HEART OF CHICAGO — Fashion-conscious activists have a new place to fight the power.
Stephanie Weiner says she wants to provide more stylish outfits for Chicago protestors with her Revolutionary Lemonade Stand.
Weiner, a 51-year-old teacher, mother and revolutionary artist opened the shop, at 2315 S. Leavitt St., in November and has the city’s very first live/work ordinance license, meaning that she can live on the same level as her shop.
“It’s hard sometimes living next door because if someone walks in, I should have shoes on,” Weiner said laughing.
Weiner said part of the reason she opened her shop was the lack of attractive protest clothing on the market.
“As an activist, I was tired of the same men’s shirts. I wanted something more fitted and stylish,” she said.
The little shop overflows with Che Guevara ceramic tiles, “Si se puede” (yes we can) T-shirts, and baby onesies that proudly proclaim their wearer the “Builder of a new society.”
“We almost named our son ‘Builder,’” Weiner said. “Then, we decided on Nat after Nat Turner.”
The shop also features a small collection of rentable revolutionary films, including “Viva La Causa,” and “The Motorcycle Diaries.”
Weiner’s parents were both activists in New York who spoke out against the Vietnam War and Weiner has been in the revolutionary business since at least the sixth grade.
She has a petition from that time started by “Stephie W.” that calls upon her classmates to boycott eating lettuce made by a grower who used unfair labor practices.
Weiner holds up a bracelet that says, “Equality, justice and a place on the dance floor.” The bracelets, which are sold at the shop, honor Weiner's aunt, Simi Linton, who was permanently disabled after being hit by a car on the way to protest the Vietnam War in 1971. She’s currently the subject of a New York documentary called “Invitation to Dance.”
Weiner said she hopes young people come to her shop to test out their ideas and learn some of the history of her art.
“I really like that teenagers and young people new to the struggle can represent their ideas,” she said. “It’s a great way to start conversations, with a button or a badge.”
And since much of her art and clothing averages $20, even young activists can save up for a Che Guevara-inspired armband.
David Ontiveros, 20, lives across the street from Revolutionary Lemonade and had a T-shirt before the shop even opened.
He got the shirt, which says, “Hello, my name is Revolutionary,” three years ago when his band played a benefit to raise money for Weiner’s shop.
Ontiveros, a student at Harold Washington College, said he thinks the shop will be good for the neighborhood, which is lacking in retail stores.
“It’s a good location ‘cause there’s no stores like that around here, you know?” he said.
Timing is also a key to good revolutionary art, according to Weiner. The art has to reflect some aspect of a protest or struggle and it has to do it quickly.
“I want this place to be like, ‘the spot.’ When something like the teachers union goes on strike, that I’m able to respond quickly. That’s my goal,” she said.
Weiner said there’s something at her shop for all levels of activists: hospital gifts, baby shower items and even bandanas for the dogs of protestors out there.
“I’m gonna make bandanas for all the dogs with ‘protest dog’ on them,” she said. “There was this dog that kept going to all the protests in Greece called ‘protest dog.’ I just thought that would be so cute.”