Never Simply a Lifestyle

George Lakey moved to West Philadelphia in 1971 to embark on a new experiment– a network of activists living and working together to develop practical skills for creating social change. The experiment, named “Movement for a New Society,” was the outgrowth of an earlier group, “A Quaker Action Group.” But this was to be bigger and much more ambitious.

The experiment consisted of young people living in over ten collective houses, meeting weekly to address specific issues, and working with the community to establish sustainable sources of economy and amity. The “hub” of activity centered in what was known as the “Stone House”–there, MNS members would host workshops, cook meals and socialize.

Although George and his partner had enjoyed living their neighborhood in Powelton, they were concerned about what they observed as “white flight” in the Cedar Park neighborhood of West Philadelphia. By moving into the area with other young white activists, George hoped that MNSers could revitalize the neighborhood with community members and preserve a racially and economically diverse neighborhood.

Photos by Jenna Spitz

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

MNS existed for roughly ten years before it was put to rest by George and other members. As George says, what had made the experiment so successful was its creativity. And after ten years, it was time to search for creativity elsewhere. George and other members of MNS are currently engaged in work for social justice all over the country, and have spread their skills in non-violent direct action to activists everywhere.

MNS was responsible for establishing a whole host of important West Philly landmarks, including Mariposa Food Coop and A-Space. The Life Center Association still owns several collective houses that remain in the neighborhood since MNS.

2 responses to “Never Simply a Lifestyle”

  1. George Lakey says:

    Thanks for the great photos and presentation of the Philly part of what became a nationwide network of experimentation toward a nonviolent revolution. The group lasted for seventeen years, not ten, and probably couldn’t have made the impact it did in only a decade. In Philly we were also known as “the Philadelphia Life Center,” and in other parts of the country Movement for a New Society members often chose their own special names for their part of the network.


  2. Leigh says:

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