NEW HAVEN, Conn. — There was much to celebrate at the 89th anniversary of the Communist Party USA here Dec. 7. The party and its allies, unionists and friends joined together this year to work diligently to help elect our first African American president, Barack Obama. Folks pounded the pavement in Bridgeport, Conn., to defeat the last standing congressional Republican, Chris Shays. His replacement, newly elected Jim Himes, is vowing to take the people’s agenda forward.

The event was filled with the spirit of the movement in our country that says America can get back on the right track.

The anniversary celebration featured Amistad awards given to three outstanding fighters for justice.

Juan Hernandez, assistant district leader of SEIU 32 BJ Justice for Janitors, has not only been involved in political campaigns but also helped organize the first successful union drive for janitors in Fairfield and New Haven counties, helping to increase the workers’ wages and improve health benefits. Hernandez will be continuing this kind of leadership so that we can win the Employee Free Choice Act and real immigrant rights.

Kathy Jackson, another awardee, is president of the Connecticut chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, vice president of the Hartford Labor Council and member of the Voting Rights Act committee. Her dedication and outspoken manner have helped others to join the movement for equal rights for all. Jackson expressed great appreciation that she was considered for this award.

Al Marder, the third award recipient, has been a leader and activist for decades. Marder was an organizer for the Communist Party in the 1950s. Where there was injustice you would always find him. With others he organized the City of New Haven Peace Commission in the late 1980s. He has served on the United Nations International Association of Peace Messenger Cities. One of his projects was to organize the replica of the Amistad ship in 1994. Marder keeps on keeping on — you might get tired but he won’t let you stop.

Guests were entertained by the Rabble Rousers, who got the crowd clapping and stomping to the beat of their music. One of the musicians, Bill Collins, spent time in Virginia during the election campaign organizing and playing music for union members there.

This year’s greeting book was dedicated to the memory of Merrilee Milstein, a friend, wife and mother. Most people remember her from her 1199 days as an organizer. She was a person who would take you by the hand and help you to the finish line. Event participants said her presence continues to be felt in tough organizing drives, with many drawing inspiration from the courage and efforts of a woman who helped change the labor movement.

Now that the election is over and people prepare for a historic inauguration, the celebration reminded us that we must keep the unity that we had in 2008 and work to advance the people’s agenda with the new White House. The ball is in our court.

The event and greeting book benefitted the People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo fund drive. The successful celebration put Connecticut over the top in the drive and helped cover the cost of the papers that are distributed weekly year round.