OAKLAND, Calif. — The mood was both joyous and determined as Northern California supporters of the People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo gathered Oct. 8 to celebrate their favorite newspaper and to rededicate themselves to the banquet’s theme — “Beat back Bush!”
The full-house, rainbow crowd honored leaders and organizations from the labor, antiwar, Cuba and Haiti solidarity movements and enjoyed a rich cultural program. Honorees received certificates of appreciation from area Congresswoman Barbara Lee and from Friends of the People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo.
The second Presidential Debate, shown during the dinner hour, formed the backdrop for the evening.
“I listened to Mr. Bush’s answers,” said Fernando Suarez del Solar, whose son Jesus — a U.S. Marine — died in Iraq in March 2003. “I’m sorry to say, he explained nothing.”
Since no connection has been found to the Sept. 11, 2001 tragedy nor to weapons of mass destruction, “Mr. Bush is the real terrorist,” said Suarez, founder and director of the Guerrero Azteca Project and a founder of Military Families Speak Out.
“Mr. Bush destroyed my son’s life, destroyed 1,054 beautiful American girls and boys and a thousand innocent children in Iraq,” he said, while at home, the huge U.S. expenditures on weapons are destroying jobs, medical care, housing and education, affecting working-class people of color most sharply.
“If I were one of the questioners in that debate,” said San Francisco Labor Council head Walter Johnson, “I would have asked, ‘President Bush, would you today, landing on that aircraft carrier, say again, mission accomplished?’ I don’t think he would know what to do in answering that question.”
“I don’t need to tell you that it will take an all-out fight to get Bush out of the White House,” said Juan Lopez, chair of the Northern California Communist Party. “Bush and company will spin a victory as a mandate to go full blast with their extreme policies,” he said, while “a Kerry victory, especially with a new leadership in Congress, can open new possibilities for an energized labor and people’s movement to struggle and make gains.”
Judy Goff, head of the Alameda County Central Labor Council, called ballot Proposition 72, the Health Insurance Act, “the single largest increase in extending medical coverage since Medicare was created.” She said the measure will both assure health coverage to a million presently uninsured Californians and help guarantee continued workplace coverage of millions more.
Honored for their own and their organizations’ work were Kathryn Hall, founder and director of The Birthing Project USA and a Sacramento leader in Pastors for Peace/Friendshipment, and Bay Area Venceremos Brigade participant Tshaka Barrows, both of whom emphasized the urgency of ending the U.S. blockade and normalizing relations with Cuba, a move that would benefit both countries.
Recalling that Haiti was founded by slaves who won their freedom, Pierre Labossiere, co-founder of the Haiti Action Committee, said it was no accident that this year, the Bush administration heeded the sweatshop corporations and deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide despite Aristide’s overwhelming support among Haitian working people.
Highlighted in the cultural program was the San Francisco Bay Area Labor Heritage Rockin’ Solidarity Chorus, along with singer-songwriter Eliot Kenin, and spoken word artists Tiara Ragsdale and Tamika Peterson. A special delight was the lively and skilled performance by members of the Total Eklipze Cheer Academy, who with their director, Aronda Morris, were honored during the proceedings.