Kathy DiBernardo's father has a feisty streak that has fueled a lifelong fight for the rights of working people. "My dad was radical way back when," says DiBernardo. He worked toward the unionization of woolen mills in their New England town when organizing was unpopular and surrounded by fear, she says. And at 87, he still feels strongly about the issue, though the mills are gone and the work farmed out across the world. In a word, globalization put people out of jobs while others suffer under the conditions in which they are forced to work.
The elder DiBernardo's ideology has passed on to his daughter, a longtime local activist and the organizer of PeaceOrlando (www.peaceorlando.com). Her latest project is the Radical Reading Room, housed in College Park in her former Switch resale clothing store (1520 Edgewater Drive, Suite A.) The store didn't make it, but stuck in the lease, DiBernardo is turning it into an alternative library stocked with books, magazines and other media that speak to issues of "serious social consequence." It's also open as a meeting space for progressive groups and special events. (The "Palestine Truth Tour 2003" drops by at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 8, with video footage of the Israeli invasion of Jenin in 2002; and PeaceOrlando meets 7 p.m. Mondays, starting Jan. 13.)
Still, the Radical Reading Room (www.radicalreadingroom.org) is somewhat "nebulous" right now, says DiBernardo; it's a "coming-together-as-it-is-coming-together kind of thing." The most urgent need is for bookshelves to house the 2,000-plus volumes, which were inherited from the defunct Stone Soup Collective on South Orange Avenue. Though DiBernardo and some of her Radical team were a part of Stone Soup, they are quick to distance themselves from that organization and its demise, which was surrounded by infighting and citations for disturbing the peace due to all-ages music shows.
"It's a much simpler mission," says DiBernardo. "The Radical Reading Room is not a collective like Stone Soup." There's a $5 per month membership fee, she says, and just 140 paying members could cover the needed $700 for rent and bills. So her current plea is for members, financial donations, building supplies for shelves, chairs and lamps and suitable reading materials. She's still tweaking the hours of operation and other details. To help, call the RRR, (407) 648-4446, or DiBernardo, (407) 228-2008.
And though delivering music is not the mission of the Radical Reading Room, local bands will play there Saturday, Jan. 11, to benefit a group organized by Kathy's daughter, Amanda DiBernardo, 17, to establish a much-needed all-ages music venue (JFK and Cockeyed, 7:30 p.m., $5; ADS, Death After Texas and My Own Sky, 9 p.m., $7). Such activism should run in everyone's blood.