Tag Archives: massachusetts

Bread and Roses Exhibition on View at LaborFest Website

29 Mar

The January exhibition of art at International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 34 Hall, celebrating the one-hundredth year commemoration of the Bread and Roses strike of Lawrence, Massachusetts, has moved to a virtual location: laborfest.net.  If you did not have a chance to visit the art in January, you can see it now.

Melanie Cervantes, San Leandro, and Chris Crass. United For Justice, Not Divided By Racism. Print. Courtesy of Melanie Cervantes. DignidadRebelde.com. 

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.

100th Year Commemoration of the Bread and Roses Strike

4 Jan

January 12, 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the Bread and Roses garment mill workers strike in Lawrence, MA.  And just as today’s Occupy Wall Street movement focuses on the 99% and 1%, the truth of 1912 was that 1% of the richest Americans owned 50% of the country’s wealth.  Conducting a difficult eight-week struggle during the dead of winter against “Textile Trust” mill owners, banks, state militia, police, clergy and local government, this strike involved thousands of immigrants, nearly half women, fighting for justice and human rights, a watershed moment in the history of American labor struggles.  LaborFest commemorates this event with a cultural and arts event at ILWU Local 34 at 801 2nd Street, San Francisco, next to AT&T stadium.

Painting, photography, drawing and graphic art will be on display from Sunday, January 8th through Wednesday, January 11th, 2012.  A reception will be held for the nine artists participating in this exhibition on Sunday from noon to 3 PM.  Free parking is available in the ILWU parking lot adjacent to the corner of 2nd and King Streets.  Viewing hours will be from noon to 5 PM, Sunday through Tuesday, and noon to evening closing, Wednesday.

A potluck will be held on Wednesday, beginning at 6:30 PM with a presentation on the Bread and Roses Strike at 7:15 PM.  Bring a dish and your voice.  All are welcome.  A $10.00 donation will go to Occupy San Francisco and ILWU Local 21 EGT Fighting Fund, Longview, WA.  No one will be turned away due to lack of funds.  Artists and poets include David Rovics, Renee Gibbons, Alice Rogoff, The Rocking Solidarity Chorus, Halie Hammer, Mary Rudge and others.  LaborFest organizes events on labor and culture for the month of July every year, 2012 marking the nineteenth year of July events sponsored by the organization.  Events for January 2012 will be posted at laborfest.net.

Jesus Barraza and Melanie Cervantes are graphic arts collaborators in their project Dignidad Rebelde.  The poster products from this teamwork reflect community struggles, visions of hope and assertions of dignity.  Their subject matter embraces a wide humanity, recognizing that “the history of the majority of people worldwide is a history of colonialism, genocide, and exploitation.”  Barraza, an activist printmaker based in San Leandro, CA, is co-founder of ten12, a collective of digital artists, and Taller Tupac Amaru, a studio devoted to screen printing.  Barraza has taught and exhibited widely, including Chicago, El Paso, New York, San Francisco, Santa Fe, Tokyo, Bolivia and Mexico.  Cervantes, who holds a BA in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, is an Xicana activist-artist who serves justice movements with her artistic vision.  She has exhibited in Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, and her art has reached audiences worldwide.

The muralist Mike Conner is a former member of IBEW as an electrician and is now a member of IATSE Local 1 at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.  His art has been focused on labor themes for decades, where it has been displayed at labor festivals and art exhibitions, including a continuing series called Boss Greed.  He is a continuing contributor to LaborFest, participating in the commemoration of the 1934 San Francisco general strike in 2009 and the 100th Year Commemoration of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire this year.

Jan Cook has always made art in the context of social issues.  Her early work developed first during the rising awareness of women’s issues in the 1970s and gradually broadened to include labor, race and class perspectives.  Cook studied at the University of Illinois and California State University, Los Angeles, obtaining irrelevant BFA and MFA degrees.  After a few years of experimentation as an illustrator in the movie industry, Cook became involved with the Los Angeles Mural Movement, working with Judy Baca and others.  Moving to San Francisco, the artist continued painting murals and making prints.  Recently Cook has been combining printmaking with digital painting, altering hand-drawn images with found pictures of historical and contemporary news events from the Internet.

David Duckworth employs drawing to comment on the social conditions of cities and political states.  He has exhibited at Bluedahlias and Underglass in San Francisco, Works/San José, and with Collaborative Concepts at Saunders Farm, Garrison, NY.  As a performance artist, Duckworth has organized and presented Detainee at Roger Smith Hotel, New York, and collaborative work at Jonathan Schorr Gallery, New York.  As a curator, he has organized Body Commodities / Queer Packaging and American Seven at Works/San José, Detainee Wear at Bluedahlias, and several exhibitions for LaborFest.

Gloria Frym’s family connects the artist to the textile industry for over three generations.  Her immigrant father, grandparents and other relatives all worked in the Manhattan textile industry.  Her maternal grandparents are buried in Workman’s Circle in a Long Island cemetery.  An associate professor in the MFA and BA Writing and Literature Programs at California College of the Arts, Frym has been photographing handmade protest signage for the last ten years.  Primarily a writer, Frym is the author of two short story collections, Distance No Object (City Lights Books) and How I Learned (Coffee House Press), as well as several volumes of poetry, including Mind Over Matter (BlazeVOX), Any Time Soon (Little Red Leaves), and The Lost Sappho Poems (Effing Press).  She also has a book of interviews with women artists and published numerous essays, articles and reviews.

A San Francisco-based painter, Amelia Lewis has exhibited in Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco since 2001 and curated exhibitions since 2004.  All images are from the Do I Look Illegal series, which first opened at the former Timezone Gallery, San Francisco.

Graphic artist Doug Minkler has designed posters for several decades that address social inequalities and oppression, war, and corporate profiteering and plutocracy.  The artist was recently honored by the Center for the Study of Political Graphics in Los Angeles.  Minkler is a past contributor to LaborFest, most recently exhibited at SOMArts Cultural Center and Expressions Gallery, Berkeley.

In artist Rachel Schreiber’s specific work for this exhibition, the portraits of early twentieth-century textile workers’ immigrant women leaders and contemporary labor activists of Mexico bridge the time span between then and now, American labor activism of the past and global labor activism of the present.    Presently Associate Professor and Director of Humanities at The California College of the Arts, Oakland and SF, Schreiber has exhibited at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, SOMArts Cultural Center, San Francisco, and Art in General, New York.  The artist is also active as a instructor, lecturer and cultural historian.

Source: David Duckworth Research, Google Maps.

The Past Revisited

27 Oct

It is axiomatic of American thought that the past will always be forgotten when speaking about the present.  Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the “Bread and Roses” strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts on January 12th.  I will be curating a local exhibition to commemorate that long, brutal strike.  And just as today’s Occupy Wall Street movement focuses on the 99% and 1%, the truth of 1912 was that 1% of the richest Americans owned 50% of the country’s wealth.  Conducting a difficult eight-week struggle during the dead of winter against “Textile Trust” mill owners, banks, state militia, police, clergy and local government, this strike involved thousands of immigrants, nearly half women, fighting for justice and human rights, a watershed moment in the history of American labor struggles.  LaborFest will be commemorating this event with a cultural and arts event at ILWU Local 34.

Spinning Room, Mechanic’s Mill, Fall River, Mass. Stereoscopic card. Kilburn Brothers, Littleton, New Hampshire, date unknown. Kilburn Brothers No. 617.

Immigrant Anna LoPizo was shot dead on the street, a crime local authorities unsuccessfully tried to pin on Joseph Ettor and Arturo Giovannitti for the words these labor organizers used to embolden workers to fight for better conditions.  A young Syrian immigrant named John Rami died from a wound inflicted by a militiaman’s bayonet.  (Read Bruce Watson’s Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream, Viking, 2005, or visit, http://www.breadandrosescentennial.org/node/77).  And yesterday, Iraq veteran Scott Olsen was hospitalized with a fractured skull and brain swelling after possibly being hit by an Oakland Police Department tear gas canister (see http://www.baycitizen.org/occupy-movement/story/iraq-vet-critically-wounded-occupy/ or http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2011/10/25/18695124.php).  Please add your name to a petition asking for an investigation, even though an announcement has been made that an investigation will take place: http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5966/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=8589

It seems we will never stop the use of physical force.  Whether Ludlow, Hiroshima or Vietnam, physical force has been the desired catalyst for change throughout our history.  When I unearthed the post-World War I cartoon that appears below I was stupified.  Of course, our dictates are reasoned when leveled by Uncle Sam.  And so on down the chain of command.

“America Looks At Neighbors,” New York World-Telegram, 1932 (Rollin Kirby, artist).