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Philadelphia’s May Day Celebration 2013

Honoring Workers Who Fought and Won the 8-Hour Work Day

images Many people believe that May Day is a socialist or communist celebration, when in fact the May Day holiday grew out of  the eight-hour working day movement in the United States in 1884. The struggle for a shorter workday began in the factories as the unions pressed their employers for shorter hours and higher wages. At that time, millions of people were out of work. During the convention of the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions announced that eight hours “shall constitute a day’s work from and after May 1, 1886.” Honoring May Day is an important part of our American heritage, and in Philadelphia Elmwood Park provided the perfect place for a rally and celebration in front of the monument by Irish artist, John Kindness, which stands as a tribute to the American worker.


Alexandria with John Jerzak, member of Friends of Elmwood Park who advocated for the labor memorial.

Jim Moran, Committee Chair of the May Day Committee introduced Alexandria Knox, proudly representing her union, the American Federation of Musicians, Local 349, Manchester, New Hampshire. Alexandria played a rousing version of Scotland the Brave on the bagpipes, beginning the afternoon’s entertainment. We were extremely fortunate that Alexandria, who is dedicated to the cause of unionization and solidarity, had agreed to play for the event as she is one of a very small number of totally visually impaired Highland bagpipers throughout the world. Next up Mike Stout & The Human Union Band  filled the air with energetic rock music with a worker message.  I was moved by their first song, The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Song, especially in light of the recent tragedy in Bangladesh, where over 1,000 workers were killed in a building collapse. I immediately bought three of their CDs. Mike describes himself as

a socially conscious singer song-writer and community leader who leads crusades against local and global economic injustice, rallying people with his music, and he organizes them to take action.He tells his stories from the heart about people who are affected by unemployment, or social injustice or war.


Mike Stout and the Human Union Band

Other musicians performed including K&A Mob, Tha Truth, Dina Yarmus and Maryta Fields, who sang the National Anthem. IMG_2489Pete Matthews-AFSCME DC 33, Gwen Ivey-APWU 89, Cathy Scott-AFSCME DC 47, John Johnson-TWU 234, Helen Gym-Parents United for Public Education, Philadelphia Student Union, Chicago Teachers Union 1, Cathy Brady-Friends of Elmwood Park & SEIU HCPA were some of the scheduled speakers. A member of the Chicago Teachers Union, Andrew Heiserman, shared stories of  their courageous battle against the city’s austerity measures against the schools. . Sonia Sanchez, Philadelphia’s Poet Laureate, spoke about peace benches. Jim Moran presented the Aggie Moran Human Rights Awards to Sonia as well as to labor historian, Alice Hoffman, labor rights campaigner, Barbara Rahke, and the Restaurant Opportunities Center. The “SRC 19,”  the activists arrested at the last School Reform Commission meeting in Philadelphia when the SRC voted to close 23 Philadelphia Public Schools, were also honored. Occupy Philly Food Committee provided a great selection of food: sandwiches, bbq, salads, cake and beverages.

Selected video highlights from the event:

May Day Celebrations around the World 2013

Greek Antifascists bring their Message to Philadelphians

Was only 70 Years Ago . . .


Wiki Commons

My son, John, and his housemate, Jim, hosted two Antifascist activists from Greece, who were giving a presentation at the Lava Space in Philadelphia on Monday, March 11. John and Jim attend many activist events, and they always invite me to come. I decided to attend this event mostly because of an email I received just a few days ago from a member of my photography class who traveled to the Czech Republic on a family heritage trip. In that email he wrote that he had visited the town of Vrbove and walked the along the streets that were so familiar to his grandmother. He also made a pilgrimage to the town on Lidice, on the outskirts of Prague, to view the memorial there. I hadn’t heard of this town or the Lidice Memorial site so I checked out the details on the web. In 1942 the Nazis marched into Lidice and killed every male over the age of twelve and deported the women and children to the camps. They burned and leveled the village. The Nazis brought on further horrors which I cannot even bear to write about. The Nazis carried out this atrocity as revenge for the assassination of General Heydrich by unknown assailants. This chance intersection with the Lidice Memorial underscored the heroic efforts of the Greek Antifascists.

The Dysfunction of  Scapegoating

When elements of fascism raise the specter of blatant racism, blaming targets of their hate for the economic failures while undermining democracy through brute force and suppression, citizens must take note. The Antifascists remind us that we must be aware of fascist propaganda, which scapegoats on immigrants and multiculturalism, taking advantage of economic crises to fuel the fires of discontent in times of austerity. Without vigilance to these seeds of discontent, the horrors of Lidice could revisit the human race again.

Greece: A Case Study of an Economic Meltdown

Austerity measures in Greece, with the goal of  paying off astronomical debt, have created nationwide protests. Greece is suffering with unemployment at 27%. The Golden Dawn, described by both the media and scholars as fascist and neo-Nazi, won 7% of the seats in parliament and colluded with police to initiate violence against progressive activists and immigrants.

According to a 2012 article in The Guardian,

Golden Dawn is opening branches in towns all over Greece and regularly coming third in national opinion polls. Its black-shirted vigilantes have been beating up immigrants for more than three years, unmolested by the police; lately they’ve taken to attacking Greeks they suspect of being gay or on the left. MPs participate proudly in the violence.


Introductions by Chris

The Greek Antifascist City Tour 2013

Philadelphia was one stop on their scheduled visits to over 25 cities in the US to increase awareness and to raise funds for legal help. Greek activists, Thanasis Xirotsopanos and Vangelis Nanos, spoke to folks at the Lava Space about fascism and resistance in their country. Sofia Papagiannak gave her presentation via the computer as she had to return to Greece. Video footage provided documentation of the Antifascist resistance to the Golden Dawn.


Models of protest activism  ~ Thanasis and Vangelis ~ against the most heinous of political movements

Joy of Books: Bindlestiff Books in West Philly

Recently this video, Joy of Books, went viral on the Internet. The store, Type, in Toronto (883 Queen Street West) recently underwent a renovation; the owners, with some help from their friends, animated the shelves in this enchanting video.

Type  reminded me of the time, seven years ago, when I helped to renovate and startup a bookstore in West Philadelphia, Bindlestiff Books, along with Walt, Christine, John, Bill and Alexis.

This video shows the IWW National Headquarters’ transformation into the bookstore.

Christine and I assisted Jonny Buss, local artist, with the mural on the outside of the door. The mural combines images of books with look of the neighborhood houses. Jonny has completed other murals around Philadelphia including the mosaic project at Cedar park.

Jonny puts finishing touches on entrance mural

Besides working as a seller, I also decorated the window using a variety of themes.

Inspecting the store front

Christmas display

Womens’ History Month

Sports’ Theme

Bindlestiff Books is still thriving today. If you are on the 45th block of Baltimore Avenue in West Philly, please stop in or visit their They have a wonderful selection of children’s and graphic books. I always pick up a box of their notecards and wrapping paper when I’m in the area. Communities benefit from local businesses, as big box stores are not able to capture the charm and ambiance of these establishments. Bindlestiff Books remains a bright spot on the Baltimore corridor.

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