May 1st: A Day Without Immigrants!
On Monday, May 1 (May Day), organizers from a San Francisco group called the May 1st Coalition are hoping that thousands of people will participate the “A Day Without Immigrants” demonstration.
May Day—which commemorates a bloody incident in 1886 that took place in Chicago, when 40,000 workers went on strike and clashed with police—is an official holiday in almost 70 countries and unofficially celebrated in many more. But it is barely recognized in the United States, where it began.
In the earlier part of the 20th Century, the U.S. Government tried to curb the celebration and further wipe it from the public’s memory by establishing “Law and Order Day” on May 1. Then, an “official” celebration of U.S. workers, “Labor Day,” was designated in September. This Labor Day is generally celebrated with special sales at Macy’s or some other mega-chains. Instead of honoring the workers, the celebration focuses more on how to separate the people from their hard-earned dollars, with some “amazing discounts.” It sure looks more like a celebration of capital than a celebration of labor!
The May 1st Coalition is focused on giving May Day the important role it deserves in the hearts and minds of the people of this nation. In these dangerous and uncertain days, when a petulant man-child is apparently in charge of the U.S. Government, playing some dangerous game of chicken with his newfound toys (including what the establishment media gleefully celebrates as “the mother of all bombs”), we need gatherings and celebrations like “A Day Without Immigrants.”
We need to remember that we are all immigrants in this country! This day is not called a day without “Latino immigrants!” It is a day without immigrants—period! Or “¡Punto!,” as our dear late “Nuyorican” poet Piri Thomas used to say, at the ends of his poems.
The organizers are a veritable mix of Chicanos and Latinos, but it is more than just a Brown gathering. The White, Black, Yellow and Red are also present, working for common goals: the celebration and decriminalization of immigrants and the illumination of the amazing possibilities that a multicultural unity of citizens and noncitizens can offer to this country.
On a related note: Just last night, as I enjoyed my “work” as judge (we were 5 judges) in the Carnaval San Francisco 2017 Queen and King Competition, I could see an awesome fact: Many of those people working hard for the success of “A Day without Immigrants,” were also on stage, celebrating their work on Carnaval—don’t these people ever sleep?
Among the many workers in both events was our unofficial “Mayor of the Mission” Roberto Hernández, quoting a phrase made famous by Concha Saucedo and the people from the Instituto Familiar de la Raza: “La Cultura Cura.” More than just quoting, he was yelling it! The Instituto is also participating in the May 1 march, lending its spaces for rehearsals and through the ever-present Berta Hernández, who will direct a contingent of Monarch butterflies, symbolizing that “Migration is a Natural Right.”
There also was Stella Adelman, the main organizer of the Queen and King Competition, who was representing the iconic “Dance Mission.” Stella is also collaborating on the May 1 march. She will choreograph and Dance Mission Theater will lend its rooms for rehearsals. “It takes a Barrio to save a Barrio!” Truth!
Since I mentioned that Queen and King competition, I will add a couple of phrases about that gorgeous evening.
Saturday, April 15 at Brava theater, was filled with feathers, sambas, smiles and beauty, brought by the wonderful participants in the competition and by the screaming joy of the enthusiastic audience.
The eventual winners—2017 King Antoine Hunter and Queen Tiombe Valone—will certainly be wonderful monarchs.
I mentioned to one of my fellow judges, Michelle Martin, a well-known choreographer and teacher at School of the Arts (SOTA): “I’d rather have these two as our first couple, instead of Donald and Melania!” She agreed.
As we are organizing “A Day Without Immigrants” (I can say “we,” because I am also participating in that coalition, with my students from San Francisco State University), we can draw some parallels between 1886 and today.
We do not anticipate violence that would parallel 1886. Our 2017 event will be a joyful, loud, inclusive, family-oriented march, filled with songs, hope and healing energy.
As per other parallels, in 1886 workers had the ability to mobilize tens of thousands of people in the streets of a major city, to proclaim: “This is what democracy looks like.” In 2017, we believe that we will also mobilize thousands of people to the streets, to loudly proclaim our current urgencies.
We cannot wait to chant, for example: “Why are we here? To fight against fear!” Or what about: “No ban! No wall! Sanctuary for all!”
“A Day Without Immigrants” will begin with a rally at 11 a.m. at Justin Herman Plaza, followed a march to Civic Center, where at 1 p.m. various speakers and artists will address the gathered crowd.