Support Future Lucy Gonzales Parsons Park
- Labor and Community Activists Rally and Clean Up to Support Future Lucy Gonzales Parsons Park
May Day, Saturday, May 1st, 2:30 pm
4712 W. Belmont Ave. (1 block east of Cicero)
The Chicago Park District has proposed the creation of a new park named after famous labor and civil rights leader Lucy Ella Gonzales Parsons. The renaming proposal is part of a larger effort by the City of Chicago to recognize more women. Presently, just 27 of the 555 Chicago parks are named after women. In response to the proposal, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) is pressuring Chicago Park District Board Members to reject the proposal to name the future park after Parsons. However, labor and community activists are overwhelmingly in support of naming the park after Parsons. "Lucy Parsons is one of Chicago's most famous people," says Cynthia Rodriguez, Vice-President of Service Employees International Union Local 73, "People around the world know about her contributions to the rights of workers and the poor." Activists will be showing their support to name the park after Parsons by rallying at the future park site this Saturday at 3:00 pm. In addition, as part of Chicago's May 1st "Clean and Green Day" activists also will be cleaning up the vacant lot (future park site) starting at 2:30 pm, Saturday. The rally and clean up is organized by Fight Back! , a newspaper written by labor and community activists.
Lucy Ella Gonzalez Parsons was an ex-slave of Mexican, Native-American and African ancestry. She fought for the rights of workers, the poor, and women for almost 70 years, and she fought during a time when big industrial business was growing increasingly oppressive to workers. By 1886, people across the US were calling for an eight hour work day and May 1st was chosen as the date to kick off the official struggle to achieve it. 50,000 marched in Chicago on May 1. Two days later, strikers were fired upon by police, wounding many workers and killing several. On May 4th, a peaceful meeting of workers was disrupted by police at Haymarket Square. An unknown person threw a bomb, killing one police officer. Albert Parsons, Lucy Parsons' husband and a well-known Chicago labor leader, was one of eight men accused of the bombing. Big business in Chicago saw the incident as a chance to wipe out the leadership of the city's radical labor movement and send a message to all seeking just wages, decent working conditions, and reduced hours for working men and women. Albert Parsons was executed, along with three others, on November 11th, 1887. None of the eight were ever tied to the bomb, and all were pardoned by Governor Altgeld some 5 years later. After Albert's execution, Lucy vowed to continue her fight against injustice and did so for the next 55 years.
But according to FOP president Mark Donahue, Lucy Parson's 70-year struggle for the rights of the disenfranchised never existed and he dismissively describes Lucy Parsons as "a woman whose historic roots come from the defense of her husband". "In opposing the naming of the new park after Lucy Parsons, the FOP president continues the Chicago Police Department's long history of repression against Lucy Parsons," According to Caryl Sortwell, an activist with Comite Exigimos Justicia (We Demand Justice Committee), a Humbolt Park community group working against wrongful convictions. "When Lucy brought her two children to see their father one last time before his wrongful execution, she and her kids were arrested, taken to jail, forced to strip, and left naked with her children in a cold cell until the hanging of her husband was over. And throughout her lifetime, Lucy Parsons was constantly harassed by the Chicago police." The late 1800's Chicago establishment, like the FOP president today, tried to minimize her life as merely being a bereaved widow because she was a woman of action and of strong words. Activists rallying and cleaning up the space that will one day be transformed into a park baring Lucy Parsons name vow that her true legacy of a lifetime spent fighting for justice will never be forgotten.
Guest Speakers include:
Margaret Burroughs, founder of DuSable Museum
Tony Caldera, Teamsters Local 743 New Leadership Slate
Luis Cardona, exiled Colombian Coca Cola worker
Bill Davis, President Local 701, Int'l Assoc. of Machinists
Shirley McIntosh, rank & file leader at UIC, Local 73 SEIU (Service Employees International Union)
Sponsored by: Fight Back! Newspaper