Vol. 6, No. 5
May 2019

WWHP Play Performed by Women Empowered  
for Civic Engagement (WECE)
 
by Jackie Kirley
 
Photo by Ken Morris

"Addie Wyatt: Life Can Be Better" by Alma Washington was performed by members of WECE on April 13, 2019 at Corliss Early College STEM High School. Principal Ali Muhammad, himself a graduate of Corliss, welcomed everyone to the school. Joyce Chapman, who organized WECE, welcomed people to the event, and Jackie Kirley, president of WWHP, spoke about the mission and work of WWHP.
 
Sixteen years ago , WWHP board member Katie Jordan had recommended that this organization recognize Addie Wyatt with a play. Katie was Rev. Wyatt's good friend and had been mentored by her. Board member, Joan Morris, conducted a lengthy interview with Rev. Wyatt that was videotaped by Ken Morris, and Alma Washington, also a member of the board, undertook writing the play based on Joan's interview. It was first performed in 2003 with Rev. Wyatt in attendance. WWHP performed it a few more times . . . always with Alma playing her.
 
The event on April 13th was the first time that the play was performed by a community group. As formatted, the 7 parts were read by: a pastor, Dr. Yvonne Wilson; a community activist, Joyce Chapman; a police sergeant, Regina Hightower; 3 women employed or involved with Chicago Public Schools, Thyatiria Towns, Mirlene Dossous, and Anglense Jones; and Circuit Court Judge Sondra Denmark who is Addie Wyatt's great-niece!
 
Following the reading, WWHP Vice President for Programming, Helen Ramirez-Odell, moderated a panel composed of Joan Morris, Alma Washington, and Katie Jordan. Each spoke about her part in creating this play and her experiences with Rev. Wyatt. Rosie Simpson, who had worked as an organizer in the meat packing companies with Addie Wyatt, joined the panel and participated in answering audience questions.
 
Refreshments, informal talk, and the exchange of contact information ended a successful event. Those new to the story of Addie Wyatt left grateful to have learned about her.
 
Anyone interested in using the play for a community group, please contact Jackie Kirley ( jackie@wwhpchicago.org) for more information.
 
 
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A Brief Bio of Rev. Addie Wyatt
(for those unfamiliar with this dynamic African American woman)
 
Rev. Addie Wyatt's family moved to Chicago from Mississippi when she was 6. After high school, she got work at meat packing companies. It was there that she recognized the opportunity for workers to overcome discrimination and low pay by joining together in a union. She became a full-time staff member of the United Packinghouse Workers of America and represented workers across a five-state region. In union negotiations she reached an agreement for equal pay for equal work before the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Ultimately, she rose to the position of International Vice President of the United Food and Commercial Workers.
 
Although Rev. Wyatt's leadership first manifested in the labor movement, she went on to lead in the women's movement, in civil rights, and finally in the ministry.
  • Rev. Addie Wyatt was appointed to Pres. Kennedy's Commission on the Status of Women. Eleanor Roosevelt, who headed the committee, appointed her to the Labor Legislation Committee, which laid the groundwork for the Equal Pay Act of 1963.
  • Rev. Wyatt organized for civil rights and raised funds for Dr. Martin Luther King's work in Chicago. She, and later her husband, joined Dr. King in marches in the South.
  • In 1972 she co-founded the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.
  • In 1974 she co-founded the Coalition of Labor Union Women.
  • In 1975 she was on the cover of Time Magazine as one of 12 women of the year.
  • In 1984 she retired from her other work to become a full-time pastor of the Vernon Park Church of God which she and her husband founded and co-pastored.
 
Addie Wyatt died in 2012 at the age of 88.
 
Joan McGann Morris's entire interview with Rev. Addie Wyatt can be read at  http://wwhpchicago.org/Topics/interviews/
    
 
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MAY DAY 2019 
Photo by Illinois Labor History Society

On my way to the May Day event at Haymarket Square, I began to think what it must have
been like at that first celebration. Then there was a great march, with hundreds of people.
Today the number of people is smaller and we're all gathered around the bronze monument, listening to speeches and music.
 
The 2019 Plaque Dedications were made by Teresa Hannick of SIPTU (Services Industrial
Professional and Technical Union) Ireland's largest trade union, the Mexican Federation of Labor and the Filipino Labor Federation. 
 
Don Villa spoke about the many labor fights going on in the city, especially Charter  schools
and Colleges. Speakers from American Airlines Gate Agents, Telemundo and Univision
are fighting for new contracts, and it's the same issue for Machinists at the Tribune, AT&T and
the Building Trades. One bright spot in the midst of all this was the appearance of a representative from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians who thanked us for our support during their strike, which was recently settled.  
 
 When the event ended, the people seemed inspired, and were talking and smiling as they moved 
 toward the street.
 
 As I left the square I reminded myself that it's not the size of the crowd, but the fact that we
 were there to honor the workers, the unions and to remember the Haymarket Martyrs who
 gave their lives for labor, and we must never forget.
 
SOLIDARITY!
                              
~Alma Washington
 
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Happy Birthday Mother Jones
 
by Brigid Duffy 
 
A lively birthday party was held in the Irish American Heritage Center with musicians leading the audience in a round of songs and, of course, lots of cake was served!  Rosemary Feurer, who created the film on Mother Jones and founded the Mother Jones Heritage Project, gave an introduction sharing the hope of building a Mother Jones statue in Chicago; Elliott Gorn discussed his book on Mother Jones, "The Most Dangerous Woman in America;" WWHP board member Brigid Duffy performed as Mother Jones, quoting the great labor leader, and Teresa Hanick of the Services, Industrial, Professional, and Technical Union from Dublin shared insights on labor union history in Ireland and the connections to organizing in America.   
 
Brian O'Brien, Irish Consul General, expressed the support of the Irish Government in creating the permanent Mother Jones exhibit which the Irish Government funded.  This event was supported by Working Women's History Project, the Irish American Heritage Center and the Mother Jones Heritage Project. WWHP board member Margaret Fulkerson, along with many others, worked to get this exhibit in place. Before participating in the opening of the exhibit, Kathy Cowan sang union songs and the audience sang along enthusiastically!  The exhibit's stunning mural was created by artist Lindsay Hand from Colorado.  The exhibit also has a video of the Mother Jones film and picket signs which audience members enjoyed using for photo ops.
 
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On Sunday, June 23rd at 3:30 p.m., Katherine Connelly will be speaking at City Lit Books,  2523 N Kedzie Blvd, Chicago, about a book, "A Suffragette in America: Reflections on Prisoners, Pickets, and Political Change," a collection of writings by English suffragist Sylvia Pankhurst. Katherine Connelly wrote the introduction to the book, which contains writings by Pankhurst about 
meeting striking laundry workers, visiting female prisoners in Chicago and other people she met while touring North America in 1911 and 1912. 


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