May Day and the Victory of Struggle
May Day—also known as International Workers Day—has been a very sacred day for me. It means workers rights, immigrant rights, human rights, hand made protest signs, paletas, solidarity, chants, strollers, grandmas, marchas, community and a renewed sense of spiritual and political strength! It is historically rooted in the 1866 Haymarket struggle in Chicago, Illinois where striking workers faced extreme violence and police repression and later came to commemorate the victory of the eight-hour workday.
In 2006, immigrant rights activists revamped the significance of May Day into the “Great American Boycott” as millions of immigrant workers and allies boycotted work and marched into the streets with white t-shirts and flags from coast to coast to stand against repressive immigration policies. Such policies were HR 4437 that served to criminalize undocumented migrants and U.S. citizens who provided undocumented migrants with basic services. Not only did we inject a new wave of energy in to International Workers Day, we sparked a movement that provided a rich ground for immigrant rights organizing and discourse.
While I’m forever grateful for my experience, my heart continues to lay heavy in 2011 as the struggle for justice continues! Unions and working class peoples are continuously being attacked and robbed as big banks and corporations stand like rich dirty bandits in this budget crisis. Students are being stripped of their education as University fees skyrocket and critical educational programs like Ethnic Studies continue to be dismantled. Racist scapegoating, exploitation, and deportations of immigrants continue as the U.S increasingly invests in military and police instead of social programs that foster love and growth.
In one sense it may seem like things have gotten worse yet instances of hope and revolution are all around us both home and abroad. From Tunisia to Egypt, millions of people sacrificed their lives and took to the streets in masses, successfully ousting long reigning dictatorships and oppression. These examples of popular revolts not only inspired the Arab world but workers and activist at home in the U.S. When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker attempted to dismantle worker union rights, thousands upon thousands of people persistently occupied the state Capital to fight against the sacrifice of unions for the benefit of corporate elites. Here in the Bay Area, numerous UC Berkeley students are staging a hunger strike against the administrations attempt to cut and consolidate Ethnic Studies and Gender Woman Studies Departments.
In times of extreme repression and policies, every day people rise up! While no singular action, march or rally will transform inequality or reach a utopian outcome, it is part of a collective trajectory of struggle that continues the ripple effect of change. While our ancestors and fellow brothers and sisters inspire us to take action against continued legacies of injustice, our activism will touch those far and beyond our own communities and life time.
My former teacher and long time leader of the Chican@ Movement Carlos Muñoz, Jr. once said, "Life is struggle and struggle is life, but be mindful that Victory is in the Struggle!” It is the very process of activism and political engagement that brings personal as well social transformation.
This Sunday May 1st, 2011 I invite you to march with me as we continue the struggle for human rights. There are marches planned across the country to stand against the attacks on immigrants, low-income communities, and all working people. A network of over fifty worker and community-based organizations, May Day United, has been building and planning May 1st under the banner of "A Day Without Workers" and a call for, "No Work, No Shopping, and No School-Related Activities." If you’re in San Francisco, join Causa Justa Just Cause and myself at 11:30am in San Francisco on Mission and 24th as we march and continue the legacy of May Day! You can also join Soul of the City on Saturday June 11th as we reclaim our revenue and push corporations to pay their fare share of taxes! Vamonos, let's continue the ripple effect of change!