May Day march brings community & action to the streets

SolidGroundBannerEditedThe first day of May is one when we feel relief knowing that our harsh winter weather is over and we eagerly await beautiful blooms in spring and (hopefully) bountiful harvests in summer. Traditionally in the past, a “May Day Basket” filled with Easter-like treats and flowers may have been left at a neighbor’s doorstep; a gesture meant to deepen community ties by sharing the celebration of spring and its promise of new beginnings. However, this ritual is slowly fading.

The promise of spring also informs the century-old International Workers’ Day, May 1st is also a day in which activists demand social change, especially as they pertain to immigrants’ rights. The origins of this day trace back to the late 19th century when thousands of workers in Chicago organized, demanding an eight-hour work day, fair wages and safe working conditions. A bomb was thrown into the crowd of picketers (the culprit is still unknown) which spurred a shooting frenzy with police, killing over a dozen people and wounding dozens more. This tragedy became known as the Haymarket Massacre, one that propelled the first day of May forward to unite those in solidarity, never forgetting those that lost their lives in Chicago over 100 years ago.

While violence has marred recent Seattle May Days, this year’s events started peacefully with a rally at Judkins Park, where thousands congregated, assembling signs and conversing with familiar faces. Shortly after 3pm, we were off on our 2.5-mile trek to downtown Seattle, during which temperatures reached up to the mid-80s. Thousands more joined the march as the crowd proceeded down Jackson to Boren Street.

People held signs that read “Health Care is a Human Right” supporting a single payer national health program and “¡Sí se puede!” (“Yes, we can!”), observing the United Farm Workers’ rallying cry so many years ago. Chants like, “Obama! Escucha! Estamos en la lucha!” (Obama! Listen! We are in the fight!) – calling upon the President to curb the over 2 million record deportations that have occurred under his administration – and “What do we want? 15! When do we want it? Now!”— demanding a livable wage of $15 per hour in Seattle proper (and eventually across America) – were heard throughout the march.

But the message seemed disjointed and all over the place, like too many options on the social justice menu. An all-encompassing rally demanding justice for all facets of inequality? Could the statements be confused for a chaotic and unfocused purpose?

“It was an important day of coming together around issues that affect everyone,” says Leah Grupp-Williams, Food Resources Program Assistant at Solid Ground. In the past, Leah has helped organize the May Day March with the May 1 Action Coalition. This year she planned a group from Solid Ground to attend the march. When asked why this march is so important to her, she replied, “Our current immigration policy is an example of how racism thrives in this country. And it’s important for Solid Ground to continue to have a presence in grass roots struggles.”

Another member of the Solid Ground team who attended the march offered his personal connection to the rally. Gordon Pun, Facilities Manager at Solid Ground, states, “I am an immigrant who wanted to be in the U.S. I wanted a better future and freedom in the U.S. …an opportunity to grow.” As he recounts his own experiences, he also relates his story to current immigration issues. “I see the struggle that immigrants have to [endure]. I see why immigrants have to cross the border. I feel bad that the families have to break up. That’s really sad.”

Even though he has a direct affinity with those cries for comprehensive and inclusive immigration reform, Gordon still agrees with the notion that there may be a community sentiment after all. “Everyone has their own reasons for being at the march,” he says.

And isn’t it true? That we all have our own reasons for all-encompassing advocacy? Whether your family is threatened with deportation every day of your life, a friend is living at poverty level because they make minimum wage, or your coworker just filed for bankruptcy because they couldn’t pay their medical bills, we all know someone. We might even be living it. But whether the former or the latter are the case, one has to feel a sense of unity and collective emotion to witness so much participation in a movement that is focused on helping out fellow Americans who are, in essence, strangers. To see them in good health. To prosper and live without fear of separation from their families.

Knowing these issues still plague our people, how can such things that anger and outrage us at times also make us happy in some ways? Happy that thousands came together for the same altruistic purpose. Happy that destructive behavior and obscenities were largely absent among thousands of people within the cramped streets of Seattle. Happy that that feeling of community, which is few and far between for some, showed its face on that warm, sunny, first day of May.


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Food justice starts with us!

Event flyerSolid Ground has spent decades helping folks have adequate food and nutrition. Over time that work has shifted from giving people food through the food bank system to looking at ways to restructure our regional food system. With many community partners, we strive to connect people more closely to the bounty that comes from our own communities. This work is especially important in low-income communities that have had limited access to healthy fresh produce.

Clean Greens is one of the visionary organizations in this work. “Founded in 2007, Clean Greens is a food justice organization that is owned and operated by residents of Seattle’s Central District,” according to its website. Its mission is to “decrease the incidence of disease in our communities by increasing residents’ access to healthy, pesticide-free produce at affordable prices. We are committed to delivering clean produce to all people in our communities, which we grow on our 22-acre farm in Duvall, Washington, and distribute via our Central District farm stand and CSA program.”

This Saturday, January 29, I’ll be MCing a fundraising event for Clean Greens and I want you all to join me there!

The Food Justice Starts with Us dinner event will be held at the Garfield Community Center, 23rd and Cherry, from 6pm to 10pm. The event features a meal cooked with local, seasonal foods by members of the Clean Greens community. Tickets are $35 and available from Brown Paper Tickets.

Clean Greens welcomes Brahm Ahmadi, co-founder of People’s Grocery in Oakland, CA, who will be giving a keynote speech on Oakland’s food justice movement. Towards the end of dinner, a short film on Clean Greens’ ongoing food justice work will be premiered. After dinner, we will be having a dessert auction, and guests can enjoy their dessert while listening to a local jazz band perform.

The event promises to be an evening of inspiration, fun and fabulous food. When we build community like this, we can make meaningful steps to secure food justice in our community! I hope to see you there!

For more info on the event, call 206.324.3114.

Local community organizer needs support at Immigration Pardons Hearing on June 10th!

If you haven’t seen this video yet…please take a minute to learn about Giday “Dede” Adhanom, a local community organizer who is facing deportation (based on a conviction that she received when she was a young adult):

Carpools will be going from Seattle to support Dede at her Pardons Hearing in Olympia, on Thursday morning, June 10th.

I have worked very closely with Dede over the past two years, and she is an extremely talented, committed and inspiring woman. She has dedicated years of her life to serving her community, including serving at the Village of Hope from 2008 to present, helping people who are coming out of incarceration to find jobs and housing. Dede has also been a powerful and thoughtful member and leader over the past two years within the JustServe AmeriCorps team. Dede is also the mother of two beautiful and happy little girls, and she is due to have a baby boy in June.

Dede has given so much to our community, and now she needs our support.

If you can come out to support Dede in Olympia on June 10th, please contact JustServe AmeriCorps at 206.957.4779 or the Village of Hope at 206.937.2701.

For more information about the federal legislation impacting Dede and others in our community, see this PBS report.

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