Chicago banquet celebrates, and dances

CHICAGO — Grupo Yubá, a group of Puerto Rican percussionists, singers and dancers who issued the first CD of “bomba” and “plena” music in Chicago, drew listeners into a spontaneous dance during this year’s festive People’s Weekly World banquet here Dec. 3.

In an upbeat mood, more than 140 labor, community, peace and justice activists gathered at the Parthenon Restaurant to celebrate the November election victory and honor several groups for their outstanding work during 2006.

In a spirited keynote, Alderwoman Freddrenna Lyle blasted the obscene wealth accumulated by global corporations and said this proved the need for the labor movement. Lyle was a leader of the fight to pass a Big Box Living Wage Ordinance in the City Council that would have required Wal-Mart and other giant retailers to pay a living wage with benefits. The measure prompted a hostile attack by big business and was later vetoed by Mayor Daley.

Lyle and other aldermen who led the fight are being targeted by the Chicago Chamber of Commerce for defeat in the February municipal elections.

Elwood Flowers, Illinois AFL-CIO vice president, who introduced Lyle, said she had stood with labor in every difficult fight. More Lyles are needed at all levels of government, he added.

John Bachtell, Communist Party district organizer, welcomed the gathering.

Dr. Margaret Burroughs, co-founder of Chicago’s DuSable Museum of African American History, read her poetry and presented her beautiful art prints to Lyle and each of the honorees. Kyle Snyder, a U.S. Army resister threatened with jail, gave greetings and was given a standing ovation.

Every year the PWW banquet gives awards in honor of Chris Hani, South African Communist Party leader, and Rudy Lozano, revered leader of the Mexican American community. Both were brutally assassinated standing up for justice.

Five awards were presented this year. Among the recipients were Health Care Employees Acting at Resurrection Together (HEART), a group of Resurrection hospital workers organizing the hospital chain with AFSCME; and Chicago ADAPT, Americans Disabled for Accessible Public Transit, a group that pioneered the fight to make Chicago’s buses accessible to the disabled. ADAPT recently helped lead a sit-in at the Tennessee governor’s office over Medicaid cuts devastating to the disabled community.

Elvira Arellano of La Familia Latina Unida, who has taken sanctuary in a church to avoid deportation, was another honoree. Arellano represents 3 million families in danger of being split up by the Bush policies. Unable to leave the church, she sent a video greeting. Emma Lozano, president of the immigrant rights group Pueblo Sin Fronteras, and Arellano’s son Saul accepted on her behalf.

Also honored was the March 10th Movement, organizers of the first gigantic immigrant rights rally in 2006 in Chicago. It helped spark rallies nationwide, including 1 million who marched on May Day in Chicago. Accepting were José Artemio Arreola, SEIU Local 73 executive board member, and journalist/activist Jorge Mújica, who observed, “Immigration is indeed a difficult problem. Here is an event with a Puerto Rican group playing African-inspired music, singing in Spanish, in a Greek restaurant, in a city founded by someone [Du Sable] born in Haiti.”

Bea and Frank Lumpkin, lifelong members of the Communist Party USA and well-known leaders of many labor and community struggles, were honored as well. Recounting her personal encounters with Hani and Lozano, Ben Lumpkin declared, “Ideas of freedom and socialism can never be defeated.”

PWW writers Susan Webb and Pepe Lozano emceed the event, which featured a photo slide show of the struggles of 2006.

It was an inspiring event and everyone had a great time. Best of all, over $5,000 was raised for the PWW Fund Drive!