Alumni Interview: Gerry Bello, ’97

Gerry Bello, '97

Thursday, March 5th, in Gerry’s car.

What did you do after you left Yellow Springs?

After I left Yellow Springs […] I went to work for Anti-Racist Action, in Columbus. […]

What did you guys do there?

We were and are (I’m still involved with the organization, I just don’t work there full-time. We don’t have a national office and staff of six. We’re just a decentralized network now; we don’t have the resources we used to have in the 90’s) [We get out of the Car] but we’re a direct-action anti-fascist organization. We go and smash-up klan rallies, quite literally. No, really, fascism can’t be debated, it has to be destroyed. [Opens door] (Come in, welcome to my humble abode.)

We enter his living room, which is starkly white and empty. About one third of the room is taken up with cardboard boxes. The only pieces of furniture are the coffee table holding his ash tray and his bed which he promptly sits on. Clearly he’s just moved in.

This old civil-rights attorney that used to work with us, he goes, “Gerry, why are you wasting your time on that crap?” (Here, pull up a milk crate. Sorry, I haven’t built chairs yet, I’ve only got as far as a trash can, a bed and a desk.) He goes, “why do you waste your time with that?” I’m like, “Cause they’re sayin’ X, Y, Z.” He goes, “Well talk is shit man. Talk is shit.” He goes, “Look, we’re talking about politics and they’re talking about us and if you’re a true humble servant of the people, [CLAP] than you’re nothing, you’re just an implement. So, if you’re talking about politics and they’re talking about you, they’re talking about nothing, so whose got something to say? Shut up and do your job.”

And it’s the same kinda thing you know, it’s like, if there is one problem about Nonstop, it’s that it spends too much time talking about Nonstop and not enough time talking about the world. Or talks about what Antioch has done and can do. […] Ya know, I’ve a guilty pleasure or two and one of them is that I watch Battlestar Galactica. And there’s a quote in it and it’s like, “It’s not enough to fight hard, we have to behave in a way that we deserve to survive.” We gotta ask ourselves what have we done, what have we achieved, what are we intending to achieve that makes this project something where we deserve to survive. (So, I’m going to break down boxes while I do this.)

[…] What did you do on your co-ops?

[…] My next co-op I went to Dixie Idaho. I was working on this thing called the Cove Mallard Campaign, it was an Earth-First campaign. […] Cove Mallard was an environmental campaign to stop the putting in of clear cuts in part of a national forest that adjoined three roadless wilderness areas which would have made the roadless wilderness areas no longer contiguous. Thus the smallest of them, it would decrease their biological diversity of them because some really wild species like grizzlies won’t cross a road. Wolves will not cross a road. So if you drive in a lot of roads a wolf pack that’s in this area, that could migrate through all this area, is going to be just here, it’s gonna lose its genetic diversity, it’s going to inbreed and die off. So, I was there for the second summer of an ultimately successful seven-year campaign to stop clear-cutting in this area. That was a really hard co-op. That was really, really, really hard. It was physically really fucking demanding. Because of the altitude, we were a mile up in the air. We were in the most remote place that people live in the lower forty-eight states. Right? Like the outhouse that I took a dump in every morning looked out over a canyon that no one had ever lived in. The Native Americans had never lived in this canyon. […]

So, you’re at altitude, you’re living in really, really primitive conditions, you’re living in tents and makeshift shelters. We had to truck in our own gasoline. ‘Cause the locals were all riled up about how environmentalists take your jobs, so nobody would sell us gasoline. Or we couldn’t stop. If one of our cars stopped in the town that we were outside of, which was Dixie, people would come out of their houses and beat us to death, if your car didn’t get moving. People would drive past our land and shoot at us once or twice a week.


Because we were gay, hippie, environmentalist Jews from New York. Probably communists, too. It was literally that kind of ugly. The first sign that you saw as you had to drive through Dixie (and Dixie was like three houses and a couple of trailers and a hotel/gas station on one side of the street and post office/general store on the other. There’s literally more […] and horses than pick-ups. Like really really Wild West. As you pull into Dixie, and you’ve already not been on a paved road for about a half-an-hour the first thing you see is a poster of some hippie hanging by his neck with some kinda bird-legs coming out of his ass, presumably a spotted-owl. With bullet holes in the picture and it says 100-yard target, and it’s 50-yards from a dudes front door. […] Every business, the next town up Elk City, all the way out ’till you got to the county seat, Gringeville, which is about the size of Yellow Springs […] there are little blue index cards right as you walk into any business that says […] “This business supports the timber industry and its views. If these are not your views we invite you to take your business elsewhere. Thank you.”

That’s the toxic culture that people are afraid of. There was an activism where people took risks for stuff. That’s what they’re trying to kill here; it’s not just that people’ve got analysis but that people have got the guts to go to Cove Malard or People’s Park or Big Mountian. Probably hundreds of Antioch students have put in their time at Big Mountain. All the other campaigns where people are people and risk there asses to do something. Why do we deserve to survive? It’s cause we put our asses on the line for shit.

There’s real reasons why the status quo wants this place closed. There’s more to our heritage than community and co-op and classroom and critical thought. It’s our praxis that they’re afraid of. Everyone that goes on co-op takes some shitty job, at least once, under bad circumstances and can survive and prosper in a hostile environment because it’s part of what they feel they need to do at that moment in their life to advance with their life and since our lives are about social justice that means we’re a school that trains people to undergo hardship. Whatever hardship that they can take and as much hardship as they can take in pursuit of what we believe in. So, yeah, they want us fucking gone. They want us right the hell off the map.

Things look good for us to win in a lot of ways. If you read the situation that you find us in right now, from Sun Tzu, Sun Tzu would say that we’re on what he calls heavy ground.

Which means?

[…]Heavy ground is where you allow yourself to be put in a terrain disadvantage, outnumbered and threatened with annihilation because if you put yourself on heavy ground everybody will fight to death and therefore you’ll win. Now we didn’t necessarily put ourselves on heavy ground but this looks like heavy ground to me. Having been in a quite a few scraps this is looking like heavy ground, man. So, I guess we’re just going to win! [We laugh!]

What do you do working for Nonstop?

[…]I came to help in anyway a could. […] Casselli did a lot of the design work. Meg and Tim and I threw out ideas of things we wanted to see in there, and Casselli liked the ideas and he really incorporated them and made them. […] Like, we were like, “Solar tubes!” and we was like, “OK, solar tubes.” And then we’re like, “Light tray!” and then we’re like, “no, light tray doesn’t work too well.” And then we’re like, “You know, this column needs a bench” And “You know, I need somewhere to put my beer during a dance.” So effing what? It’s college, people drink beer and dance. If there’s nowhere to put the beer, the beer ends up on the floor, people slip and fall.

[…]We did most of the carpentry work in there, and jacked up the roof and sheeted the roof and insulated it, and replaced the windows and framed up the walls and did a lot of finish carpentry work. Fair amount of painting, we did the atrium, it was a lot of fucking work.

How many people do you have working for you?

Two students and one nonstudent work for me. Jobs pending I’ll be taking more people on (cross your fingers). I’m lucky to even have a chance to say that in this economy. I like what I do. [laughs] I’m happy to have the opportunity to make people’s space better, while I sit around and wait to smash some injustice somewhere. As things calm down, I want to get back to my other activism. There’s going to be a neo-nazi resurgence in this country; I want to be available to fight it again.

Letter from Alex Mette

Dear Antioch,
Between periods of extreme stress and sadness I have thought about what this all means for me and my future, but mostly my heart goes out to others.  I came here not too sure about how I would feel about this place, in fact, after I came here to visit I had a lot of doubts about whether I really wanted to come here.  I remember that some people were doing an art project called ‘Antioch is Fucked’ and I asked them, “Is Antioch fucked because of us (the incoming class) or without us?”  “Both,” they told me.  While I have come to realize that while they had a point, there is also a lot of “the new class is so watered-down, the real Antioch is dead, etc.”  Well, for my part, I’m pretty watery but besides our poor grassroots recruitment I think that people always idealize the past.  Antioch may only have a hundred students but it remains a vibrant community and an amazingly educational place.  I think that Antiochians remain concerned about this place, what it is becoming, what it maybe used to have been, because the idea of Antioch is so beautiful.  That same idea remains today.  It is, and always has been, an image.  Despite that, Antioch, the people here, the environment, has helped to me find that image for myself, not of a flourishing progressive bastion of education and social activism, but of the personal.  For me there is always an ideal, and there is reality, what we want to become, and what we are.  Whether these differences are real or just mental, Antioch has taken me closer to my image of the world and myself than I have ever experienced.  I have seen glimpses of what life can be and I think that the freedom that Antioch creates, freedom to express as well as to learn, makes it a sanctuary.  Continue reading Letter from Alex Mette

Recruiting For The Unknown

By Tyler Morse
Recruitment has been a constant theme in discussions about the future of Antioch College. Several months ago, when the Antioch College Board of Trustees finally offered a compromise with the possibility of keeping the school open, Antiochians began to think about what the college might be like next fall in its “dim” state if the school was still part of the University. When the major donors thought about it they decided they didn’t want to be major donors at all unless the college was free to conduct its own affairs. The problem is it would probably be cheaper for the University to close the college then sell it, so there is much to discuss before an agreement can be reached and probably a long wait for an already frustrated community. How long that wait turns out to be could have big effects on campus beyond the stress it creates. Because Antioch College might not be open next year the Board of Trustees feels it is unethical accept any new students even if they are well informed about the situation. Currently, if someone sends in an application, “We just file them,” says Meredith Taylor, who by herself makes up half of the Antioch College Admissions Department. Meredith has filed 71 completed online applications and there are at least 21 more in progress, along with many that were sent by mail or fax and filed but uncounted.
Kip Vosler is a twenty-one year old gas station attendant in Yellow springs and is one of the 21 incomplete online applications. He first visited Antioch with a former student he met at the Yellow Springs street fair. His reaction was an “instant attraction” to the campus, but then again it may have been for the student that he is now dating. Kip’s attraction to Antioch is not just physical, he especially likes the concepts of the co-op program and narrative student evaluations. He was surprised and a little mad to learn that the University believes Antioch’s program is unattractive to serious students. According to Meredith, Kip is not the only prospective prospective student that wants to show the Board how serious he is. Unfortunately for Kip, the Admissions Department is not currently allowed to process applications beyond filing them for later analysis, and there has been no active recruitment of a first year class for the coming fall. For a school that might be closing next year, with an Admissions Department of two people, over a hundred applications is a very impressive number, but during a normal school year Meredith would expect about five hundred applications by now.

Continue reading Recruiting For The Unknown

Letter from ‘The FAB Four’

Dear Community,
As we approach the CG elections in just one week, we are anxious, excited, and motivated to move forward. As we have said before, we are a collective team of passionate and devoted community members and we intend to provide the Antioch College Community with leadership that will encourage sustainable education and progressive activism.
We realize that the CG elections have been stressful for all of us but we hope that you are still excited about legitimizing community governance through your participation in the upcoming election. While acknowledging that the options are limited, we hope our work and energy spent over these past several weeks convey that we are committed to reflecting all of the community’s voices.
Our next collective step is to support the community in the development and finalization of the 4th position job description. This process is incredibly important and we are committed to doing this work regardless of the outcome of the election. We recognize that the sustainability of Community Government is more important than who is in CG next year and will do what it takes to secure a strong 4 person CG for the year ’08 to ’09.
We believe in the words of Algo Henderson, “Freedom must be matched with responsibility”. It is imperative that we as a community make the necessary efforts to preserve shared governance and our Antioch community. We look forward to working with you in the coming months and to continue honoring the process of shared governance at Antioch. Thank you.

The FAB Four

Jamila Hunter
Niko Kowell
Meghan Pergrem
Fela PierreLouis

“I’m Scared” – Letter from Mary St.Clair, 2nd Year Student

I am aware that every person affiliated with Antioch has their own worries about the future, but the following is coming from me, as a student. First let me ask the question: What is happening to our education? Is this really what I signed up for? When I first came to Antioch, I got some impressive statistics claiming that 99% of the students who apply for grad school or medical school get accepted. I found the departments to be adequately staffed, with ample opportunities to grow, to learn, to succeed. However, that original notion is quickly disappearing, and I am scared.

Continue reading “I’m Scared” – Letter from Mary St.Clair, 2nd Year Student