Filed under: Action, Anarchist Movement, Northwest
Report back from May Day in the Greys Harbor area in Washington. Originally posted to Sabot Media.
Since 1886, May Day has been an important holiday for the global working class. This history is often repressed in this country, being one of a minority that doesn’t celebrate International Worker’s Day on May first, despite being the country which served as the catalyst that created the holiday after the Haymarket Massacre of 1886. In an attempt to rekindle the knowledge of and the respect for that forgotten history – local leftists have put on an annual May Day celebration for three years running.
Initiated by the Chehalis River Mutual Aid Network in 2021, the yearly celebration has grown exponentially since its grassroots beginning in Zelasko Park. An event which included performances by the Plank Island Theater Company. Growing with each passing year, public interest in the event has continued to steadily grow, as turnout has increased with each passing year and local business participation has taken off – including participation from ART HQX, The Blackflower Collective, and Events on Emerson who came together to put on a wonderful May Day On The Harbor for 2023.
This year had a full day of activities and events, including plenty of historical exhibitions. The third annual May Day on the Harbor event was held at the local event center Events on Emerson and was sponsored by the newest radical project on the Harbor, The Blackflower Collective. The Blackflower Collective has formed around the issues that have arisen from the continued organizing among the unhoused population in the Aberdeen area, such as lack of housing, work, food, and community.
In that effort of improving conditions for the working class in Grays Harbor and in the spirit of the working class holiday, they have taken on the role of leading a new affinity group on the Harbor called the May Day On The Harbor Planning Committee that we here at Sabot Media have had the pleasure of taking part in. Through our connections with The Blackflower Collective, we helped to develop historical displays, produce video shorts, zines, buttons, and more for the event. We were happy to donate the work to this worthwhile effort and join them in celebration as this years May Day marked the 1st birthday of Sabot Media.
We were not the only people that showed up to table at this event however. Quite a few guests had come to share in this celebration of working class history with us, other tables at the event included historical displays from our local area and local historian Connie Parsons. The zine distro ‘Historical Seditions’ came with literature and merchandise. One table even offered zines produced during The Center for Especifismo Studies’s Militant Kindergarten coursework. Blackflower Permaculture, an offshoot landscape design team, was there to demonstrate their design services and talk about permaculture in relation to the need for working class food sovereignty. Chehalis River Mutual Aid Network participated again in this years event hosting an info table and collecting signatures for volunteers looking to get involved in mutual aid and community outreach. Our local chapter of Food Not Bombs also arrived in tandem with the Chehalis River Mutual Aid Network and catered a community potluck where they served free food including burgers and hot dogs throughout the day. ART HQx also participated in the event by donating art supplies and helping to set up a kid’s corner filled with DIY art projects. Other activities included free face painting, an educational history scavenger hunt, and subsequent prize table.
A major draw for people seemed to be the live music portion of the day. Various bands from Olympia including Them Badgers, Virtual Bird, and The Window Smashing Job Creators came down to support our Harborite comrades and hosted a free benefit concert at the 3rd Annual May Day On The Harbor. Citizens and guests of all ages cheered on the guest performances and young and old alike sang along to these songs of freedom.
And of course the Blackflower Collective themselves were in attendance fundraising for their land projects, selling merchandise and auctioning off a library’s worth of radical literature and other items donated by the community. Their table also hosted a contest to win a brand new Nintendo Switch by entering to guess the correct number of jelly beans contained within a large glass jar. Many people generously bid on the slew of awesome items up for auction and the word is the event was a huge success for them bringing in somewhere between 150 and 200 attendees throughout the day. “Anytime we can get out into the community and talk to people about the stuff we are so passionate about is a good day.” said one member of the collective when reached for comment.
In a scene as wholesome as apple pie, the end of the announcements of the auction winners and at the declaration of the winner of the jelly bean count. A little girl in the audience, after having taken a savvy approach to the challenge by using math to approximate the number of jelly beans, was declared the winner and her response was comparable to the excitement of the classic “Nintendo 64 Kid” video.
The peak of the evenings events though was a moving lecture from labor historian Dr. Aaron Goings who gave a historical presentation about the radical working class history here on the Harbor as discussed in his books by the titles of “Port of Missing Men” & “The Red Coast”. During the duration of his talk Dr. Goings brought to attention the life of William McKay, an Aberdeen resident and member of the International Workers of The World who was murdered on the picket line 100 years ago in 1923 while protesting for the release of political prisoners captured by the state in a concentrated effort to demoralize the working class and the burgeoning labor movement.
The oration concluded with a final message written on the banner of William McKay’s funeral procession: “Fellow Worker William McKay, killed by a company gunman, a victim of capitalist greed, We Never Forget?” As 100 Years have passed since the death of William Mckay, as 100 years have passed since the their death was last spoken to the public ear, the question mark at the end of this banner has become less of a question, and more of a challenge, a challenge to remember, a challenge to preserve the history of the working class. What will the future histories told of today be? Will they be stories of workers lives and struggles, or will they be stories of the era’s capitalists? Who will be the victors that write the histories of tomorrow? Of the struggles facing the modern working class, will “We Never Forget?”
As we look back on the past and the many tragic and joyous things that have occurred on the first of May, it is wonderful to see how much our small community has grown over the years. Years of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears. But years of growth and community too, years of comradery and delicious meals. One local fascist once called out the communities very first May Day on the Harbor (since the collapse of the labor movement) for “falling flat”, in a post made to their now defunct blog site, despite having a decent turn out for the length of preparation and resources available for the first May Day Event.
We can only laugh at that short lived fascist blog and it’s attempts to undermine the work of Harborite radicals as we smile and look on towards the future. Though many trials and obstacles await, we will continue to out grow the fascist creep and continue to do everything we can to bring class consciousness to the Harbor. As we look forward to the fourth annual May Day On The Harbor in 2024 with the experience of our past successful events under our belts we wonder, “Will the local leftist festivities continue to fall flat?”