Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Festive Atmosphere of the Chicago Teachers Strike is a Sign of Its Strength

Conservative pundits, and some liberal Education Reformers, have seized on the festive atmosphere of the Chicago Teachers Strike as a way to discredit it. But many of the greatest social movements in American History had a festive atmosphere. The Sit Down strikers in Flint, some of whom stayed in occupied factories f or six weeks, wrote songs and put on plays, had boxing matches and dance offs, and held "kangaroo courts" to enforce discipline in the builds. Non violent civil rights protesters, some of them facing danger and even death in small southern towns, sang when they were being arrested, sang when the were being beaten, and sang when they were in jail. The songs they sang are still a staple of the American folk tradition, performed to this day by Sweet Honey and the Rock, Mavis Staples, and even Bruce Springsteen. And the Columbia Strike, which I participated in included a wedding, a performance by the Grateful Dead, and a wonderful soundtrack provided by the Columbia radio station WKCR, which played music in support of the protesters. All these movements were successful in achieving their perspectives, so when I see Chicago strikers creating a wonderful video adaptation of "Call ME Maybe" and listen to the words and watch the video, of Rebel Diaz amazing song, "Chicago Teacher" I feel the power and authority of this great movement being echoed on the cultural plan in ways that resembles earlier justice struggles in our nation. When people who have been stigmatized, marginalized and abused by those in power finally revolt, there is not only the release of accumulated rage, there is a usually a profound outpouring of joy. And that is a sign of the movements strength.

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