LAWRENCE — Young activists stood by the Strikers' Monument on the Campagnone Common, reflecting on the festivities to unfold there on Labor Day at the Bread and Roses Heritage Festival.

The writer of a drama adapted for Monday's finale — the multimedia presentation "Lawrence Hustle & Soul" — tilted his head.

"It is crazy that I have (lived) here my whole life," says Nilson Mata, 24, of Lawrence, "and not been to the festival before."

Bread and Roses, now in its 34th year, combines remembrance and revelry and will reach out to youth with its theme of honoring young activists and artists — the "Dreamers and Doers" cited in the festival logo.

The festival will celebrate labor and culture on three stages and the Campagnone lawn. Entertainment and activities include hip-hop and folk music, dance, history talks and trolley tours, social justice presentations, information booths, soap box speakers and ethnic food.

The multimedia piece encapsulates the festival.

In "Lawrence Hustle and Soul," young activists draw on multiple art forms to tell a story about parents and children, their generational conflicts and dreams.

It also connects to the history that Bread and Roses commemorates, the 1912 Lawrence textile workers' strike over pay and working conditions. The strike united immigrants, many of them women and children, from different parts of the world and who spoke different languages.

Today's Lawrence, populated predominantly by brown and black people, and mostly of Latino heritage, have family roots that connect to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Central and South America.

They face difficulties and inequities as did urban white immigrants a century ago — the struggle to earn a living wage, to find safe and affordable housing and to make a better life for their families, says festival president Glennys Sanchez, 31.

"They had a different Bread and Roses to fight for, and we have our own Bread and Roses to fight for," Sanchez said. "What is very unique about the festival is how we commemorate the strike and we celebrate the diversity of the past and now."

Longtime Bread and Roses festival organizer Jim Beauchesne, the director at the Lawrence Heritage State Park, said 2018 is a festival watershed.

“This is a year we have made great strides in passing on the tradition of celebrating activism, past and present," Beauchesne said.

Beauchesne and Jurg and Linda Siegenthaler, along with others including David Meehan and Jonas Stundzia — sons and daughters of immigant groups — were once young activists who have gone on to devote years to building a signature event in the Immigrant City.

Young people are continuing their commitment and work ethic.

"Hustle and Soul" co-director Lucy Kamau, 24, of Lawrence says she and co-director Carla Sanchez and a cast and crew of some 20 people, most of whom are from Lawrence, have been working on the presentation for three hours each day the past few months.

The multimedia production will play out against a backdrop of three murals created by Elevated Thought, a nonprofit youth group that strengthens communities through art and social justice projects.  

Another young activist is Gladys Gitau-Damaskos, 24, of Lawrence, a Bread and Roses board member and a liaison to the "Hustle and Soul" project, helping with filming, communications and budget.

As usual the festival plas out to music. Entertainers will include Kaovanny, the Funky Dawgz Brass Band, The Alchemystics, Christopher Paul Stelling and El Rancherito De Oro. Magic, storytelling and dancers round out the family entertainment.

A Bread and Roses mainstay is the Lawrence History Live/Community Forum piece, coordinated by festival newcomer Elizabeth Pellerito, 36, and others. 

It will include at least 10 presentations from noon to 3:30 including those on another Lawrence strike, in 1919; a commuity forum, "Let's talk housing! Young people, housing and the future of Lawrence"; the state of Lawrence schools; and transgender rights in Massachusetts.

"In Lawrence History Live we've brought in a mix of people," she said. "Those who are doing traditional historical research and folks with ongoing campaigns which involve younger workers."

Pellerito, who does outreach work to local unions for the labor education program at UMass Lowell, has been guided in her history live coordination by Linda and Jurg Siegenthaler.

Before the multimedia finale, a new festival piece, "Dreamers and Doers for Social Justice," will honor those who have improved workers' lives. 

Among the unions represented at the festival will be the Service Employees International Union, which has worked on behalf of increases to the minimum wage and paid leave, both of which the governor signed into law this summer. The minimum wage will gradually rise from $11 to $15 over the next five years.

Pablo Ruiz, deputy director for the SEIU State Council, works out of the union's community action office around the corner from the Campagnone Common.

He'll be at the festival at a booth as will SEIU 1199 member Vicente De La Rosa, a personal care attendant, working in an industry that employs many people in Lawrence, a lot of whom are women.

De La Rosa feels a strong connection with the textile workers who went on strike 106 years ago, many of whom were women, as well.

"I do feel a connection because there are still many women who are in the fight and I know many of them," he said. "I fight along with them."

 

READER BOX

IF YOU GO

What: Bread and Roses Heritage Festival

Where: Lawrence, Campagnone Common, 200 Common St.

When: Noon to 5 p.m. on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 3

How much: Free

For more information visit: www.breadandrosesheritage.org

 

 

 

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