Joseph A. Gervasi interviews Mark Andersen of Positive Force DC, We Are Family, and the books Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk In the Nation’s Capital (co-authored with Mark Jenkins) and All the Power: Revolution Without Illusion. On the thirtieth anniversary of Washington, DC’s “Revolution Summer,” I wanted to celebrate and illuminate the event that sent reverberations out into the world that continue to resonate today. While Mark has nothing to do with the Philly punk scene this project focuses on, he’s like some other interview subjects (e.g. Martin Sprouse) whom I’ve elected to interview for being so influential on all punk scenes, including the Philly scene.
Mark Andersen grew up on his parents’ farm in Montana. He never fit in there and was looking for something else, something to draw him away from the sad cycles of addiction and conformity he saw all around him. Mark’s salvation came in the form of the nascent punk scene. A few years later, Mark found himself in Washington, DC where harDCore reigned supreme and the scene was eating itself alive. Then came Revolution Summer, where committed members of the scene — many of whom, like Mark, were frustrated with the state of affairs both in the scene and in the world — came together to create a new, engaged scene. In our long interview, originally conducted in two parts in the same day, we talk about Mark’s upbringing, his discovery of punk (most critically, The Clash), coming to DC, straight edge, Revolution Summer, Positive Force DC, coming to the Catholic Faith, social activism, the We Are Family organization that reaches out to elderly people, and much more. In one of the best interviews of this project, Mark talks frankly about many subjects he’s never been interviewed about and he earnestly approaches all subjects with a rare and raw sensitivity.
For more information about the Washington, DC hardcore punk scene, I recommend the following books:
Banned In DC: Photos and Anecdotes From the DC Punk Underground (79-95) by Cynthia Connolly (1988)
Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk In the Nation’s Capital by Mark Andersen and Mark Jenkins (2001)
And these documentaries:
Positive Force: More Than A Witness; 30 Years of Punk Politics In Action directed by Robin Bell (2011)
Salad Days: A Decade of Punk In Washington, DC directed by Scott Crawford (2014)