Culture

Local Activist, Mark Lipman, To Receive Joe Hill Labor Poetry Award

By Krista Schwimmer –

LoMarkLipmancal activist and poet, Mark Lipman, has won the  Joe Hill Labor Poetry Award for 2015. Named after the legendary Joe Hill, the award is given to a writer whose work addresses occupational culture or Labor Day. On September 7th, at noon, Lipman will set the tone for the
entire event when he reads his poem in front of thousands of workers at Banning Park, Wilmington, CA. He will also receive $300, funded by working class money only.
A seasoned organizer, Lipman moved to the Venice area in 2008. Since that time, he has been a passionate organizer around issues of affordable housing. He has published numerous books and CD’s. His work frequently appears in the Free Venice Beachhead. Lipman called the award a “sweet surprise”, adding that it comes at a good time for him.

In its fifth year, the Joe Hill Labor Poetry Award was created by Slobodan Dimitrov. One reason he created it is because Dimitrov wants the labor community to know and to acknowledge the work writers like Mark Lipman have done on behalf of labor. In the labor culture, work is part of one’s identity. Through their work, Dimitrov says, Mark Lipman, and other similar writers such as Steven Armstrong and Julia Stein, have addressed these issues. Dimitrov also wants the recipient of the award to have the experience of reading his or her work in front of thousands of labor workers, in the tradition of Pablo Neruda and Langston Hughes.

This year’s award auspiciously falls in a year marking the 100th anniversary of Joe Hill’s execution. Born in 1879, Joe Hill was a radical cartoonist, songwriter, and labor activist. He was a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).  On November 19, 1915, Hill was executed by firing squad for the murder of John G. Morrison, a grocer and former policeman, and Morrison’s son. Hill claimed he was innocent, a claim that is supported by William Adler’s  2011 biography of Hill.

In death, Hill became a legend. He was memorialized by many artists, including folk singers Pete Seeger and Joan Baez, who both sang “I dreamed I saw Joe Hill Last Night.” Phil Ochs wrote and sang a more detailed ballad based on Hill’s life. Activists today frequently quote what Hill wrote, right before his execution, to IWW leader Bill Haywood: “Goodbye Bill. I die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organize.”So, you lovers of poets and recipients of labor, don’t waste your September 7th at barbecues and mattress sales — spend your time at Banning Park this year. Who knows — you may even see the spirit of Joe Hill, himself, amidst the crowd.

 

Hail, the Picket Line
By Mark Lipman
Hail, the picket line,  the picket line,  the picket line.
Hail, the picket line. Don’t you dare cross that.

Hail, the picket line, the picket line, the picket line.
Hail, the picket line. Don’t you dare cross that.
It started back in the days of industrial revolution,
when the working man had to fight for wage and right.
(Not too much has changed these days, and much less for the better.)
To stand together, shoulder to shoulder, against the bosses henchman, simply to organize,
to work together, to protect the interest of the laborer,
against exploitation from the 1%.
The unions are what made this country strong.
They had to fight for every inch.
and fight they did,
… for their sons and daughters
… for the future.

Hail, the picket line, the picket line, the picket line.
Hail, the picket line. Don’t you dare cross that.

Hail, the picket line, the picket line, the picket line.
Hail, the picket line. Don’t you dare cross that.
Now comes the attack, cuts in pensions,
the outsourcing of production, the advancement of technology
that makes the common worker obsolete, striking divisions between
those who can and cannot afford to eat.
The rights we take for granted, fought for by our grandparents,
are being whittled away, one by one,
until the land of the free seems like some daydream,
fantasy-land imagination this once great nation
SOLD … to the highest bidder.
If we’re ever going to save her,
we need to remember
what it took for us
to earn our rights to begin with
… and hold the line.

Hail, the picket line, the picket line, the picket line.
Hail, the picket line. Don’t you dare cross that.

Hail, the picket line, the picket line, the picket line.
Hail, the picket line. Don’t you dare cross that.

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Categories: Culture, Labor, Poetry

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