At the Really, Really Free Market in the Mission, there's no pressure to buy, sell or barter
By Yo Noguchi
One day after the busiest shopping day of the year, Heather Young was at the park giving away what she could for free.
The Really Really Free Market (RRFM) for November took place a day after Black Friday—the nation’s annual, post-Thanksgiving orgy in spending that marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season.
In contrast to the frenzy at the shopping malls, the 50 or so people who gathered at Dolores Park in the Mission District of San Francisco enjoyed a calm day in the sun, a time to share and receive anything from clothing, to a massage, to organic pomegranates all really, really for free.
Many of those who help with the RRFM are anarchists, anti-capitalists, or simply political activists. Supporters like Young stress, however, that the market is open to all.
“Although we want it to proliferate around the country, it is more about encouraging people to think about how we interact with each other, money, and the planet changing values everywhere changing the way we live our lives it’s not just something cool we do one day a month,” explained Young.
Young is a part-time teacher at the New College Institute and part of the Chiapas Support Committee, a grass roots all-volunteer organization in Oakland that supports indigenous and farming organizations in Mexico. She offers her services as a masseuse at the markets, often teaching others fundamentals in the process.
Young’s first experience with the Really Really Free Market came when a friend invited her to help host Berkeley’s in 2006. From there she took the concept and started her own at the New College on Valencia Street. Within the first three months, she met the late Kirsten Brydum, through mutual friends, only to find that Brydum had started a RRFM located at Dolores Park in San Francisco a few months earlier. They soon joined forces to create the RRFM that exists today.
The concept of the Really Really Free Market was born in Miami as part of the protests against the 2003 proposal to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas. The proposal was addressed during the G8 Summit in which countries gather as an opportunity to exchange views on issues relating to international cooperation. The purpose was to offer up the market as a criticism of the international free-market economy, which critics say exploits people and resources by favoring multinational corporations and reducing the influence of unions.
Young is quick to note that, “there is no particular ideology or political orientation affiliated with RRFM.”
Really Really Free Markets are held throughout the year in various cities in the U.S. spanning as far as Greensboro, North Carolina, and Athens, Georgia, where the first RRFM was hosted just over a year ago, according to the WikiSite (www.wikipedia.org/wiki/ReallyReallyFreeMarket).
Jemma Swatek, 24, has attended Really Really Free Markets in both North Carolina and California. Currently residing on Dolores Street near the park, Swatek admits that although the “merchandise” is trivial from month to month, she enjoys the principles that create the environment.
Beneath the palm trees the participants, many of them barefoot, sat on blankets with rarely more than a few articles of clothing laid out along side old toys, silverware and other assortments. There’s never more than what you would expect to find at an average garage sale on a lazy Sunday. Missing, however, is any hint of an urgency to sell, fear of buyer’s remorse or the need to haggle.
After all, everything is free. Really, really free.