May Day 2013 is the first anniversary of the Occupy Guitarmy, a participatory musical group that plays in the streets for progressive social change.
The Occupy Guitarmy formed out of the music working group of Occupy Wall Street, and has lead and participated in dozens of social justice actions since its inception. They have played with Tom Morello, Jello Biafra, Global Block, and Michelle Shocked and welcome anyone, from absolute beginners to musical legends, to join.
The Guitarmy celebrates the origin of the word “amateur” as “lover of,” and asserts that playing together and sharing song is a way to model a more democratic, participatory society. They follow the radical content and peer-based learning tradition of Pete Seeger, the mass spectacle of the Boredoms, and the righteous guitar drones of Glenn Branca.
This Wednesday, May Day, they will gather in Bryant Park to play music in support of the Immigrant Worker Justice tour, which takes people to hotspots in the ongoing struggle for equality and respect in the workplace. Later they will play music for the May Pole dance, which includes streamers of solutions to the shared grievances of the 99%.
After the Unified Rally at Union Square, the Guitarmy will march down Broadway with the Fair Pay Ensemble: a group set to inspire and educate musicians and audiences about the deplorable working conditions in New York City live music venues. We end our evening by singing the opening song with all Occupy at the People's Assembly in Foley Square.
What makes Occupy Guitarmy unique is a common songbook, peer learning techniques, open culture toolboxes, and punk spirit. This makes it possible for newcomers to join in at any time and play along within minutes. The Occupy Guitarmy routinely hosts NYC song shares and teach-ins, and provides a “Guitarmy starter kit” for any group that wants to start their own roving musical ensemble.
In the past year, the Occupy Guitarmy has played at and lead actions related to Occupy-themes and grievances including the Spectra-Fracked Gas Pipeline Blast Zone March, Solidarity for the family of Trayvon Martin, Occupy Barclays Center and the Jay-Z Justice teach-in.
Last summer they organized and led a seven day, 99 Mile March from Philadelphia to New York City for the 100th Birthday of Woody Guthrie. There were more than 100 walking musicians for this march, which occupied parks, a friendly farm, bank sidewalks, Rutgers college house backyard, and the Victorian home of an Occupy Staten Island allies.
Their songbook includes OWS originals as well as contemporary, classic, and timeless songs from Matisyahu to Florence Reece, Woody Guthrie, and black American spirituals. Check out their new songs for May Day this year and see you in the streets!
New Songs for May Day
- "Stop and Frisk” Stephen Carl Baldwin: “It ain’t because the government’s being malicious / It’s only because everybody here looks suspicious!”
- “May Day” by Polar Levine “Workers in trouble. It's time to shout—May Day”
- “Pass the Hat” from the new Fair Pay Music project: “ Say I’d like to know where–you got the notion/You could draw a crowd–without promotion .”