In 1886, many Americans labored 14 hour days, 6 days a week, for wages that couldn't support a family. On May 1st, workers across the country went on strike for an 8 hour day -- and in Chicago on May 4th, the fight led to a bomb being thrown, 8 police dying, and 8 labor leaders going on trial (1 committed suicide in prison, 4 were executed). This incident divided the country and continues to be debated but also led to May Day, the international labor holiday on May 1st.
Many communities lay claim to some part of the story, but it belongs to all of us and feels especially relevant in the current moment.
To honor the 125th anniversary of the Haymarket Affair, a full-scale Reenactment will be staged on the original site, near the corner of Randolph and Desplaines. We will remember the 16 men and countless others, workers and police, who were present that day but whose identities will never be known. Organized by Paul Durica's Pocket Guide to Hell in partnership with the Illinois Labor History Society, Version Festival, and the Haymarket Pub and Brewery, the Haymarket Reenactment will draw groups from across the city to commemorate the past and to celebrate work being done in the present.
Like a Civil War reenactment, the Haymarket Reenactment will have period props, costumes, and people playing specific roles -- all right in the center of the city. Tim Samuelson (cultural historian) and Alma Washington (actress and activist) will help tell the story for the spectators, who will also play the people gathered around the speakers' wagon that night in May. Jon Langford will sing "Annie Laurie" as Albert Parsons did, the night before he was executed. Music will be provided by Environmental Encroachment, the magic circus marching band, and Haymarket Pub and Brewery will host the afterparty.
We're doing this to remind people of past struggles here in Chicago, and the need to work together in the present.
Pocket Guide to Hell has organized public events since 2008 but has never attempted something on this scale -- events have always been free and open to all, funded by free-will donations, the kindness of collaborators, and founder Paul Durica's pocket (he's a grad student, so it's not too deep). To pull off the Haymarket Reenactment, our biggest event yet, and to keep it historically accurate and truly inclusive, we are asking for your help.
Everything is appreciated -- your donations go directly to costumes for the 175 policemen (hats, badges, clean secondhand coats, mustaches) and the 8 anarchists (clean secondhand suits, cravats, high vests, beards), as well as props (Mayor Harrison's fake horse, the speakers' wagon, Zeph's Hall sign replica), special effects, amplification, and publicity (so that as many communities as possible can be welcomed).
For a taste of Pocket Guide to Hell events, check out this video of the Parade of the Unemployed, made by Alek Shnayder (thanks, Alek!) -- the Haymarket Reenactment will be like that, only a LOT bigger!
The Haymarket Reenactment starts at 2pm on Saturday, April 30th, 2011, Randolph and Desplaines -- more details will be posted here, as well as on the website and Facebook (friend "Ben Reitman"). Everyone is welcome! -- if you pledge long-distance, we will mail your prizes to you.
- (31 days)