CHICAGO – Honoring legendary fighters for social justice, the annual Illinois People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo banquet raised $6,100 for the 2002 Fund Drive here Oct. 20.
William McNary, president of USAction and veteran of countless successful union and community battles, gave the keynote address. In his speech McNary told of his own personal tragedies, from which he has found the strength to fight until social justice is won, and gave a call to all present, “We must be in it to win it.”
He warned the crowd to withstand the pressures that might make some get discouraged. “If we don’t do politics, politics will do us,” McNary told his audience. “The people sometimes have trouble relating to the intricacies of programs politicians advocate, but always respond passionately to candidates and programs who manage to resonate with their most deeply held moral visions of equality and social justice.”
McNary brought the crowd to its feet with his confidence and energy. He declared that a better world needs a “‘Declaration of Interdependence,’ not only to emphasize the need to unite and fight, but [as] the imperative of creating a society in which all will look out for the interests of all.”
The purpose and meaning of social justice were also illuminated by Barbara Moore, an honoree and vice president of the Coalition to Protect Public Housing. She described how important victories are in human terms, how the basic necessities of a life, a home and a good job are fundamental in the pursuit of happiness.
An award was also given to the Chicago-Central States Joint Board of UNITE in honor of the victorious eight-month strike by workers at Carousel Linens. In the words of John Bachtell, Banquet Committee chairman and the district organizer of the Communist Party of Illinois, with their victory the workers won “human dignity and respect for the newly re-emerging labor rights of immigrants, minorities and women.”
Ishmael Flory, a hero from the Civil Rights movement and member of the Communist Party USA, was honored for his life of fighting for the rights of working people.
Kathy Kelly from Voices in the Wilderness was also an honoree. Kelly was unable to attend the because she is in Iraq, continuing her work to improve the lives of its sanctions-worn people and avert war. According to CPUSA Illinois district member Emile Schepers, Kelly “has been, for years, a bulwark of the movement to end the sanctions against Iraq, in which endeavor she is currently putting her life on the line again.”
The banquet also included a poetry reading by YCL member Cesar Casamayor and musical performances by Tomeka Reid and Cellos a fire and Tim Yeager, treasurer of UAW Local 2320, who ended the program with a rousing rendition of “Solidarity Forever.”