May Day festivities planned for Water Street


Remember how, last year, we all got together on May Day and launched a few thousand seed bombs onto Water Street? Well, if you’re up for it, quite a few of us will be gathering there again on Thursday. There won’t be seed bombs, but my sense is that we’ll have a pretty good time in spite of it. (Some of our native wildflowers are already starting to come up.) The potluck will begin at 5:30, but there will be events on Water Street throughout the day. As of right now, here’s what’s on the agenda.

1:30 PM Anti-racist reading group, discussing “Who is Oakland: anti-oppression activism, the politics of safety, and state co-optation

2:30 PM Eco-Justice workshops coordinated by the Ypsi Free Skool:

“Michigan’s Getting Fracked Up” with the Sierra Club

“The Basics on the AATA Bus Expansion” with Partners in Transit

“System Change, Not Climate Change”

3:30 PM “The History of May Day” puppet show with Momo & Blake

5:30 PM Potluck

7:00 PM Our Local Native American History walking tour with Matt Siegfried

Everyone is welcome.

[As events are subject to change, check for updates.]

Also, as in years past, Billy Bragg will be with us in spirit.

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  1. anonymous
    Posted April 28, 2014 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    If a dead Tupac can play Coachella, why can’t Billy Bragg play Water Street? We have the technology.

  2. Meta
    Posted April 28, 2014 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    The history of May Day:

    Most people living in the United States know little about the International Workers’ Day of May Day. For many others there is an assumption that it is a holiday celebrated in state communist countries like Cuba or the former Soviet Union. Most Americans don’t realize that May Day has its origins here in this country and is as “American” as baseball and apple pie, and stemmed from the pre-Christian holiday of Beltane, a celebration of rebirth and fertility.

    In the late nineteenth century, the working class was in constant struggle to gain the 8-hour work day. Working conditions were severe and it was quite common to work 10 to 16 hour days in unsafe conditions. Death and injury were commonplace at many work places and inspired such books as Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and Jack London’s The Iron Heel. As early as the 1860’s, working people agitated to shorten the workday without a cut in pay, but it wasn’t until the late 1880’s that organized labor was able to garner enough strength to declare the 8-hour workday. This proclamation was without consent of employers, yet demanded by many of the working class.

    At this time, socialism was a new and attractive idea to working people, many of whom were drawn to its ideology of working class control over the production and distribution of all goods and services. Workers had seen first-hand that Capitalism benefited only their bosses, trading workers’ lives for profit. Thousands of men, women and children were dying needlessly every year in the workplace, with life expectancy as low as their early twenties in some industries, and little hope but death of rising out of their destitution. Socialism offered another option.

    A variety of socialist organizations sprung up throughout the later half of the 19th century, ranging from political parties to choir groups. In fact, many socialists were elected into governmental office by their constituency. But again, many of these socialists were ham-strung by the political process which was so evidently controlled by big business and the bi-partisan political machine. Tens of thousands of socialists broke ranks from their parties, rebuffed the entire political process, which was seen as nothing more than protection for the wealthy, and created anarchist groups throughout the country. Literally thousands of working people embraced the ideals of anarchism, which sought to put an end to all hierarchical structures (including government), emphasized worker controlled industry, and valued direct action over the bureaucratic political process. It is inaccurate to say that labor unions were “taken over” by anarchists and socialists, but rather anarchists and socialist made up the labor unions.

    At its national convention in Chicago, held in 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (which later became the American Federation of Labor), proclaimed that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor from and after May 1, 1886.” The following year, the FOTLU, backed by many Knights of Labor locals, reiterated their proclamation stating that it would be supported by strikes and demonstrations. At first, most radicals and anarchists regarded this demand as too reformist, failing to strike “at the root of the evil.” A year before the Haymarket Massacre, Samuel Fielden pointed out in the anarchist newspaper, The Alarm, that “whether a man works eight hours a day or ten hours a day, he is still a slave.”

    Despite the misgivings of many of the anarchists, an estimated quarter million workers in the Chicago area became directly involved in the crusade to implement the eight hour work day, including the Trades and Labor Assembly, the Socialistic Labor Party and local Knights of Labor. As more and more of the workforce mobilized against the employers, these radicals conceded to fight for the 8-hour day, realizing that “the tide of opinion and determination of most wage-workers was set in this direction.” With the involvement of the anarchists, there seemed to be an infusion of greater issues than the 8-hour day. There grew a sense of a greater social revolution beyond the more immediate gains of shortened hours, but a drastic change in the economic structure of capitalism.

    Read more:

  3. Dan Richardson
    Posted April 28, 2014 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    How’d the seed bombs work – can you tell yet?

  4. Posted April 28, 2014 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    A lot of stuff came up last year. My hope, though, is that we see ten times as much this year. I guess we’ll have to wait and see… Remind me, and I’ll post photos in a few weeks.

  5. 734
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    It’s going to be chilly. Can there be a fire?

  6. JC
    Posted April 30, 2014 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    For Ann Arborites who’d like a copy of this year’s free May Day book, but can’t make it to Ypsilanti tomorrow, there is hope.

  7. blueeyedpupil
    Posted April 30, 2014 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Ohhhh yah i vote for a fire. would be nice for it to be accessible too, but thats hard I understand

  8. Posted May 1, 2014 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    May Day also has a spiritual dimension — aka “Beltane.” Beltane is a cross-quarter day, halfway between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice. It’s the traditional “seed of Summer,” the first day, which is why Summer Solstice is also called “Midsummer.” It’s directly across the wheel of the year from Halloween. Halloween begins the winter and Beltane begins the summer. These two holidays reflect each other, with similar themes of Love and Death. Humans making love in the fields was believed to bless the seeds and welcome the summer and the death of the winter. The maypole is a traditional pasttime at both Beltane and Midsummer: the ribbons on the pole represent wishes we are weaving together with others in our community. Nowadays, it’s usually reduced to a children’s activity only, but at one time the maypole was a potent symbol of our lives intricately interwoven with one another and with the cycles of the earth.

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