Some will rob you with a six-gun
And some with a fountain pen.
Excerpts from my journal
May 2 and 4, 2011, Cambridge Massachusetts
Clear, chilly, low 40s, still, lilac buds appeared.
Yesterday Bread and Puppet theater assembled at the Paul Revere mall in Boston’s North End, providentially under his statue, so as I sat resting from the previous 3 hours of intense photography with my Spring Light Charles River workshop I finally realized I can show the Haymarket Martyr puppets standing close to the statue’s base. (I’d snacked on a small chocolate mint cupcake with coffee and peed at Mike’s Bakery—effectively embedding in the largely Italian district—and felt the tourist in me merge with the artist.) Another episode in a splendid spontaneous day.
All but one of the paraders was easily under 30 years. They wore the colors of revolution and anarchism, red and black. Some wore IWW insignia, International Workers of the World—An Injury to One is an Injury to All. I recognized a few from the Bread and Puppet cast which I’d seen perform recently at the Boston Center for the Arts in the Cyclorama. They brought instruments, gradually more and more filled in the ranks to form a march that processed thru the North End, stunning residents and visitors with their grand music and the somber martyr puppets.
(The death of someone many would term a martyr was announced this morning, NPR is devoting its entire morning broadcast to the event—Osama Bin Laden is dead. Martyr only meaning martyr to some, evil man to others. As some—many long ago during the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago—would have called the Haymarket Martyrs evil or murderers or terrorists, when in fact they were organizing for the 8 hour day and other workers’ rights.)
I tracked the parade, anticipated it, and caught up with it, happy, as I was earlier in my solitude and with the earth as I led the photography workshop, to now be with a multitude and with the politics of May Day. More and more often and with more and more people International Workers’ Day returns to Boston. The issues of immigration rights, worker rights, and revolution generally seam together in this popular movement. The march ended in the Rose Kennedy Greenway, met by others who’d assembled previously. More youth, more people of color, more good energy: May Day in Boston. (I noticed that none of my current photo students showed up, despite an invitation from me, nor did I see any I recognized from my Boston email contact list, nor anyone from the local Palestine rights movement. Very curious, the lack of awareness about May Day and is significance.)
In viewing and photographing the May Day parade thru the North End I observed that the music and festive nature of the paraders—the geniality and joy—alerts the audience to politics rather than educates or exhorts them. A good lesson for my own work. I am too much the educator, the exhorter, the preacher, the pontificator, and not enough the inspirer, the pinpricker that simply alerts others to an issue or cause or need or topic: set the stage, plant a seed, prod a weary soul, content oneself with that, and keep on parading, blowing my horn, beating my drum.
The Brief Origins of May Day (aka International Workers’ Day)