Students Shine a Light where Politicians Have Cowered

"When your children act like leaders and your leaders act like children, you know change is coming.” 

So Tweeted Mikel F. Jollett

” We’ve had enough. We are the generation that was born after Columbine. We have lived with is our entire lives and now it happened at my school. I spent two hours in a closet just hiding and I am done hiding. We're done hiding. America has done hiding.” 

Matt Dietsch, survivor of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting

At its best, media informs, educates and engages. In this case, some of the coverage of the students speaking out in the aftermath of the shooting has shown the media at its best.

Students from Stoneman Douglas High School have sounded the alarm and brought the gun control debate to the forefront days after they survived a mass shooting on campus on Feb. 14.

The suspect, a former student, entered the school with a legally purchased AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and killed 17 people.

Over the last few days, we've seen the power of voices raised as one. The students of Stoneman Douglas and the other students around the nation who have joined with them have been able to bring an issue to light to shine a light on it that no other group has before.

Gun violence in America is an issue that has been one where empty rhetoric has replaced action as countless innocent victims have been senselessly gunned down. On one side of the aisle, politicians afraid of alienating their base, afraid of losing votes and afraid of losing funding, have chosen their political careers over lost lives. On the other side, those who thought this was a losing issue and one not worth the battle, have backed down.

But all that is changing, students whose lives have been affected have raised the alarm and as they persevere, they are making a difference. Dubbed the "Never Again" movement, the teenage activists are utilizing the traditional media, being interviewed on television, radio, newspapers, and magazines.  They are also mobilizing on social media, organizing school walkouts, and planning a nationwide protest for March 24.  They are sending a message and those who turned deaf ears to so many in the past are being forced to listen.

#BoycottNRA hashtag has taken on a life of it’s on and it is making a difference.  A partial list of companies who have cut ties with the NRA include:

Whether this new movement will continue to have an impact, or whether the political powers that be will be able to shut it down as they have other attempts to raise the alarm, still needs to be seen. Regardless, these students have changed the landscape forever. They have raised their voices, have been heard and they now understand that they can impact society as a whole. The fact that it took this many deaths and children raising their voices to be heard is a sad commentary on where we are as a nation.

And now it is up to the rest of us. America now needs to stand with its children and the media needs fulfill its obligation by keeping a spotlight on the issue and not letting it die or become simply another news cycle that passes and is forgotten.

Bart's Books: An Interview with Matt Henriksen

Based in Ojai, California, Bart’s Books is a bookstore unto itself.

I was first introduced to Ojai by actors who were in my first play, Bang! A Love Story. That’s going back a few years now, and although my wife and I have visited several times since then we somehow never got around to visiting Bart’s. Truth be told, one of our cousins continually suggested we stop by, but, for whatever reason, we never made the trek.

Until finally we did.

Bart’s was a revelation.

A literal love-at-first-sight experience. Both my wife and I are writers and book fanatics, which works out well, because once we arrive we both know we’re basically there for the day. Eventually as dusk falls, one of us has to drag the other out. Bart’s visits have become regular pilgrimages akin to religious experiences.

I’m not one for buying books online, because I seldom start with a specific book in mind. For me the pleasure is in browsing, searching and finding a book I’ve never heard of, that seems to call out. And Bart’s has yards and rows and shelves filled with books. It’s a magical place bursting with fiction and non-fiction, the popular and the arcane. It’s a wonderful space in which to lose yourself and enter other worlds.

potteryBart’s is the largest independently owned and operated outdoor bookstore in the U.S. The story goes that in 1964 Bart’s Books was little more than a sparkle in the eye of Richard Bartinsdale whose collection of books had gotten so overwhelming that he constructed a series of book cases along the sidewalk so that passersby could peruse the titles.

In lieu of a cash register, “Bart” left coffee cans atop the book cases. People would select a title or two and leave payment in the cans, giving birth to Bart’s world-famous tradition of selling books via the honor system. Since that time Bart’s Books has become host to nearly one million books ranging from the thirty-five cent special (that have now gone up to a whopping fifty-cents) which line the outside walls and are still for sale on the honor system, to rare, out of print first editions, and art books valued in the thousands of dollars.

Matt Henriksen Bart’s general manager kindly took some time to tell us a bit more about the magic of Bart’s.

What initially drew you to the bookstore?

I have been coming to the store since I was in middle school. I used to ditch school to come here to hang out.

How long have you run it?

I've been managing the place for seven years.

How would you describe Bart’s to someone who’s never visited the store?

The slogan from the bookmark back in the eighties said, “everything under the sun.” I think that’s a fair description, used new antique rare and valuable books, inside and out of a 30s honeymoon cottage and its courtyard.

Does Bart’s have a mission?

To get the best possible book into the hands of the person who needs it most, to preserve ideas and ideals and encourage their circulation, and to get our customers to try something just a little bit outside of their zone of comfort.

 What type of events to you have at the bookstore?

Art, music, book signings, wedding receptions, poetry readings, private dinners. Almost anything one could imagine if we think it will support our goals.

 As you mention on your site you offer “thirty-five cent specials which line the outside walls and are still for sale on the honor system, to rare, out-of-print first editions, and art books valued in the thousands of dollars”. 

How good are people at honoring the thirty-five cent honor system?

They have actually been 50 cents for over a decade now.   the honor system is after hours only and seems to generate somewhere between 20 and 0 dollars every month.

What are some of the more valuable books you’ve sold at the bookstore?

Value is relative, we have sold books I consider valuable from fifty cents to tens of thousands of dollars.

 What are some of the most unusual books that have found their way to Bart’s?

My current favorites are four bound volumes of New York Times mid-week pictorials featuring beautiful rotogravure reproductions of Europe throughout the first world war, an uncorrected proof of Ernest Hemingway's " A Movable Feast”, and   an early California promotional book published in Oakland in 1888 advertising for people to settle in east Los Angeles which includes an article by John Muir on the San Gabriel mountains. I also Have a couple john Muir first editions, "Travels in Alaska" & "My First Summer in the Sierra"

The sheer number and types of books you carry is dizzying.  That said, is there a prototypical Bart’s patron?

As a location that benefits a lot from tourism we get a large number of one time customers, many of whom are not regular bookstore visitors.  As far as repeat customers the single unifying feature of a Bart’s customer is curiosity.

Learn more about Bart’s at