New Yorkers discuss the Way Forward

better-world-awards-photo
The Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to Jarvis Tyner. Granddaugher Lily helped.

 

On Sunday afternoon, December 11th, the People’s World held its Annual Luncheon, the Better World Awards, in Chelsea, Manhattan.

The Better World Awards are held every year to honor the contributions of shining stars in the people’s movements and to help fund the work of the newspaper.

This year’s honorees were Rachel LaForest of the Retail Action Project (RAP), George Albro of NY Progressive Action Network (NYPAN), Nelini Stamp of the Working Families Party (WFP) and Lifetime Achievement Awardee Jarvis Tyner of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA).

The theme of the evening was “The Way Forward After the Elections.”

Around 70 people attended the celebration to break bread and enjoy a spirited program.

A delicious and bountiful dinner was made by the loving hands of longtime activists, unionists, and revolutionists.

Bernie Cylich, member of the New York State Committee, Communist Party USA, provided the opening remarks

“People’s World is the voice of the Communist Party of the United States,” he began. “Founded in 1919 under the banner ‘Fight for the attainment of the immediate interests of the working class,’ the Communist Party looked, at the same time, to a future in which we would enjoy the benefits of socialism.”

New Masses Nights co-curator John Pietaro performed a tribute with The Red Microphone to fallen comrades Anne Yellin, Danny Rubin, Frank Barbaro, and Fidel Castro.

Alia Tyner-Mullings, who co-emceed the afternoon with her young daughter, grew up going to Daily World picnics. She called on the New York Friends of the People’s World to organize picnics again to bring her daughter to.

Zenaida Mendez also co-emceed the event. Mendez is the founder of National Dominican Women Caucus, former President of the National Organization of Women New York State, and currently the director of El Barrio Firehouse Community Media Center in Manhattan.

Mendez began by asking everyone in the audience to turn and greet one another. “Today more than ever, we have to know who our friends are, who are comrades are.”

Chris Butters, retired court reporter and chair of the Brooklyn Club of the CPUSA, introduced George Albro, founding member of NYPAN, which brought together many of the progressive groups inspired by the Sanders campaign and already has 25 affiliates all over the state. Albro is a leader of its Brooklyn chapter.

“George Albro was a legal aid society lawyer for 18 years in Brooklyn criminal court where I first met him as a court reporter, taking down his golden words on behalf of mostly poor and working-class clients.”

“It’s a very difficult time,” said Albro. “The plutocrats that run our government have always hired people to do their work in the government. Now they decided, ‘Let’s eliminate the middleman; we’re just going to take it over ourselves.’ ”

Albro was inspired by state and municipal governments that have pledged to lead the opposition. Citing de Blasio as an example, he said, “We’re a city of immigrants; we’re a multi-racial city. That’s what makes America great.”

“This is the mayor the Working Families Party helped elect,” he concluded, looking towards 2017. “He’s not perfect, but we’re not going to turn our city over to a billionaire to run.”

Renowned actor Vinie Burrows took the stage to recite Pablo Neruda’s work, “Ode to Paul Robeson,” a favorite of Jarvis Tyner’s.

Better World honoree Nelini Stamp, membership director at the Working Families Party, was introduced by Tsedeye Gebreselassie, of the National Employment Law Project. Stamp’s  organizing across the nation was recognized, including her work as a leader of Occupy Wall Street, Higher Ed, Not Debt, and the Dream Defenders.

“I see that this moment has happened because we’ve moved forward so much,” said Stamp. Referring to the strength of struggles for climate justice, at Standing Rock, #Not1more, #BlackLivesMatter, and the #Fightfor15 she said, “Donald Trump is a backlash. Every single cabinet pick is a test to our movement.”

 

She called for greater recognition of the leadership of Black and Brown women in the people’s struggles. “Bernie did a lot for us on the class narrative, but we need to get a sharpened race narrative in this country.”

Before inviting the poet Amina Baraka to the podium, Mendez told the attendees to keep the pressure on their representatives, and to remember that “we are more than they are.”

Baraka held the audience captive with stirring poetry, and sang a tune by Paul Robeson, “Old Man River.”

A fundraising appeal followed and a musical interlude was performed by the author of this article and co-curator of New Masses Nights and Lou Miller.

Mendez brought up Jarvis Tyner to speak, emphasizing the importance of family, friends, art, music, poetry, and books to sustain us in the struggle.

Tyner began with a remembrance of Fidel Castro. “Comrade Fidel occupies a special place in the hearts of US Communists, and all people who believe in independence, justice, and freedom for all.” He said the Trump election “demands we step up the fight to establish normal relations with our socialist neighbors. History has absolved Fidel; he will never be forgotten.”

Growing up in a Philadelphia ghetto, he recalled his father working in the factory and his mother’s beauty shop. The small community stuck together in tough times, including their Jewish landlord, who ran a shoe shop up the street and had told Tyner, “Don’t worry about it,” when he had to tell him they were short on their $30 rent.

Early encounters with Communists, including his brother McCoy’s teacher, left an impression on him. Later experiences with unemployment, on-the-job discrimination, and encounters with Communists on the picket line eventually led him to join the Party himself. “I thought I’d be in the Party a year, six months, enhance my knowledge, and I’d be real cool. 55 years later I’m still here.”

Urging those gathered not to be discouraged, Tyner noted that the far-right agenda was rejected by the popular vote. He cited the cabinet picks as proof of Trump’s ideological nature. “Their concepts of race are primitive. Trump’s ‘non-ideological’ policy is ‘Let’s get these right-wing foxes to guard the hen house of the national treasures.’ These ideas have long been discredited. If we unite and struggle, Trump will be a one term president or less.”

“I know everybody on the Left doesn’t have a lot of confidence in people, well, we do. They’re saying to the Left, “We’re moving! You wanna come with us? Come on. We wanna come with them; we are with them; and we will stay with them as the Party.”

A video of the event can be viewed here. Photographs taken by Matt Weinstein of Brooklyn for Peace can be viewed here.

 

 

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