CHICAGO — Hundreds of family members, co-workers, friends and comrades paid tribute to Frank Lumpkin, lifelong fighter for workers’ rights, equality and socialism, on April 24. Lumpkin died March 1 at the age of 93. His ashes were interred next to the famous Haymarket Memorial in nearby Forest Home Cemetery.
Among those who paid tribute to Lumpkin’s lifelong work were congresspeople, state legislators, the governor of Illinois, union and community leaders.
The following are “prayerful words” delivered by the Rev. Thomas Strieter, plus a slideshow of the day’s memorial.
Frank Lumpkin was a drum major in the struggle for justice. That’s how Martin Luther King Jr. described himself. A drum major in the struggle, with a vision – a dream – that empowered him. That’s the way it was for Mohandes Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, and so many others.
Throughout history there have been drum majors:
The Hebrew social prophets who cried out for the oppressed – the widows and orphans and disenfranchised – and condemned the oppressors. And amid the struggle, they looked forward to what they called “the Day of the Lord,” – to that time when there would be justice and peace and equity.
The Carpenter from Nazareth was a drum major for what he called “the reign of God,” And he said it was breaking through into the present, changing the order of things. It was turning the tables against political oppression, – “Throwing down the mighty from their thrones and exalting those of low estate.” And bringing an end to economic oppression, “Filling the hungry with good things, and the rich He is sending away empty.”
This was a vision of the revolution of peace and justice and equality in the here and now. But in that struggle, he was crucified by the power of Rome for “stirring up the people.”
And there was another Hebrew prophet, – Karl Marx – a drum major in the struggle for economic and social justice – with the vision of a classless society – “FROM each according to his ability; TO each according to his needs.”
Frank Lumpkin, too, has been a drum major – in his own time and place. How fitting that his ashes blend together with the Hay Market martyrs. For the ongoing struggle and the vision also is Frank’s legacy.
In the words of Horatio to the dead Hamlet in the last scene of the play, “Goodnight, Sweet Prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.” And so we say to Frank. “Good night, Sweet Prince.” And we are that choir of angels, continuing the song of solidarity in the struggle and in the vision.
Let the people say, “Amen!”
Photos: Teresa Albano/PW