NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The diverse and inspired overflow crowd stayed to the end of the remarkable celebration of People’s World Amistad Award honorees Anna Montalvo, Gwen Mills and Art Perry on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the Communist Party USA. The theme of the event was “Keep the Ball Rolling….to win jobs with union rights, health care, peace and equality!” Unity and struggle were the messages of the day.
Bill Collins of the Rabble Rousers got everyone going with his new song “Health Care is Our Right,” followed by a film, “Building on 90 Years of Struggle,” which highlighted Connecticut struggles and activists and the role of the Communist Party for People before Profits policies. Everyone enjoyed all the photos.
Beto Castillo performed two Mexican songs to the delight of all. And then it was time for the award presentations.
Event chair Paul Neal presented Anna Montalvo, president of AFSCME Local 1522 in Bridgeport with citations from the New Haven Board of Aldermen and the Connecticut General Assembly. As he presented the large framed Amistad Award, AFSCME Council 4 Executive Director Sal Luciano brought out how strong Anna has been in leading a large local with many different worksites including public works where the guys had to learn to take leadership from a woman.
Anna’s acceptance speech was personal, moving and complete starting from her life as a child who had to learn English to be the interpreter for her parents to her election as the first woman and first Latina to the local union presidency. Many of her sister and brother members, as well as her family, were present in support.
New Haven Aldermen Jackie James and Allan Brison presented the citations to Gwen Mills, political field director of Unite-Here unions for Connecticut and Rhode Island. Shirley Lawrence, lead organizer for Connecticut Center for a New Economy, recalled their ten years of working together and praised Gwen’s decision to be a part of the labor movement as she presented the Amistad Award. Gwen spoke of her family and her union in accepting, and recalled many efforts with the Peoples Center over the years.
Working Families director Jon Green and State Rep Gary Holder-Winfield presented the citations to Art Perry, Connecticut political director of SEIU 32BJ Justice for Janitors . Joelle Fishman, chair of the CT Communist Party USA, presented the Amistad Award, remembering when they first met over 30 years ago while Art was working at Southbury Training School and the successful struggles to keep the facility open. She emphasized Art’s deep commitment to the power of working people, and as political director has never lost that connection to the members he serves. In accepting, Art had many thanks to family, friends and co-workers and said that no matter what comes, this award will always be his highest honor.
The awardees were celebrated with a poem by Ras Mo Moses, “Working Class People” along with Baub Bidon and backed up with Jeff Fuller on bass and Richard Hill on percussion. Ras Mo invited artists to join the group in a year long cultural project to culminate in a concert for next year’s anniversary celebration.
Everyone was thrilled by Aishah Jenkins and Kendra Strester two high school students who performed “Stand by Me” with piano and bass accompaniment.
Joelle Fishman presented the afternoon’s call to action for organizing the unorganized, building even bigger grass roots mobilization on the issues including health care, no troops to Afghanistan, public works job creation and the employee free choice act. She presented certificates of appreciation to Dorothy Johnson and Brian Steinberg for their tireless work over many years delivering the People’s Weekly World to workers’ homes and getting them involved in the struggle.
Applause greeted the announcement that the People’s World now daily on-line will have a mini Connecticut print edition as of January, when the national print edition ends.
Finally, led by Bill Collins, all the musicians led the audience in singing Solidarity Forever as people rose to their feet and joined hands in the air.
The delicious home made supper and holiday gift table rounded out an inspiring and forward looking afternoon enjoyed by all.
A 54 page greeting book raised necessary funds to keep the paper going, and offered a handsome and exciting keepsake of the labor and people’s movement in Connecticut.
Those in attendance left uplifted and determined to keep the ball rolling.
The 90th anniversary of the Communist Party proud was done proud!!!
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|90th anniversary & Amistad Awards|
Photo: Henry Lowendorf