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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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The Statesman

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FreeSpace Offers a Venue for Creative LI Writers

In quiet, suburbanHuntington Station sits a bleak, gray house with light blue shutters. A grayChevy van sits on the front lawn, a skull and cross bone sticker stuck on thebumper.

Inside the house, Kevin Van Meter is preparing afternoontea. Van Meter, 24, is a vegan, so he will be skipping the milk added by most.He is college-educated, well-spoken, and during the course of the interviewoccasionally raises his heavily tattooed arms to adjust his Buddy Holly-likeframe.

Van Meter is one of a handful of people behind FreeSpace, a Long Island-based, non-profit organization thatpublishes a journal containing art, activist perspectives and independent journalism.

“The journal is key,” Van Meter said. ‘It expresses who we are, it brings artists and activists together.’

FreeSpace was beguntwo years ago by a group of young who came together to discuss issues and ideasaffecting Long Island. Activists involved in animal rights protests and peacework, mixed with painters, poets and musicians of the punk and hardcore sceneto start the organization that addressed their common needs.

Van Meter said he joined FreeSpace because he felt there were no resources available toindividuals aged 16-30 who were not into sports, school clubs, or other’mainstream’ activities.

“The problem is there are no services for kids onLong Island,” Van Meter said.  “They expect us to go to the mall,go see the latest Vin Diesel movie, and that’s fine for folks who lovethat, but there are people who are not interested in shopping at the Gap and seeing the latest Vin Diesel movie.”

FreeSpace, published quarterly, is staffed by an estimated 25 people, with nearly a thousand more onthe mailing list.

“We [print] 5000 [journals] and it’s not a lot,but the response is phenomenal,” he said.

Van Meter said he realized his proclivity toward activism inhigh school. He recalled his protests on behalf of a homosexual friend who washarassed when his sexual orientation was discovered.

“He got so much, from teachers and students,” Van Meter said.  “And I couldn’t understand why all these people were like, ‘We’re gonna kill you.”

Van Meter went to the school dance in a powder blue brides maid dress, purchased from a local thrift shop, as an act of defiance aimed atstudents and administration, he said.

“I show up wearing this gown, and it was a turningpoint because all the kids I grew up with were like ‘you’re a f—ing scum bag, you’re a lowlife, you’re a f—-t,” Van Meter said. “I was shocked by teachers who were like, ‘Oh, soyou’re the queer.”’

Voices against discrimination, violence, and racism all havea home at FreeSpace, Van Meter said. But the FreeSpace itself does not yet have a home of its own. Membersmaintain the journal and hold various art shows, independent film premiers, andconcerts in various venues, but have not yet been able to raise money forpermanent office space.

Van Meter said that FreeSpace tries to give young people a place where they can get connected withtheir interests.

‘?I want some kid to come and feel like they have anissue, or something they want to do, and now they have a place to do it,’Van Meter said.

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