Saturday, April 29, 2017

Protest, Music, Youth Culture And Resistance Here In Salem-Woodburn As We Come To May Day

Photo from Ramon Ramirez

We have many efforts underway as we arrive at May Day. I want to remind everyone in our region that the May Day rally in Salem will begin at the State Capitol at 11:30 AM on Monday. This rally and march are sponsored by Causa and many other groups and unions, including Oregon Socialist Renewal. Holding the rally and march on a working day challenges all of us to be real and transparent about being anti-Trump, anti-racist and in support of immigrant rights. Please take at least a few hours away from work or school to join us in the streets in support of immigrant and worker rights and as a collective stand against fear and xenophobia.

Today's People's Climate March drew thousands of people in Portland and may have hit 200,000 people nationwide. The demonstrations gained their strength from the righteousness of the cause, but I believe that it was leadership and participation from people of color, women, youth and labor that gave life to the events in most areas. Real intersectionality helps to connect environmental and climate justice activism to the lived realities in our communities and to broader and long-range struggles and questions.

   Photo from Ramon Ramirez

Our numbers today only had to outshine Trump's numbers in Harrisburg, PA.---and they did. The President was forced to leave Washington in order to avoid another confrontation with the press and escaped to Harrisburg for a rally which gathered in less than 7000 people. And even at this pitiful rally Trump was not safe from disruption and had to use the Astroturf Bikers for Trump to maintain order at one point. (Bikers for Trump is administered by the Italian fascist George Guido Lombardi.) One expectation was that Trump would announce a U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA, or a plan to obstruct it. The expected announcement didn't happen because Trump was forced to cave on the issue, at least for the time being.

Perhaps the unreported story here is that Trump has yet to win on any issue which requires mobilization. He can sign executive orders, shuffle bureaucrats and hold much of his base in place, but he has not yet been able to break out of his isolation while he does great damage. Something like a liberal and left consensus exists which is keeping Trump's polling numbers low and forcing him to use the most authoritarian means he has at his immediate reach. This consensus is weak, contradictory, unorganized, spontaneous, largely grassroots driven, lacking needed tactics and strategies which unite our forces and reactive, but it exists and is remarkably resilient. It cannot hold, and it cannot go on the offense, but it reflects mass opposition to Trumpism at the base. It is surprising to some of us---and aggravating---that most left groups and media discount peoples' power now and remain focused on trying to work out (and are dividing over) precisely how class, race and gender played out last November instead.

If you live in the Mid-Willamette Valley and did not attend the People's Climate March today you may be canvassing this weekend for Levi Herrera-Lopez, Sheronne Blasi, Kathleen Harder in Salem or for Anthony Medina in Woodburn in the School Board elections. And if you aren't actively supporting them yet, please do. We got our ballots today and voted for Herrera-Lopez, Blasi and Harder because they are best equipped to move the Board forward in a period of budget crises and political struggles, because they have the more affirmative and scientific approaches to education, and because there is a need to block the right-wing and the hacks from undermining recent progress made at the Board level.

If you weren't canvassing, we hope that you attended the Beyond Toxics event at the farmworker housing center and/or the party at Shotski's in Salem tonight. The importance of the Beyond Toxics event was driven home to me on Thursday when I attended an OSHA hearing on pesticide drift and farmworkers in Tigard. The growers stubbornly refuse to acknowledge farmworkers as real people with will and agency, and they also refuse to take the kinds of actions needed to either prevent toxic drift or limit the damage that it does. The party at Shotski's was a wonderful opportunity for us to celebrate Levi Herrera-Lopez's campaign and to hear from the gifted young musicians and artists from Woodburn and from the always-on-it Sam Davila, a compelling musician and singer and a great organizer besides.

The young people who performed at Shotski's sang and played from their hearts. Some of their music was overtly political---and we will again honor Marisol Ceballos here for her strength and artistry and the clarity of her political vision and for speaking at the Portland rally today---but much of it was also from-the-heart rock which speaks to the great mixing of class, gender, ethnicity and politics which gives the Woodburn movement its salsa. The young people who played tonight are redefining what was considered "rock" when I was in my teens, and they're doing better with it than we did. Their abilities speak to strong, perhaps unconscious, connections between race, class, gender, ethnicity and resistance. One talented young woman gave a flute solo which provided exactly the right mood and breathing space to take it all in. They're past the points of despair and pretended angst which was so popular back in the day. They're putting creativity to work in positive ways instead.

It's good to hear a cover of Aretha Franklin's "Respect" done by a young Latina fronting with a mostly-white young rock band. The song has always had that dual meaning: is she singing about a relationship or about a political demand? When a young Latina sings it with a Woodburn rock band the question is resolved and the medium for doing the song becomes the song's message. Sam and Marisol did overtly political music which brought the struggle home to us, but most of the music was indeed political given the times we live in, the energy of the youth and their willingness to struggle against racism, the backdrop for the event, the youth energy---and you know that extraordinary organizers like Marisol and Sam can help bring everyone along. These are our intellectuals, the people who refine and define our experiences and give them back to us as lived culture.

All of this is taking place as we face May Day on Monday. Workers' Memorial Day and an AFSCME rally in Salem yesterday moved labor forward just a bit by giving us the opportunity to remember our dead and fight for our living. We in the labor movement are not quite in synch with the social movements around us, but there is leadership at the base working in the right direction. It's possible to imagine and hope for a day when labor's base, the passion of the March for Science held last Saturday, leadership from young people of color, climate justice work, class struggle, progressive youth culture, Black and Brown and feminist and LQBTQIA+ liberation, and resistance to the right merge into a movement with a common front and generally shared radical goals.

This gives us two immediate goals. One is to build May Day in the time we have left between now and Monday at 11:30 AM. The other goal needs to be winning the local School Board elections by voting in Levi Herrera-Lopez, Sheronne Blasi, Kathleen Harder in Salem and Anthony Medina in Woodburn. We need to be in this for the long haul and for all of us.

Monday, May 1
11:30 AM
 State Capitol, Salem

No comments:

Post a Comment