We are a democratic collective of folks who work on / create the projects we
distribute and who volunteer with the Slingshot collective. Our mission: to
bring interesting materials to the people in the most low-tech, non-corporate,
humanistic, inexpensive and sustainable fashion possible.
Following is the long and strange history of how we got our name. In the early 1990s, a bunch of anarchist-leaning bike activists in San Francisco started a leader-less, unplanned bike ride that eventually became known as Critical Mass. Critical mass is one of the most joyful, life-affirming events ever created by human beings. If you’ve never gone on one, take any opportunity you can find to do it, especially a really big one like the San Francisco ride.
It is practically impossible to ride in a huge mass of other bicyclists — taking up the whole street with joy, beautiful people, decorated bikes, all while pushing fossil fueled traffic aside — without whooping in absolute joy and release.
In 1996, a particularly huge SF critical mass ride happened after SF Mayor Brown tried to crack down on the ride. Silly mayor — it just made the ride bigger. The press was outraged at the disobedient cyclists — how dare wehave fun! (And win control of the streets.) Headlines made fun of whooping cyclists — the mayor called us Whooping Weenies.
Some bike activists even made a video with the same name. See it below.
Fast forward to the huge protests at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City. Some of us loosely associated with Slingshot were running in the streets as an affinity group called the “Wingnuts” from Berkeley. Based on our experience at the protests in Seattle at the WTO (World Trade Organization), we realized we might get separated in the chaos and that it would be helpful to have some signal to “gather up”. So we decided, having watched the Whooping weenie video, to use the “Whoop!” signal. That would be our affinity group’s call.
Early in the afternoon of the “day of action” we were doing street theater on 42nd St. — in the theater district — and 3 of us got arrested. We were doing street theater because we thought it was the kind of legal, mellow thing that would NOT get us arrested. But that is another story — check out issue # ____ of the slingshot paper for the full account.
Anyway, in jail, two women are locked in a cage on the pier where they were taking mass arrestees, and 1 man is far away in a different cage. All of a sudden, you can hear over the din of fans and cop cars and bullshit a high “Whoop!” And the signal went back and forth until the cops told us to stop. The signal worked!
Later, after getting out of jail, we were trying to think of a good name for our new distro project — we wanted to distro slingshot and other stuff we worked on ourselves to give people an honest deal — and the term “Whoop distro” seemed totally correct. A good signal you can hear from a long way off, and a fun, unreserved, wild thing to do no matter what.
Try whooping and see what happens!