When denied their dignity and individual expression, along with their basic needs, you're likely to see the worst in any living thing."

According to Phillips, the Boiling Point operates on some other simple premises. One is the concept that, deep below all their own problems and prejudices, folks are more inclined to be helpful and co-operative than to be what he terms "enemies of humanity." Another is the feeling that evolution "demands a higher degree of co-operation than of competition."

"Capitalism, in its obvious way, organizes humanity on a competitive foundation, and it shines through in all social aspects of society," Phillips says. "But we've learned that people have an innate desire to work with you and make the world a better place." Simple premises, mind you, but not always simple to put into action.

As such, the Boiling Point has turned to action. No picketing, no slacker-anarchist grandstanding, no standing naked as an alternative to wearing fur. Action, from the ground up. Literally from the ground up. The space is committed to being the soil that folks with a passion can plant themselves in.

"The collective at the Boiling Point doesn't look at themselves as people who pick causes," says Phillips. "Instead, we try and provide a space where the ideas of others can take root. That's not to say that members of the collective don't get involved in specific causes, because we do. But that cause will take its own root and remain separate from the Boiling Point collective."

Instead, the dusty, sun-warmed warehouse is used as a meeting space for progressive groups, providing resources and facilitating discussions and workshops on those issues. It is, in short, an infoshop, something the collective consider the most important thing they can provide.

Part of the Boiling Point's success to this point has been its integration into the community. Not the music community, though the Point's shows routinely bring in fine regional indie and hardcore bands. And not the activist community, though the space has become home to more than a few. Rather, the community -- the folks that live in and around Graham Street, and that work in its stores.

Perhaps more importantly, the spot has provided help for those who don't work in area stores -- those without a job at all.

"The area we decided to move to was an industrial one," Phillips says. "It was practically dead as far things like (what we wanted to do) were concerned, so the response was a bit uncomfortable at first. As we remained open and welcomed the people who we met, the word spread."

Some of those same people have helped protect the Point in what otherwise might be considered a dodgy neighborhood.

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