Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend, Machinist’s Hall, Burlingame, California:
It was supposed to be both the 30th Anniversary and the final celebration of an amazing gathering of poets, singers, songwriters and artists from labor unions in the west. The inspiration of Jimmy, a singing mail carrier who attended the Great Labor Arts Exchange in the DC area and decided that the West Coast region needed something like this, it was carried forward by Jon Fromer and David Winters and Shelley (I’m Not Your Mother!).
The terrific news I was greeted with as I arrived this year is that there is an energetic group of young workers who have formed a team to continue this festival in a new way. So the wake turned out to be a Wake-Up and holler in joy!
I was particularly moved this year by workshops:
By the silver-and-acid-tongued Professor Louie, the Brooklyn Street Poet who has won the Poetry Prize at the Great Labor Arts Festival for multiple years, whose workshop on humor and stories was insightful and entertaining.
By the dedicated, careful and direct songwriters, Charlie King and Dave Lippman, whose workshop on Writing Parodies unveiled a level of care and sophistication that put me in a state of awe and inspired me to think in much broader and more careful terms.
Instead of mourning the passing of this powerful gathering, I am celebrating and eager to see what will come next!