Humble Contributions to the Peoples' History

11130082_786614678113375_2925832056570814703_o

Joe Hill Roadshow, 100th Anniversary Tour

IWW Membership CardThe nationwide tour honoring the life of Joe Hill, presented by Crossroad Music, stopped in West Philadelphia on July 25. I just joined the I.W.W., Philadelphia Branch, and I’m now a proud, card-carrying member. This concert provided the opportunity to connect to the music of labor activism and to honor Joe Hill.

The previous post, Celebrating Joe Hill: 100th Anniversary, November 19, 1915, Part 1, provides a brief history of Joe Hill’s life and his association with the Industrial Workers of the World. 

The anniversary tour began in Chicago and will finish with their last concert in Salt Lake City. A complete listing of the tour dates is available at Joe Hill 100.com.

The Roadshow in Philly featured the folk duo Magpie, singer-songwriter Charlie King, and protest singer George Mann. Terry Leonino and Greg Artzner have been touring as Magpie since 1973, performing a poignant and lively mix of folk, jazz and blues. Charlie King sings and writes about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. Pete Seeger described him as “one of the finest singers and songwriters of our time.”  Reference: Jon Bekken, Joe Hill Roadshow will be in Philly this Weekend.

Local Connection

John Braxton

John Braxton

West Philadelphia resident John Braxton joined the performers. John Braxton and I have a connection through Swarthmore College.  When I was active in the living wage campaign at Swarthmore, I met John when he spoke at one of our events in 2002. At the 2010 Commencement, the college president awarded John, Class of 1970, an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws for his labor activism and as co-founder of Philadelphia Jobs with Justice Coalition. In his address to the students, John said,

We face problems on a scale that we have never faced before — but they are solvable if we don’t ignore them. The solutions require building powerful social and political movements — and people do find a way to do that even in the darkest times. Today, we have the tools to guide this process more intelligently and nonviolently. The moral arc of the universe does bend towards justice — if we harness ourselves and help it to bend. 

Bekken’s article quotes John as saying, 

Today, when the gap in wealth and income between the richest and the rest of us is greater than at any time since the 1930s, it’s a good time to remember that Joe Hill worked for justice for all workers around the world. 

The Music

IMG_1450

John Braxton, Charlie King, folk duo Magpie (Greg Artzner and Terry Leonino) , George Mann

The evening performance began with the rousing, “The Preacher and the Slave,” a song Joe Hill wrote as a parody of the hymn, “In the Sweet By-and-By” and coined the phrase “pie in the sky.” The I.W.W. targeted the Salvation Army for satire because of their illusory promises to workers:   

You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die

The concert turned into a sing-a-long, as all the music is singable and many in the audience were familiar with the words.

George Mann sang, “Which Side are You On,” written in 1931 by Florence Reece, the wife of a union organizer for the United Mine Workers. Florence borrowed the melody from a traditional Baptist hymn.

Don’t scab for the bosses
Don’t listen to their lies
Poor folks ain’t got a chance
Unless they organize

“There is Power in the Union,” another song by Joe Hill, who used the tune of Lewis E. Jones’ 1899 hymn, “There Is Power in the Blood.”

If you like sluggers to beat off your head,
Then don’t organize, all unions despise.
If you want nothing before you are dead,
Shake hands with your boss and look Wise.

Come, all ye workers, from every land,
Come, join in the grand industrial band;
Then we our share of this earth shall demand.
Come on! Do your share, like a man.

Before the song, George read a letter to the editor of Solidarity from Joe Hill.

Near the end of the program, audience and musicians joined in singing “Solidarity Forever,” a song sung to the tune of “John Brown’s Body” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Although the song was written for the I.W.W, other union movements have adopted the song as their own.

They divide us by our color; they divide us by our tongue,
They divide us men and women; they divide us old and young,
But they’ll tremble at our voices, when they hear these verses sung,
For the Union makes us strong!

A progressive union since its founding in 1905, the I.W.W. has been committed to anti-racism, and at its height, counted among its supporters radical and class fighters. One hundred years ago, Joe Hill understood and advocated for social justice. His songs stay in our political consciousness, encouraging and guiding us toward one big union for all.

11059491_1568982200035612_7521309213803070944_n

Joe Hill Watercolor

Original Sculpture, I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill, K.K., 2015

Poet Laureate of the IWW

Joe Hill, a Swedish born, American labor activist and songwriter, wrote union songs for his organization, the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.), popularly known as the “Wobblies.” The I.W.W., an international union, advocated direct action in the form of boycotts, strikes and sabotage. However, adversaries of the I.W.W., including some historians as well as industrialists, government officials, press and religious organizations perpetuated the idea that I.W.W. members were dangerous terrorists. Almost from the founding of the organization, their philosophy and tactics aroused intense fear and hatred by those in power. The I.W.W. garnered significant publicity during the western free speech movements of 1906-1917, resulting in hostility and fear directed toward them, unparalleled in American history.  I.W.W. positions advocating class conflict and revolution in provocative language that mocked societies’ sacred cows of patriotism and religion contributed significantly to officials’ concern about labor conflicts.

220px-The_Rebel_Girl_coverJoe Hill joined the IWW in 1910 and wrote songs to encourage his fellow workers to join in solidarity to fight for their rights. His songs were first published in the March 1916 edition of the Industrial Worker in the Little Red Songbook. During his lifetime, Joe wrote over thirty songs, including Casey Jones, The Preacher and the Slave, Dump the Bosses off Your Back, Rebel Girl and There is Power in the Union.

In a controversial trial, a jury convicted Joe Hill of murder. Despite appeals and international calls for clemency, the state of Utah executed Joe by firing square in on November 19, 1915. Professor Ron Yengich and his students have posted a website, The Joe Hill Project, on Joe’s life and the trial.

Writing in his cell, November 18, 1915, on the eve of his execution, Joe addressed his fellow workers,

My will is easy to decide,
For there is nothing to divide.
My kind don’t need to fuss and moan —
“Moss does not cling to a rolling stone.”My body? Ah, If I could choose,
I would to ashes it reduce,
And let the merry breezes blow
My dust to where some flowers grow.

Perhaps some fading flower then
Would come to life and bloom again.
This is my last and final will.
Good luck to all of you.

Joe Hill, Remembered

Joe’s remains were sent to Chicago where thirty thousand people attended his funeral. Envelopes with his ashes were sent to I.W.W. chapters and supporters, and on May Day 1916, friends and members of his union scattered his ashes in every state and throughout the world. In 1988, an envelope seized by the United States Post Office turned up. Labeled as “subversive potential,” the envelop was left at the National Archives. Members of the I.W.W. in Chicago laid claim to the contents. Several stories in I.W.W. lore claim that theses ashes were then scattered. However, it seems that one bit of Joe’s ashes was not cast to the wind but rather held at the union headquarters. I was asked to make an urn to hold these last remaining ashes.  

Joe Hill Ashes.JPG

Urn for Joe Hill’s Ashes

Joe has been memorialized in folk songs, and Paul Robeson, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Utah Phillips, Bruce Springsteen and Si Kahn have performed his songs.

Joe’s immortal words have been the rallying cry and inspiration to union and labor organizers ever since.

Don’t waste time mourning, organize!

Joe Hill’s songs can be played from this website, Songs of the Wobblies.

 

After taking some time to photograph hosta leaves, this little spider popped out from behind a stem. I couldn’t figure out why the spider appeared carrying a soccer ball until I did some research. Turns out she is a Nursery Web Spider, appropriately named, who carries her egg case wherever she goes. I had to admire her facility moving through the leaves with no trouble. I imagined myself trying to carry an object half my size over hill and dale. Eventually mommy spider builds a nursery tent for her egg sac when hatching time arrives and guards it protectively.

Spider with Egg Case

Weekly Photo Challenge

Gauges and Gears

Gages and Gears

Gaze and Gap

Cat gaze

Grain and Ground

Graceful Grain

Gradient and Grid

Geometric Convergence

Weekly Photo Challenge: Half and Half

In this photograph, the irony of the admonishment stands juxtaposed to the resistance message.  Another irony, that except for on the sign, I didn’t see any other graffiti in the area. Did the perpetrators of the writing intend to make a humorous statement? So, what is going on here?

Sometimes the first reaction to graffiti is revulsion at the idea of defacing property, and certainly that is a concern. My point is not an advocacy for vandalism and the eyesores that graffiti sometimes creates. But a thoughtful analysis has to consider many more complex issues. Writings on the wall have stood as symbols of resistance to control of government and big corporations, challenging prevailing views. Graffiti allows voice to those who feel they have no voice or no mechanism to express their opinions. We could argue if we have to put up a sign, perhaps that is the first sign that there is a lack of general consensus from the community on the issue. How would a sign even serve as a deterrent? Maybe the sign inadvertently says, “bring it on!”

Graffiti sign

 

The hollow sound of the prison door slams against the frame, the lock imprisoning the body and soul. Whatever brought the prisoners to their cells, whether because of crime, mental illness, protest or mistake does not matter. The door stands between the reality that once a person could breathe fresh air and walk along any path. The authorities strip away freedom, and all that remains is isolation and despair.

Prison

Weekly Photo Challenge: Door

Muse, n. a woman, or a force personified as a woman, who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.

Seems fitting that a sailing ship should serve as a muse. Some historians believe that the ancients dedicated their ships to goddesses. In Latin, the gender for the word ship (or navis) was feminine. Then as customs changed, ships were dedicated to important women. Captains and sailors of the past thought of their ship as their home and their love.

For me, the sailing ship has been a source of imagined and romantic travel. Enchanted with the splendor and grace of the sailing ship, a masterful creation, a work of art, I fell for sailing the frothy seas that inspired waves of passion for life as the salt air wind blew away doubts and dreams unfurled.

Star Clipper TiltInspiration from a sailing ship comes in many forms: a model, painting or sculpture. These recreations tell stories of the human experience at sea.

Whether sailing the Mediterranean, Doubtful Sound in New Zealand or the coves of Maine, viewing the landscape from a Clipper enhances the travel experience. The wind billows the sails and the bow slices through the waves as the hand of nature pushes the vessel to the next destination.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Muse

Tag Cloud

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 378 other followers

%d bloggers like this: