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Libertatia / Urban Survival

Documentary excerpt, New Orleans, 1993
Taped on Hi-8 + 8mm
Greetings from Tom & Marta

We shot this video during Mardi Gras season in '93. A few close friends have seen these rough cuts, only because they care about these things.

Keith and Chelsea, self-proclaimed anarchists, opened a safe house for street kids, and published an alternative 'zine, Urban Survival.

The safe house with the grand name of Libertatia was an abandoned two-story double at the edge of the Warehouse District, next to a Police Station. Keith was handed the keys by a sympathetic rich friend, so the duo walked in and occupied the spacious house. Damage from a recent fire left gaps in the ceiling and roof but it was certainly livable by squatters standards. They cleaned up the mess, annointed the walls with a bit of graffiti, and had a roof over their heads.

The duo funded it all by producing a Lundi Gras benefit event headlined by Crash Worship, masters of tribal drums and shamanic psychedelia.

We respected these young anarchists for their daring and hard work. The house rules were defined as cooperation, self-determination and respect for fellow squatters. Their world was envisioned as an alternate society where living in poverty requires self-reliance and harmony.

Life on the streets is absolute terror for most. Many outsiders are from broken homes and have untreated medical conditions. Survival is hard and often violent. Libertatia was a vision of hope that change for the better is possible.

Word spread fast among street kids who arrived in New Orleans in '93 for Mardi Gras and the punk house was a destination for unruly drunken partiers. The free shelter experiment blew up way out of proportion. Keith and Chelsea learned that idealism and hard work didn't work this time. Instead they were dealt a harsh punishment by authorities and their own kind.

Since we documented Urban Survival, far more Americans have discovered what it means to be homeless, without shelter, to not know where your next meal is coming from.

We lost touch with Keith and Chelsea back in '94. I believe that creating Libertatia was their finest hour. It took guts and vision to provide free housing, launch a publishing venture, produce music events, corral a community of activists, and for our part, make a documentary. With no money. Which explains why it took so long for their story to surface.

See an excerpt of Crash Worship.

See the Urban Survival trailer.

Visit End This War.