Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Mayday is always a reminder

Rise and Resist, Ravi, Deirdre and other friends on Mayday 2018.

Maydayis always a reminder of a crazy collective dream.
We meet at Union Square, the anarchists and immigrants, the socialists and the workers, the critical masses and occupiers, ghosts and Haymarket Martyrs converging in time. I’ve been through three cohorts of activist communities – from global justice through occupy and critical mass – that were involved with Mayday actions over the years. I think of them as I ride, wondering how many more are in store for me in the next two decades.
I ride by Petit Versailles Community Garden on Houston Street for their annual Beltaine Celebration.

As Peter explains:
Our annual May Day Beltaine celebration is a lovely gathering for delightful decorating, dancing and drumming. Merrymaking begins at 12 noon to ribbon and paint the maypole. (THANK YOU DHARMA AND LANTERN FOR THE TREE!) Then the dance commences after 3pm. calling on the (un)natural world to honor & bless the coming seasons which includes all the exciting new events scheduled for LPV. Bring food,musical instruments, paint,powder, whatever tickles your fancy to share and Cher alike.
Out with the old, in with the new, smiled Peter lighting a fire in the garden. A younger man is making a Mayday pole.  The sun is shining into the space.  Some teenagers are hanging out in back.
And I make my way to Union Square where socialists are speaking about US imperialism on the North End.
My friend Imani Henry is there greeting everyone.
“Hello Grannies!” he smiles, “Hello Ben Shepard,” giving me a welcome hug.
And off I ride to Washington Square Park for the Freedom Cities rally, down Fifth Avenue to the Arch.
The invitation declared:

On May Day, join the Freedom Cities Movement as we carry on the legacy of the Immigrant Worker Justice Tour in our struggle for freedom and liberation!

Freedom Cities is about making entire cities, towns, and communities safe for immigrants, Black people, Muslims, Queer+Trans folks, workers, and all oppressed communities. Our liberation is inherently tied together, it's all of us or none of us!

We all deserve to live with dignity and have the opportunity thrive without fear of physical or economic violence at the hands of the corporations, vigilantes or government.

Rally and March | Washington Square Park

Rally: 12:30PM
March: 2:00PM 
(route TBA, we will join with Fight Together! Strike to Win! May Day NYC 2018 afterwards!)
“Hi Ben, I miss the Critical Massers.  Do you ever seen them any more?”
“Yes, all the time.”
Its two PM, I’m off to teach my sex class at City Tech in downtown Brooklyn.
At 5 PM, I ride back into the city, hoping to catch the march from Union Square to Foley Square. But Foley Square is empty, except lots and lots of cops, still chasing McKinley’s assassins. Anarchism would never be the same in NYC after Leon Czolgosz’s bloody deed.
Lets see, where so go, I think, remembering that Rise and Resist had organized a rally at 430 PM.
My friend Virginia wrote:
It's a lovely day to ABOLISH I.C.E.! Come join us for the kick-off of this campaign to spread the word on how destructive and unnecessary this 15-year-old mistake is.

Join Rise and Resist as we kick off our Abolish I.C.E. campaign. It is time for the U.S. to stop raiding homes and workplaces, and to stop deporting, detaining, arresting, abusing, and harassing immigrants. Abolish I.C.E.!

We will march from the I.C.E. detention facility at 201 Varick Street to Washington Square Park. There we will join with the New York Immigration Coalition, Make the Road New York, and New York labor unions for a May Day rally in support of immigrant and worker rights.
I rode to Varick Street. But no one was there. And then saw that the rally was going to take place back at Washington Square.   So I rode back, hearing drumbeats in the distance.
My friend Ravi, out of jail, was standing, talking with organizers from my union, the PSC.
Its always good to see you out and free Ravi, I told him, snapping a photo.
He introduced me to one of the new organizers with the PSC.
We chatted about the state of the union.
The Rise and Resisters, who’d marched from Varick Street, were in back.
Virginia greeted me.
Thank you for organizing this and telling me where you guys were going to be.
She passes me an Abolish ICE sign.
A man was selling pictures of Stokley Carmichael.
Black power really stuck, I think.
He isn’t here any more?
No, he left for Africa and other parts, before shuffling off November 15, 1998.
Post your pics of my stuff on Instagram at or1el.
Thank you for these wonderful portraits, I replied, buying one.
My friends Diane Greene Lent and Leslie Cagan and I started talking.
How many of these have you been to I asked Cagan, whose mass rallies through the years have been legendary.  She’s been around as long as Carmichael.
Too many to count.
How do you choose what to go to, I asked.
Not a special formula, usually just what my calendar allows.
I go to three rallies a week, noted Lent.
They are still at it, smiling away, looking out at the crowd.
My daughter was out there somewhere but we missed each other.
People have great signs.
Socialism or Barbarism.
Stop the War on Workers.
You can’t deport a movement.
Nobody is illegal.
A woman carried a sign noting dissent is patriotic.
You mean we don’t need to ask the comedians to apologize, I followed, thinking of the White House Correspondents Dinner controversy.
Thank goodness there are still a few court jesters out there.
No one carried a Mayday is jayday, but it was still a great Mayday. 

And I ride home into the beautiful NYC day, the sun shining, over the Manhattan Bridge, another year, another Mayday, another glorious spring, the world changing around us, movements ebbing and shifting through time.

Scenes from Mayday!

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