“We are trying to get signatures for our ballot status initiative and there are always a large number of people here. Our main goal is to get out our word to the public as much as possible,” says Tim Mavrides, a member of the Mesa Greens.
A pamphlet emphasizing key aspects of their non-violent reform strategies was a hit among passers by.
“A lot of people tend to be interested in Green Party issues, and I’ve noticed people coming to the booth and asking very educated and inquisitive questions,” Mavrides says.
The Communist Party USA also set up their booth at an intersection in order to gain the most out of the foot traffic.
“It’s a good place to meet some people and get the word around about the Communist Party,” says James Stewart, a longtime member of the Communist Party in America. “We like to get the word out that we are still around.”
Stewart noticed a trend in the demographic of people that approached the booth.
“We tend to see that older people are more likely to come up to us to talk and they mainly want to know if we are ‘for real.’ They think we all disappeared or are dead or something,” he says.
The Communist Party now has 2,500 registered members nationwide, a mere fraction of its heyday in the 1930s yet Stewart feels as though they are growing in popularity.
“It is gradually building up again,” he says. “People want a drastic change.”
Political groups are cashing in on the idea that bringing the campaign to the people, in their element, has become acceptable.
“I think it’s a very diverse group of people here,” says Chris Jones, a passerby who signed up for the Communist Party newsletter. “At First Fridays, you have to come into it with an open mind because you will see all kinds of different things.”
For example, according to articles in People’s Weekly World, a newsletter available at the Communist Party’s booth, the party covers issues from the War in Iraq to the struggles the Meatpacking Unions have had to face recently.
“You may see things that you disagree with and you may see things that you are for, but people are welcome to come down here and openly express their beliefs,” Jones says.
Jones’ passion for the openness of the event was evident. He protested that the number of places where expression is acceptable is dwindling.
“There are few places in the city where you can openly do this,” Jones says. “You couldn’t go to Fashion Square Mall and try to set up a Communist Party booth and expect people to accept it.”
Live art in the form of graffiti
It’s no surprise to see art used as a medium for political expression. The downtown art scene has been a forum for communicating an array of ideals, beliefs and values for nearly 15 years now.
Maurice Norrise added the finishing touches to his graffiti art at the Living Space exhibit of First Fridays.
The Phoenix native, decked in a T-shirt featuring graffiti art that he designed himself, took a step back from the 6-by-11-foot sheet of plywood and nodded proudly.
“I’ve been doing my art all my life,” he says. “They told me to grab a spray can, I started doing it, and people love it. Even though I’m not making too much money, I keep going.”
The Living Space exhibit at the southeast corner of 4th Street and Roosevelt Street boasts a unique opportunity for veteran artists and rookies alike to show off their talent every month.
Event organizer Jordan Womack found his inspiration after attending the art walk for the first time in October 2006.
“I thought First Fridays was super cool, so I was looking for an excuse to hang out and not just be an attendee but to participate,” Womack says.
The University of Advancing Technology student collaborated with his friends Marcial “Mars” White and Ben Hyde to create Living Space.
Out of their own pockets, they purchase six boards, more than 80 cans of spray paint and DJ entertainment from White.
“I thought we would do it once and it would be fun,” Womack says, “but enough people responded to it and got really into it. Over time, it just kind of evolved, and it turned into what you see today.”
Graffiti artist Daniel Gonzalez, a two-year veteran of First Fridays, said that the event has grown vastly, probably from word of mouth advertising.
“I hear people to this day who say, ‘What’s First Fridays, what’s out there?,’” he says. “Then they come out and they love it and end up coming every month.”