An Evening of Music at ILWU Local 34

16 Jan

Child Labor III, 2012. Pen-and-ink on Bristol paper, 9 x 12 in. After Lewis Hine. Collection of Steve Zeltzer and Kazmi Torii.

In commemoration of the 100th year anniversary of the Bread and Roses textile workers’ strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 34 hall was host to a lively evening of music and poetry.  Carol Denney presented several of her songs on American class and culture with a vibrant voice.  Denney shared with us her song “Have Yourself a Slice of Occupy,” which the artist has combined with collaged images from Occupy Berkeley and Oakland sites in a voice recording video clip that can be viewed and heard at YouTube: http://youtu.be/_WlSOkadPaw.  The lyrics to the song appear below.

Have Yourself a Slice of Occupy, a ragtime salute by Carol Denney 11-8-2011

we are having quite a slice of occupy
hot, fresh, wild, delicious occupy
stir it up a nice hot cup of occupy
share it with your friends and neighbors
taste the fruit of all your labors
be the first one on your block to occupy
wind it up and set your clock to occupy
tell the cops and tell the mayor
you’ve become an occuplayer
have yourself a slice of occupy

grab your tent and screw the rent come occupy
join the slackers and the hackers occupy
meet the folks who lost their homes
meet the folks who never owned one
meet the folks down to the bone you’ll
find you’ll never be alone
grab a sign and join the line at occupy
admit you’re the 99 and occupy
if your tent don’t get reception
change your channel of perception
have yourself a slice of occupy

don’t you love the great outdoors
there’s no bureaucracy
but your meeting might be endless
it’s democracy – you gotta love it

don’t be late no need to wait just occupy
have yourself a heaping plate of occupy
hop on your bike and be the mike at occupy
the rich are going to miss the fun
but afterwards we’ll all be one
lose your frown and dance around at occupy
boot the blues and make the news at occupy
this ain’t no occupy in the sky
and there’s more to occupy than meets the eye
come have yourself a slice of occupy
(we really mean it)
have yourself a slice of occupy

You can also catch online her performance of another song she shared on Wednesday, “Song of the Wealthy Man,” which was presented as part of a Revolutionary Poets Brigade performance at Mythos Gallery in Berkeley on July 22, 2011: http://youtu.be/5yO4qgqx0aE .  This is a good time to consider Denney’s commentary on what the Wealthy Man thinks of the common man, especially since the Republican presidential candidacy is a complete chorus line of wealthy individuals.  Should one wonder, then, that current Republican attempts to relax child labor laws are happening a century after the Progressive Movement brought the ills of child labor to the attention of America?  Or that Newt Gingrich, one of the chorus line, advocates relaxation?  I suppose, if “vulture capitalist” had been sincerely lobbied by this chorus at No. 1 contender Mitt Romney.  At Harvard University, Wealthy Man Gingrich proposed doing away with laws that would prevent children in poor neighborhoods from being put to work, and on December 10th, 2011, the same puffy professor proposed putting New York City high school students to work as janitors.  In Maine, the state Restaurant Association lobbied for a law, sponsored by Republicans Debra Plowman and David Burns, that would allow an increase of total weekly hours for teenagers from 20 to 32.  The legislation as passed increased the number of hours to 24.  But please note that teenagers are allowed by law to be paid as little as $5.25 per hour, $2.25 less than the state’s minimum wage.  In Wisconsin, another legislative act of grace conferred upon teenagers the ability to work more than 24 hours per week during school session and more than 50 hours per week during summer break, this thoughtful enactment inserted into an amendment to the state’s budget bill in late June by Republicans Robin Vos and Alberta Darling.  A state Grocers Association spokesperson is quoted by Holly Rosenkrantz as saying: “It wasn’t like [our members] were trying to overwork these kids or create a sweatshop…”  Of course not.  But we can guess that the initiative is to drive down wages, just as the Maine legislation enables employers to do (see Rosenkrantz, “Taking Aim at Child Labor Laws,” Bloomberg Businessweek [January 11, 2012; http://www.readersupportednews.org/news-section2/320-80/9381-taking-aim-at-child-labor-laws; accessed 1/14/12]).

We were also energized on Wednesday evening by singer/songwriter Hali Hammer, social justice singer/songwriter David Rovics, both with driving voices and uplifting messages, the magnificent Rocking Solidarity Chorus, labor poet Alice Rogoff and a song from poet Mary Rudge.

Note on drawing: Working as an investigative reporter, Lewis Wickes Hine (1874-1940) documented working children at employment sites and home between 1908 and 1924.  More than 5,100 photographic prints and 355 glass negatives, along with records of the National Child Labor Committee, a non-profit organization that advocated for child labor reform, were given to the Library of Congress in 1954.  The following caption for the photograph upon which the above drawing is based appears at a website for Hine’s photographs, http://www.lewishinephotographs.com/: “All in photos worked (even smallest girl and boys) and they went to work at (noon) 12:45. Some of the following boys and girls mey [sic] be 14, many are not. John Gopen, 189 Elm St. Joseph Stonge, 73 King St. Billie Welch, 178 Union St. Tim Carroll, 310 Salem St. Michael Devine, 64 South Broadway. Jacob Black, 15 Bradford Bl. Binnie Greenfield, 281 Park St. Andrew Pomeroy, 76 South Broadway. Louis Gross, 39 Myrtle St. Arthur Davois, 244 Salem St. Joseph Latham?, 165 Willow St. Salvatore Quatirtto, 48 Union St. Sam Gangi, 82 Pleasant Valley St. These two boys were about the youngest of the boys, others nearly as young. Location: Lawrence, Massachusetts. Date Created/Published: 1911 September. LOC original medium: 1 photographic print. Picture of child labor by Lewis Wickes Hine.”  Ayer Mill may be a misattribution on my part.  If anyone has better information, please notify me so that a correction can be published.

My thanks to Summer Brenner for notifying me of the Rosenkrantz article.

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