On a day sometime between the spring equinox and the summer solstice, long ago, at a time when peasants worked every day all the time, before the five-day, 40-hour workweek, peasants and workers decided there must be one day just for them. For one day they would lay down their tools. They would dance around a pole and, maybe, that pole dancing would bring fertility to their fields. They would eat and drink as much as they wanted. It would be their holiday.
That day, that spontaneous demonstration of joy at the first warm day, that assertion of their rights by workers and peasants in Northern Europe probably more than a thousand years ago, has come down to us as May Day.
Southside Battletrain Ferris wheel
The first Sunday in May was the day that In The Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre celebrated MayDay each year since 1975. COVID-19 almost killed the MayDay celebration. For two years there was no MayDay Parade down Bloomington Avenue, but on Sunday, May 7, the MayDay Parade was led, once again, by the Southside Battletrain—the creation of an alt-punk South Minneapolis guild of metal sculptors and welders. Their gigantic floats included, among other fantastical creations, cartoonish dinosaurs, a skateboard ramp inside a cage and a Ferris wheel with three carriages.
E. Timothy Dean drumming and dancer dancing
Not everyone gave up on MayDay during the pandemic. Timothy Dean convened the drum circle by the lake in 2021 and 2022. It was “the third year of ‘Make-Yer-Own-Fun’ day in Powderhorn Park!” he proclaimed on Facebook. The drum circle’s rhythms brought the sun across the lake in the familiar canoe flotilla, and they had enough fuel left in the tank to accompany ecstatic dancing after the sun ceremony.
Sandy Spieler opening her arms right and dancing below
The sun was attached to the top of the Maypole and the Maypole was raised. Sandy Spieler, the mother goddess of MayDay and Heart of the Beast for more than 40 years, opened her arms, signaling the sun to open its arms and welcome warmth and life to South Minneapolis. And, afterwards, we all danced with joy.
The sun arrives.
Finally, after a long and brutal winter, the sun arrived from a distant shore. And we all sang “You Are My Sunshine” and “Gonna lay down my sword and shield, down by the riverside.”
MIRAC demonstration on May 1
The Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC) sponsored a demonstration and slow march down Lake Street to call attention to the exploitation of immigrant workers. More than a hundred people followed a flatbed truck from the MPS Adult Education Center at Lake and 21st Avenue to the Roof Depot site at 28th Street on Monday, May 1.
“May 1st is celebrated in most of the world as International Workers Day. In many countries it is a national holiday. International Workers Day has its origin in the fight for an eight-hour workday in the United States, where there were massive strikes and sharp confrontations in May of 1886. Eight strike leaders were framed and faced the death penalty. Four of them were executed, while one committed suicide and the other three were freed a decade later. May 1st was taken up as a day remember the ‘Martyrs of Chicago’ and the workers’ struggle around the world.”—MIRAC
The march and rally were supported by more than 30 local progressive organizations.