Saluting the peoples struggle and the PWW

People’s Weekly World fundraising events around the country the past few weeks showed the strength and vitality of the progressive movement.

In Detroit, friends of the PWW came together to honor Angelo Deitos, Ruth Goldman, Dave Moore, Quill Pettway, Carl and Stella Reinstein and Ethel Schwartz, seven longtime heroes whose lives are part of the history of the city. Collectively the seven were involved in the Ford Hunger March, the organization of the UAW, the National Negro Labor Council, fought against segregation, repression and have led lives dedicated to the fight for peace.

Among those paying tribute were Detroit City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson; Mike Kerwin, a leader of the Michigan Labor History Society; Elena Herrada, the director of Southwest Detroit’s Centro Obrero; Steve Noffke from Local 600 UAW and Erica Smiley, the chair of the Young Communist League.

Veterans for Peace Director Michael McPhearson was the featured speaker at Chicago’s PWW banquet, which drew 140 people and raised nearly $6,000. McPhearson had just come from a meeting of the United for Peace and Justice steering committee. He called for new and broader efforts to mobilize grassroots pressure for peace in the 2008 elections.

The evening opened with a clip from an upcoming film about artist/activist Peggy Lipschutz, whose legendary “chalk talks” have been a fixture of Chicago’s labor and progressive scene for decades. Lipschutz, a longtime PWW reader and supporter, was one of the banquet’s honorees. Pete Seeger, who performed with Lipschutz over the years and like her is a veteran PWW booster, sent greetings to the event.

Another honoree, Sheila Garland, organizer in Chicago for the National Nurses Organizing Committee/California Nurses Association, which has been organizing Cook County health care workers, brought “greetings from 75,000 nurses across the country.” She related how the NNOC has been a leader in the fight against dismantling Chicago’s public health system.

Also accepting an award was Ramon Becerra, president of the Chicago metro chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. Chicago LACLAA has helped lead the fight for immigrant rights in Chicago, capturing the nation’s attention on May 1, 2006, with a demonstration of hundreds of thousands of people.

The program featured Puerto Rican folkloric group Ecos de Nuestra Cultura, hip-hop musician Philip Morris, and Carol Williams, who spent seven years as a saxophone player in the U.S. Army band. She performed “Empty Boots,” an ode to the American Friends Service Committee’s traveling exhibit of boots symbolizing soldiers killed in Bush’s Iraq war.

Chicago’s PWW banquet committee, led by John Bachtell, Lance Cohn and Sijisfredo Aviles, was enthusiastic about the diverse, multiracial, young and old crowd. “It was just a wonderful event,” said Bachtell.

At Northern California’s Nov. 4 banquet, some 200 people, including trade unionists and community activists, honored members of the Teamsters, Machinists and Warehouse union locals who beat back Waste Management’s union-busting lockout in July.

The event also honored Alameda County Building Trades Council head Barry Luboviski, environmental leader and new Oakland Port Commissioner Margaret Gordon, and the Sacramento Hotel Workers Rising Labor and Community Coalition.

Over $10,000 was raised toward the PWW’s 2007 fund drive.

Oakland educator Cassandra Lopez electrified the audience with her depiction of the scope of current racist attacks on African Americans, and the consequences especially for Black youth.

The singing group Musica Humana and musical performer Trinidad contributed outstanding performances.

As they accepted awards from Friends of the People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo, Waste Management workers expressed appreciation for the paper’s role in publicizing their demands and exposing the company’s distortions.

In Los Angeles, a small gathering featuring Sam Webb, Communist Party USA national chair, raised $2,500 for the PWW, completing Southern California’s 2007 fund drive goal of $12,500. Webb spoke on the importance of the 2008 elections and the need for a decisive defeat of the ultra-right. Organizer Rosalio Muñoz emphasized the big challenges facing California labor in the coming months.

“We had a good turnout,” Webb said, “and, because they supported the message of the PWW, and what it does, people were very generous.” In addition, several took out subscriptions to the paper.

In New Haven, Conn., the PWW’s annual Amistad Awards are named for the slave ship that came to symbolize the abolitionist movement after a group of slaves revolted, taking the ship over in 1839.

Carrie Saxon Perry, former mayor of Hartford and leader of that city’s NAACP, on hand to accept an award, urged the crowd to continue to fight against the ultra-right. She noted that while she was mayor, “they went after us when we took up the issue of health care,” but in that election cycle, all three Republican members of the City Council were ousted.

While Republicans later retook seats, the progressive movement has re-surged in Hartford, as the Working Families Party has built a base around the People for Change Party that had ousted the Republicans before.

Larry Deutsch and Luis Cotto, two WFP candidates who won Hartford City Council seats November, told Saxon Perry at the event, “You were our inspiration.”

Also honored were Kica Matos, New Haven’s community services director, who was instrumental in establishing the first municipal ID available to all residents regardless of immigration status, and Mary Johnson, vice president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers Retirees and founder of Coalition for People.

At Philadelphia’s festive PWW awards dinner Dec. 9, 80 people saluted local activists.

John Braxton was saluted for his work with Jobs with Justice and U.S. Labor Against the War. Philadelphia’s Central Labor Council was one of the first in the country to pass a resolution against the Iraq war, and Braxton was instrumental in its passage. The labor council took out a full-page ad honoring him in the dinner’s program book.

Also honored were Miriam Crawford, a veteran activist with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and Jimmie Wayne Moore, a longtime promoter of the PWW in his church and community and on local radio talk shows.

Keynote speaker Adam Tenney, Young Communist League USA education director, linked the Iraq war to the “terrible violence” that has recently engulfed Philadelphia. The billions of dollars being spent on the war, he said, could fund better education, college tuition, more recreation and more jobs for young people, all of which would raise living standards and result in a drop in crime.

Tim Wheeler, PWW national political correspondent, spoke at events in Massachusetts and Maine about his recent trips to Jena, Louisiana. In the Maine audience was a leader of the state NAACP, with whom Wheeler later shared a panel at a college campus. In Brooklyn, N.Y., PWW Associate Editor Sue Webb spoke at a well-attended house meeting about her recent visit to Israel and Palestine.

“These banquets and forums show the breadth of the PWW, and the potential for raising money to support it,” said PWW Editor Terrie Albano. “The drive has ended, but there are still large checks in the mail from these events. You still have time to sneak in a donation!”

dmargolis @pww.org