Staying politically fresh with Revolutionary Lemonade Stand

Insights from Stephanie Weiner, Revolutionary Lemonade Stand (Pilsen) 

Stephanie Weiner owner of Revolutionary Lemonade Stand in Pilsen, women-owned

Stephanie Weiner was born into activism. Her mother published children’s poems against the Vietnam War, her father was on the Nixon’s Enemies List, and her aunt is a disability activist. She has continued the family legacy with decades of political work and with her own art, jewelry, and apparel store, Revolutionary Lemonade Stand.

The shop, located in Pilsen, is a political activist’s dream come true, with shirts, posters, greeting cards, necklaces, coffee mugs, and more. Most are made by Stephanie herself, others are collaborations, but all are related to local, national, or even international revolutionary movements. And the causes represented in her store seem endless: a mug with a rainbow heart, a necklace made from the rubble of a demolished community center, a “Boycott Driscoll” pillow to support farm workers, and a lunch bag depicting a protestor of the 2014 Iguala mass kidnapping.

I think a revolution means adelante, moving forward ... in the causes of peace, justice, equality, and respect.
— Stephanie Weiner
Robert Almodovar Jr., hugs his aunt on his release in April from 23 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit. He was one of over 50 victims from one police officer’s lies. Stephanie said, “This poster is about bringing attention so as to bring the rest of the guys home.” She knew some of the wrongly imprisoned personally because she worked on a committee for ten years in the '90s that helped to find a pattern in these incarcerations. She was even present at Almodovar’s welcome back party, and these posters bear his signature: “It’s not just someone making art. I was involved in the process,” she said.

Robert Almodovar Jr., hugs his aunt on his release in April from 23 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit. He was one of over 50 victims from one police officer’s lies. Stephanie said, “This poster is about bringing attention so as to bring the rest of the guys home.” She knew some of the wrongly imprisoned personally because she worked on a committee for ten years in the '90s that helped to find a pattern in these incarcerations. She was even present at Almodovar’s welcome back party, and these posters bear his signature: “It’s not just someone making art. I was involved in the process,” she said.

Stephanie named her store Revolutionary Lemonade Stand because it offers “whatever is politically fresh and in season.” While she does carry commemorative pieces (like a pillow featuring famed black nationalist Assata Shakur) Stephanie thinks it’s important that she always carry items that deal with issues in real-time. For example, she sells red bandanas that say “Casa Aztlan.” Casa Aztlan was a community center that was purchased by luxury apartment developers. Residents of Pilsen were furious at the demolishment of the center and its iconic murals, so Stephanie took action. She created the bandanas within the first week, and protesters wore them the whole summer of 2017 during the anti-gentrification demonstrations.

The inspiring, funny, and sometimes tongue-in-cheek designs represent Stephanie’s own ideological journey. “I certainly have shifted my focus. I look back at some of my political work, and I think it just got so rigid.” When she was first organizing as an activist, she didn’t fully realize the strong effect that cultural components of activism can have: “I think in the times of Trump, I keep being surprised by how cultural and political art sometimes gets into nooks and crannies that leaflets and demonstrations can't.”

As both an activist and an artist, Stephanie brings a unique perspective. “It’s a fusion, and that’s rare. You have hardcore activists who don't respect the art. And you have hardcore artists, but they're not spending time in meetings in the struggles. I'm in the rare position where I put in more than 40 years of hardcore true activism. It's a unique position to occupy,” she said.

“The whole store really looks forward and positive … That's one of the reasons you're seeing a lot of baby clothes. Babies are the future.” Stephanie noticed that many people are wary of politicizing children. But she sees it as a “playful and fun way to share political culture.” With her array of shirts with slogans like “Builder of a new society,” Stephanie hopes to show her belief that it’s possible to raise kids progressively and politically.

“The whole store really looks forward and positive … That's one of the reasons you're seeing a lot of baby clothes. Babies are the future.” Stephanie noticed that many people are wary of politicizing children. But she sees it as a “playful and fun way to share political culture.” With her array of shirts with slogans like “Builder of a new society,” Stephanie hopes to show her belief that it’s possible to raise kids progressively and politically.

Revolutionary Lemonade Stand as a business is 12 years old, but the physical Pilsen store opened about five years ago. Stephanie has faced ups and downs over the years, but she remains optimistic: “More and more, I feel that people are rooting for the store.” She aims high and has many goals for improving the business even more, including hiring employees, creating products in more languages, using more sustainable and ethical materials, further developing her artistic skills, and taking part in more collaborations.

Stephanie also wants Revolutionary Lemonade stand to exist for all. “[The products] are not just merit badges for the hardcore. I want it to be a lovely way that people can learn about issues that they didn't know about and feel local.” By integrating revolutionary messages into everyday objects, she’s making activism accessible so that everyone can include some aspect in their life.

So, what exactly is the “revolution” in Stephanie’s eyes? “I think a revolution means adelante, moving forward ... in the causes of peace, justice, equality, and respect.”

Jessica Liu1 Comment