LAVA from the sky

LAVA needs your love (and your money)

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LAVA has had some troubled times over the past few years. The building was taken over by a tenant and then, sold illegally. After lots of legal wrangling we got the building back and then COVID hit. Despite the troubles, LAVA is coming back but our building needs some work (some work actually means a lot of work). Windows need to be replaced; the roof still leaks despite the work already done on other parts of the building; the stucco needs attention, and the event space needs a ceiling repair (see roof leaks above) and floor reinforcement…oh yeah…then there is the kitchen that needs to be reinstalled. Before the troubles, LAVA and the Collective Members raised funds primarily through events. COVID stopped the events as a revenue source. The roof top concerts and t-shirt sales and rent raised some funds, but LAVA is stretched really thin.

That’s the bad news. Here’s the good news.

LAVA has some regular programs for the community and some long time and some new tenants.

LAVA programs

The Thursday Food Distro is a weekly food giveaway that started at LAVA in 2004. The Distro is done for/with the folks in our neighborhood. Produce, dry goods and dairy items are donated by Whole Foods and occasionally other local food distros.

Really Really Free Market (RRFM) is a monthly clothing, household items, toys and books give away scheduled on the second Saturday of each month. Running continuously since 2010, the RRFM is an opportunity to share resources without a price tag. The RRFM is always looking for donations of gently used items to give away.

The Ronny Vega Memorial People’s Fridge and the LAVA Snack Bar are 24/7 food pantries available to our neighbors. Stocked with leftovers from Food Distro; other food shares and neighbor donations, The People’s Fridge and the LAVA Snack Bar were very well received by the folks in the neighborhood.

LAVA Library is on hiatus now because of the pandemic but plans are being made to reopen when gathering indoors is safe.

Collective organizations

Diverse Entertainment is bringing new life to the third-floor studio space. G’Tayah Archie was one of the kids who hung out at LAVA in the early 2000’s. Today, G’Tayah is a music teacher in the Philadelphia School system and is the driving force behind Diverse Entertainment. Diverse Entertainment’s mission is to introduce children to the power of music through lessons and create a studio and recording space for musical talent.

Human Rights Coalition is a grassroots non-profit group of currently or formerly incarcerated people, their families and supporters. HRC was formed to support families in coping with the stress and hardships created by having a loved one incarcerated, as well as to challenge the punitive, retributive nature of the penal system and to work to transform that to a model of rehabilitation and successful reintegration to society. One of the many actions of HRC is Letter Writing. HRC sees individual correspondence with people on the inside as a way to undermine the isolation, dehumanization and destruction of the prison industrial complex. HRC houses 20 years of this correspondence in the Prison Abolition Archive (PAA). The PAA is a project that HRC started in 2021 to collect, organize and archive the history of the prison abolition movement in Philadelphia and beyond. Housed on the third floor of LAVA space, the PAA is an archival space dedicated to preserving the letters, writings, organizational documents, and movement artifacts from the modern-day prison abolitionist movement.

Prometheus Radio Project With LAVA since 2014, the Prometheus Radio Project builds participatory radio as a tool for social justice organizing and a voice for community expression. To that end, it demystifies media policy and technology, advocates for a more just media system, and helps grassroots organizations build communications infrastructure to strengthen their communities and movements.

Socialist Rifle Association (SRA) is the newest member of the Collective. SRA provides various programs to community members including firearm knowledge and safety training; medical training; food distribution; eviction protection support; building and trades clinics.

Workers’ Revolutionary Collective Founded in 2018, the Workers Revolutionary Collective is a member self-directed cooperative organized as a 501(c)(3) non-profit cooperative of self-directed collectives. They are manifesting community solutions that reflect the experiences of oppressed and working communities and build on the foundation of community pillars to end our shared struggles by organizing working class direct nonviolent actions, tools and resources. WRC’s organizing efforts include feedback circles of communal health, stewarding green lots with coalitioned locals, organizing local buildings into public spaces for creative co-education, and unionizing land, housing and food insecure community members in the sharing of food, clothing, transportation, skills and spiritual support without pretense. WRC joined the LAVA Collective in March 2020.

What’s going on to fix our building?

LAVA members are meeting monthly or more often for LAVA workdays. The early workdays were focused on cleaning out and cleaning up. Then building security was addressed. The recent project, led by SRA, is parging the basement walls to make the basement suitable for storage and create a work area.

Once the basement is completed, work will can begin on the event space. The plan for the event space includes renovating the kitchen with new appliances, counter space and storage areas to create a community kitchen for LAVA’s food related work as well as for the use of folks from the neighborhood.

Somewhere in there, the roof work will be finished up.

How can you help?

Any donation, large or small will help keep LAVA going. Monthly sustaining gifts are helpful to help pay for heat, water, insurance and electricity. One-time donations will help us get the bigger projects done. If you’d like to earmark for a larger item for your donation: a window; the event space ceiling or floor; the stucco or kitchen appliances, just let us know.

Contributions can be made via PayPal or by credit or debit card at or by check made out to Lancaster Ave Autonomous Space and mailed to 4134 Lancaster Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104.

Thanks for showing LAVA your love!