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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Monday July 15th 2024

MayDay 1974-2019: Everyone”'s an artist, and creator of the future using ceremony and ritual for peace, justice and equality


Dan Newman and Laurie Witzkowski-Denise Mayotte


Dear MayDay People,

Forty-four years ago a bunch of community activists and artists created a parade and a ceremony to welcome spring and the ending of a war. A few hundred people joyously marched from Phillip”'s to Powderhorn and rallied on the shore of the lake.

What was different about MayDay then and now are two deep understandings that motivated the first organizers. 

Our studies and actions had taught us that ceremony and ritual are essential elements in the imagining, creation and the experiencing of a different future of peace, justice and equality. And that everyone is an artist, and a creator of the future.

The future of MayDay has always been uncertain, with no assured funding. As it has grown the cost has also kept growing and every year has been an act of faith that, in the end, the community will provide. Today the cost has overwhelmed the organization and the community of MayDay is challenged to imagine, create and experience a new way of making MayDay happen.  

I am worried. There are so many aspects of the new future to figure out. But I am so hopeful!  All around me I see the community of MayDay imagining and creating the 45th MayDay, something I never thought possible 44 years ago. All around me I see activists and artists who want to continue this incredible feeding of our hearts and souls that is MayDay.  

And I remind myself that we don”'t have to figure it all out at once or get it all right once and for all. I remember that we are continuing on a journey that started long before us and will continue after we are gone.

There is a quote from Dag Hammarskjold written around the face of the Sun that greets everyone from the Avalon ticket booth during the MayDay build.

For all that has been thanks! For all that will be, yes!

Workshop 2019, by Bruce Silcox

The Changes and Conversation Ahead

MayDay is a different experience than other large community events.  It engages our hearts, souls and minds, presents a vision of a better future and calls us to act in community. This is not an accident or a byproduct, it is the intent.

Since the beginning Sandy Spieler has been the Artistic Director of MayDay. Her vision and values have been instrumental to shaping the why, what and how of the MayDay experience. As Artistic Director she has been the decision maker, navigating and negotiating the ideas and opinions of many people to shape each year”'s parade. After an incredible 45 years, she is stepping down from that role.  

Sandy stepping down leaves some huge holes that we, as a community, must somehow fill if Mayday is to continue and have the meaning and purpose it has had. As I see it there are three key questions that must be addressed. They are essential if the ethic, values and the communal experience of MayDay are to continue.

1)What is the essence of the Mayday experience? How is that essence lived in the rituals and practices? These are the core elements that we need to find words for and share with each other.

2)What is the culture of Mayday, of its conception and creation, that should be carried on? The community of MayDay comes from many cultures and creates a common experience. What is the culture that we create together?

3)How will decisions about artistic content be made in the future?  

MayDay Workshop 2019-Denise Mayotte

These are big questions. There will be many different views and values. How we answer them will change over time. But we need to hold them up, examine them, listen to each other, acknowledge our differences and find a way forward together.

Dan Newman was a member of the Almond Tree Household in Phillips and an organizer of the first MayDay. He has served in leadership positions on the HOBT Board of Directors for most of the last 25 years and organizes the Tree of Life crew each year.

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