May Day. In much of the world it's a worker's holiday celebrating the achievement of the organized labor movement like the eight hour workday and the weekend. It's been a day of labor protest going back over 200 years, but also a day of defiance going back even further and celebration of spring, rebirth, community, and defense of the commons. On today's program, we celebrate the resilience of activists and their demands which haven't changed all that much over the centuries, and we feature some of the actors behind this year's May Day from Beyond the Moment, across movement coalition, and others.
Agunda Okeyo:After the election, I was looking for something utilitarian that people could actually get engaged with that was connected to what I thought was more of a long term perspective of the issues we're going to be facing. Boycotts traditionally have always been a great way to affect high halls of power where we're looking at the BDS approach with Palestine or you're looking at the boycott of apartheid South Africa, or you're looking at the Montgomery bus boycott. For me, it was a kind of vehicle for social justice that was obvious to tap into the for the work that I felt has to be long term.
At the moment with Hater Free NYC, essentially what we're doing is we have a boycott campaign that we have on the website where we're going off of a model where we have a hater of the month specifically targeting business interests connected to the Trump Administration, including his cabinet.
Thais Marques:Cosecha is a non-violent movement that is fighting for the permanent protection, dignity, and respect for all immigrants. Cosecha launched in February of 2016, so we're only about a year old. We want to create a seven day strike where immigrants don't go to work, they don't go to school, and they don't buy. We recognize that our power lies in our labor and consumer.
Our first principle first and foremost is that we want to be grounded in the pain of the immigrant community, so recognizing that what we're calling for, a strike, especially a seven day strike, is a huge risk. Right now, we have 24 volunteer organizers, and we have visited about 40 cities. We realize that to really make May 1st real, we have to be there for our community as much as possible, support them. We've really been supporting cities that we've been visiting in doing outreach in their own community, and especially to do actions where it's either something small like a banner drop where five people choose a highway and they just drop a banner to salsa shutdowns where there's like 50 people just dancing in the middle of a grocery store.
L. Yeampierre:UPROSE was founded in 1966. It was founded by Puerto Rican activists who were moving into Sunset from Red Hook to meet the unmet needs of the Puerto Rican community. I've been here since 1996, and it was in 1996 that the organization became a social justice organization that started also working on environmental justice issues.
UPROSE is a member of the Climate Justice Alliance, and our cohort is called the "Our Power Campaign." It's basically made up of frontline communities that are at the frontline of the crisis but are also moving for what we call "just transitions." Just transitions is an economic framework that basically moves you away from fossil fuel extraction into regenerative energy. We're engaged in operationalizing just transitions, which means anything from trying to get these three community-owned solar projects on the ground to trying to make sure that we can have an industrial hub that builds for offshore wind.
Sunset Park has the largest significant maritime industrial area in New York City. In the industrial sector, we've got blue collar manufacturing industrial jobs, and so it is the largest walk to work community in New York City. It has in some ways helped us retain the working class character of the neighborhood because people work here, they live here, they're able to support and raise a family here because of those blue collar jobs.
What we saw happen in the last three years was that Jamestown came into Sunset Park with this view of taking the industrial sector and turning it into the next Chelsea, the next Williamsburg. We immediately started reaching out to them and trying to figure out how we can get them to agree to start building for climate adaptation, for resilience, for renewable energy, for the kinds of what we think are new, industrial jobs that not only address the needs of the community and stimulate the economy locally but also address the climate adaptation needs of the region.
M. Castaneda:Sanctuary I think is it's an interesting concept and it's quite open concept. It's up to us to figure out to put in the policies that make Sanctuary meaningful. It also comes from this long tradition of spaces, houses of worship particularly, being the last place of refuge and the strongest place of refuge for people who are persecuted and people who are vulnerable.
Some of our main projects that are ongoing are the Accompaniment Project. We pair you up with somebody who's going to be going in to 26 Federal Plaza, which is where the immigration courts are, for some kind of hearing or to do a check in. If you have an order of deportation and you have to go present yourself and then this officer will determine whether to tell you, "Okay, come back in a month, come back in five months," or, "I'm taking you away." That serves some practical purposes like helping make sure that all the forms that we need to have are there, helping make sure if there's any irregularities that we are keeping track or anything like that.
Then it also serves another kind of function that's more difficult to describe, and that is I think what happens when somebody who is used to going through a humiliating machinery of the state system alone has people by their side. On the flip side of that, what happens when someone who's more privileged, who's a citizen, who's used to interacting with the state at a certain level of a certain expectation of a certain level of respect, timeliness, transparency, what happens when they, by walking with an undocumented person, feel firsthand the way that that person is being treated?
C. Copeland Jr.:I joined Iraq Veterans Against the War in 2013. This was after a writing group called Warrior [00:09:30] Writers, which gets veterans to discuss their experiences. It was just a lot of shame around how my service during my deployment interfered with these people's freedoms. We've been doing a campaign called "Drop the Military Industrial Complex," showing the connections that militarism is present around racial injustices, around police brutality, and even the 1033 program where they sell military grade weapons to local police forces.
We want to stop militarism, but right now you know how that looks on the ground realistically in our local communities, especially for frontline communities. Internationally understanding the investment in the military and the action that it takes overseas divests from our communities around health issues, housing issues, and education. Iraq Veterans Against the War is a member of the It Takes Roots coalition, and they became a member of the Beyond the Moment larger coalition. We had a lot of intersection around racial justice, economic justice, but looking at it broadly through climate justice we want to understand how we can help intersect our work into those other areas that Beyond the Moment has taken an umbrella of like 30 or more social justice and racial justice groups.
I was really excited to participate in the town hall that was put together largely by BYP100, BAJI, which works around black immigrants in America, and Millionhoodies on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's "Beyond Vietnam" speech where he was trying to America's geopolitical interests in terms of war in Vietnam abroad to the struggles people were dealing with here in the United States.
M.L. King Jr.:Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam.
Agunda Okeyo:We wanted to call back his words and also celebrate the anniversary by thinking about what he might make of this moment if he was thinking about America's local and global impact. I was trying to offer a very clear connection between how America's policies in the United States today have direct impact on the world, and then also how that can have reverberating effects back to America.
L. Yeampierre:We are organizing a series of events in Washington D.C. both for the People's Climate March and for May Day. We're also part of GGJ which is the Global Grassroots Justice Alliance. All of these alliances and coalitions that we're part of are organizing a series of actions.
Thais Marques:We chose May 1st because it represents workers, but we really wanted to make it about immigration, because the workers that are more vulnerable and most invisible are undocumented immigrant workers. The immigrants that pick our vegetables and our fruits and construct our buildings and clean our hotels and our rooms. It's really symbolic for us to [00:13:00] have May 1st really be about immigrants. When we use an economic lens, we are shifting a narrative from, "Do immigrants deserve to be here?", to, "This country needs its immigrant workforce, and if immigrants were to stop working, if we were to all be deported or to all leave, the entire economy would fail." To us, we're using our economic power as leverage to really win permanent protection, because the more strikes we do, the longer we do it for, the more desperate people in power become because they so desperately need us as a workforce.
M. Castaneda:A day for worker's solidarity is absolutely vital. Historically and today, one of the main ways of keeping the power of labor down has been by dividing the working class, making it seem as if the immigrant laborer is the enemy of the working class citizen laborer.
Donald Trump:Don't forget, we're taking tremendous numbers of jobs from people that were born in this country. You understand that because when you look at the rolls, you have 100 million people that potentially want to work, and they can't find jobs.
M. Castaneda:Once we start recognizing what we have in common, what we have to gain in common, then we become extremely powerful.
I think the issue is in this moment of resistance I think everyone is getting to a point where they're thinking about, "Where is the power?" I don't think the United States if often engaged in conversations around the power that money has in terms of undermining the authority of poor people, women, people of color, other marginalized groups. That has to do, I think, with a larger challenge in this society around discussing class, discussing capitalism, discussing economic justice, and you could take that all the way even to reparations.
I'm interested in more recognizing the systemic problem and being instrumental in terms of supporting the resistance in that way.
M. Castaneda:People do not often make the connection between brutal tactics of immigration enforcement and exploitation of immigrant labor. That connection needs to be drawn the way that terrorizing the immigrant community is a way of enforcing conditions of their exploitation and promoting them. In so many industries, whether we're going to talk about agriculture, domestic labor, the restaurant and service industries, across the board, these things are going hand in hand right now. How is this horrific enforcement climate already creating the conditions for an unregulated exploitation of immigrant labor, and how has it done that historically?
Rhiya Trivedi:A lot of things are happening today, but namely elected officials, faith leaders, immigrant rights leaders, are gathering to show their support for all of those individuals who face imminent detention, deportation, or just the more quotidian uncertainty of checking in in this building right here across the street which is a process of intense supervision that ICE engages in with thousands of people if not hundreds of thousands of people across the United States.
Mark-Viverito:We're coming together here, everywhere, and making sure that we resist, that we defy, that we defend, and that we stand in solidarity. We have to stand in solidarity, so we are here as Latinos, as Muslims, as LGBT, as immigrants, as human beings, to say that we are united ad we will defy, and we will not stay silent.