AFSCME Council 5 just launched a new website, www.AFSCMEroots.org featuring labor leaders whose lives are models for achieving justice and equality. The spoken and musical performances were recorded live at the 2016 Council 5 convention. They highlight and celebrate men and women, some largely unrecognized, whose struggles and victories can inspire activists today.
Jennifer Munt, Council 5 Public Affairs Director, wrote and directed the performances. “Worker rights, civil rights and human rights are all connected,” said Munt. “Now, more than ever, we must remember who we are and what we fight to protect as a labor movement. We hope AFSCME Roots will help working people do that.”
The historic figures brought to life in six vignettes are: Sojourner Truth, a former slave who struggled to free other African Americans, performed by Sametta Hill; Mother Jones, the iconic miner and child worker organizer, voiced by Sara Franck; Pauline Newman, garment worker and lesbian rights pioneer, interpreted by Mary Falk; Eugene Debs, railroad organizer and Socialist presidential candidate, portrayed by Dennis Frazier; Bayard Rustin, gay civil rights leader and strategist, played by Vaughn Thompson; and Jerry Wurf, consummate AFSCME leader and mentor to Eliot Seide, who portrays him. All of these historic leaders faced and overcame serious adversities to advance the rights of working people.
Assiniboine/Nakota singer Georgia Wettlin Larsen opens the series with a Cheyenne honor song. She recognizes the labor of her ancestors and all women workers, as well as the critical importance of the land and water that support all people.
The music coupled with the portrayal of each leader was performed by renowned local talents Larry Long, Sharice McCain, Billy Steele and Georgia Wettlin Larsen. The songs repeatedly brought the crowd to its feet.
The new site also includes the reflections of the performers on how the examples of leaders they portrayed have inspired their own work on behalf of fellow union members and all workers. Also featured are downloadable resources to make sharing labor history easy.
The videos were shot and edited by Randy Croce and Howard Kling of the University of Minnesota Labor Education Service.
The new site provides a new, dynamic way to tap into and spread appreciation of labor’s rich legacy.