by Rev. Dan Morley
The May Day celebration when spring is in full bloom and we are heading into summer. It is about life and play with May Day baskets, flowers, dancing, and cake. In northern farming communities it was a time when folks took to the streets to celebrate making it through the cold winter months.
There is also another May Day observation, which began in 1889 as the International Workers’ Day when folks in urban communities took to the streets to protest. It was established as a response to the Chicago Haymarket massacre on May 4, 1886. The day began as a peaceful labor demonstration with workers striking for an eight-hour work day and ending with the deaths of seven police officers and four civilians. It is said to have been the most influential event for worker rights, especially for new immigrants.
At that time, workers worked an average of 10 hours a day for a 6-day, 60-hour work week at a $1.50/day wage.
The two May Days at first seem to be at opposite ends of a continuum. However, in a deeper look, we know that to bring about significant change, there is usually tension, conflict, and even violence. Spring can appear to be gentle and easy, but it comes after the struggle of the winter months. For life to flourish, there is struggle.
Through these recent months, since the death of George Floyd, I have been joining with leaders in our connection to pray, learn, and discern how prejudice and racism persists in our lives, in our church, and our community. I confess that it has been a struggle to look at any unconscious bias that lingers in my mind and spirit. It has been uncomfortable to have conversations in which I hear friends of color talk about their pain caused from racism. The discomfort in many ways comes from being unaware of the pain and hurt many persons experience as a result of racism and that I live within a personal protected “bubble” which grants me many privileges and protections. My simple presence is seldom, if ever, seen as a threat to others. Many of my friends of color let me know they are too often aware they are judged as a threat based only on the color of their skin.
I would rather have conversations and celebrations about butterflies and spring flowers. However, the only way to truly celebrate new life is when all persons have the rights and opportunities to grow and enjoy the bounties of life. I am grieved when protests and marches turn violent and there is death. I also recognize there is sacrifice when speaking out to defend human rights and promote human dignity. My discomforts pale in comparison to the loss so many have endured when confronting racism, injustices, and inequities.
Our Desert Southwest Conference Race Coalition continues to develop resources and venues which help us individually and as a church to raise the dignity, value, and opportunities for all persons. We are witnessing an increase of violence against Asian people in the U.S. The month of May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and a time for all of us to increase our awareness of the history of racism in U.S. against Asian and people of the Pacific Islands and the prejudices which continue to exist today. Our Christian Methodist values and beliefs proclaim that everyone should have the full opportunity to excel and experience safety and grace in all places and situations.
The month of May brings a sense of optimism, hope, and life, which is all the richer and deeper when we struggle and even fight to make it so. For more information about events and resources which help us all to strive toward being one in Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry, check this link — https://dscumc.org/religion-and-race/dsc-race/
With the Resurrected One,