On Friday, May 1, KOWA 106.5 FM, a low-power station broadcasting from Olympia, Washington, will both celebrate and commemorate “Earth Day to May Day” with “a community extravaganza,” “a radical political circus” to be held at the Olympia Ballroom.
Their website announcement reads:
“Radical Political Circus means we’re inviting you all to explore tendencies of the left. We’re hoping you will use humor and exaggerated costume, in a good natured poking fun way, to remember the radical history of struggle. Imagine costumes of IWW Wobblies cartoonish Anarchists complete with confetti black bombs, Communists outfitted with buttons plus red stars berets and the Women Suffragists from the old images. Of course, feel free to come as the tendencies of more recent histories of struggles such as the Black Panthers, Brown Berets, Students for a Democratic Society, SNCC, ACT UP, Earth First, Progressive Democrats of America, Green Party, Socialist Alternative and so on,
Plus let’s be sure to poke fun at the bad guys while we are at it! Let’s make larger than life masks, animistic or human and colorful costumes. The fat cat capitalist with the top hats and monocles, the pigs with bolo hats and clubs, the snitches in stitches, the spy versus spy and the two-faced politicians. Very real images to play with and humorous street theater interactions.”
The gathering promises to provide “an interactive and improvised look at history through song, theater, art and performance” and “the feeling of taking to the streets but held in the warmth of the Olympia Ballroom.”
KOWA’s organizers also intend to serve more serious purposes.
Again, from their website:
“This is also the chance for real organizing. All local organizations are invited to have a table if they wish and actively engage in passionately pulling people’s support. Organize right then and there! Have a meeting on the side and take an action in the liberated moment of the Ballroom as if the street were beckoning….We encourage everyone who has time during the day to go to Seattle for any major marches but come home to Earth Day to May Day celebration!”
Inspiration for this event was first drawn from The Global Climate Convergence’s 2014 campaign calling for 10 days of education and action running from Earth Day to May Day in recognition of the connections between climate change and capitalism, between environmental justice and social justice and workers’ rights.
Last year, in response to that call-to-action, KOWA organized ten days of small gatherings, hosting various speakers and discussions, and held two larger events in small venues.
The design for this year’s gathering came from the station’s desire to reclaim May Day to its original purpose as a day to celebrate laborers and the working class. In a phone conversation, Bruce Wilkinson, KOWA’s Development Director, said, “We want to make this a day to remember the great strikes and huge movements. We want people to remember that the date was chosen to honor the martyrs of the Chicago Haymarket affair, a martyrdom heard throughout the world.”
In preparation for the celebration, KOWA sponsored a May Day poster competition. Three winning posters have been selected.
The station anticipates attendance at this year’s event of some 200 people and hopes to establish a yearly tradition.
KOWA is a non-profit, community-powered station, whose mission is to “give voice to individuals, organizations and movements working for social justice, economic democracy, ecological sustainability and peace.” The station is dedicated to putting “local voices, music and perspectives on the air” and prominently identifies itself as a Pacifica Affiliate.
Olympia, Washington’s state capital, has a population of about 50,000.
The timing of this event is also particularly significant to KOWA. For some ten years, the station has been unable to reach an audience beyond downtown Olympia because it lacked the funds necessary to raise its antenna to a height and strength sufficient for extended range. On May Day, that shortcoming will begin to be remedied with the benefits of a structured fund-raising drive. The station’s repositioned antenna will finally allow it to reach “all of Olympia, most of Tumwater and some of Lacey,” a potential audience of between 70,000 and 100,000.
The May Day celebration is also a benefit for the station’s relaunch.