From THE ORIGINS AND TRADITIONS OF MAYDAY by Eugene W. Plawiuk

The international working class holiday, Mayday, originated in pagan Europe. It was a festive holy day celebrating the first spring planting. The ancient Celts and Saxons celebrated May 1st as Beltane or the day of fire. Bel was the Celtic god of the sun.

The May eve celebrations were eventually outlawed by the Catholic Church, but were still celebrated by peasants until the late 1700's. While good church going folk would shy away from joining in the celebrations, those less afraid of papal authority would don animal masks and various costumes, not unlike our modern Halloween. The revelers, lead by the Goddess of the Hunt; Diana (sometimes played by a pagan-priest in women's clothing) and the Horned God; Herne, would travel up the hill shouting, chanting and singing, while blowing hunting horns. This night became known in Europe as Walpurgisnacht, or night of the witches.

As European peasants moved away from hunting gathering societies their gods and goddesses changed to reflect a more agrarian society. Thus Diana and Herne came to be seen by medieval villagers as fertility deities of the crops and fields. Diana became the Queen of the May and Herne became Robin Goodfellow (a predecessor of Robin Hood) or the Green Man.
           
The church and state did not take kindly to these celebrations, especially during times of popular rebellion. Mayday and the Maypole were outlawed in the 1600's. Yet the tradition still carried on in many rural areas of England. The trade societies still celebrated Mayday until the 18th Century.

INTERNATIONAL WORKERS MAYDAY:

Our modern celebration of Mayday as a working class holiday evolved from the struggle for the eight hour day in 1886. May 1, 1886 saw national strikes in the United States and Canada for an eight hour day called by the Knights of Labour. In Chicago police attacked striking workers, killing six.
The next day at a demonstration in Haymarket Square to protest the police brutality, a bomb exploded in the middle of a crowd of police, killing eight of them. The police arrested eight anarchist trade unionists claiming they threw the bombs. To this day the subject is still one of controversy. The question remains whether the bomb was thrown by the workers at the police or whether one of the police's own agent provocateurs dropped it in their haste to retreat from charging workers.

In what was to become one of the most infamous show trials in America in the 19th century, but certainly not to be the last of such trials against radical workers, the State of Illinois tried the anarchist workingmen for fighting for their rights as much as being the actual bomb throwers…
Albert Parsons, August Spies, George Engle and Adolph Fischer were found guilty and executed by the State of Illinois.

In Paris in 1889 the International Working Men's Association (the First International) declared May 1st an international working class holiday in commemoration of the Haymarket Martyrs. The red flag became the symbol of the blood of working class martyrs in their battle for workers rights.

Mayday, which had been banned for being a holiday of the common people, had been reclaimed once again for the common people.

 

SQUATTERS MAYDAY – TOMPKINS SQUARE PARK
By Blackkat

The annual Squatters Mayday party in Tompkins Square Park began in the mid 1980s.  The organizers and bands were rooted in the cross currents of the thriving punk music scene and the L.E.S. squatter movement.  Performers from that time included Reagan Youth, Millions of Dead Cops, Missing Foundation, and The False Prophets, as well as Allen Ginsberg and proto-antifolk legends The Fugs.
In 1988, following police riots that rampaged the neighborhood, the city closed the park for nearly a year to built fences and police car lanes, as well as to take away the bandshell and power supply that was integral to the music events.  But the Mayday event continued…
For the last ten years, Blackkat has organized the event, with the original organizers securing the permit.  Blackkat has featured DJs such as Frankie Bones, Lenny Dee, Kool DJ Red Alert, Jazzy Jay, Soulslinger, GrandWizzard Theodore, Johnny “Juice” Rosado, and performers Beatboxer Entertainment and the Hungry March Band. 

EDITORS NOTE:

When we started Blackkat 1996, Kurt, Garth and I chose the name for our crew as a way to align our goals and ideals with the history of the anarchist/labor movement in the US.  Our original logo derived from a symbol used by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). The “Wobblies” were the first labor union open to all trades, races, and sexes, and their political philosophy was outspoken anarcho-syndicalism and direct action.

The “blackkat” logo was adapted from a symbol created by IWW activist Ralph Chaplin in 1918.  It was meant as a  “wildcat”, as in a wildcat strike-strikes that were spontaneous or unauthorized by union officials.  It was used as a warning to business owners and police…in Chaplin’s words (while in court)…
“…the idea being to frighten the employer by the mention of the name sabotage, or by putting a black cat somewhere around.”

2008 FEATURE PERFORMERS :

 

GRANDMASTER CAZ

Caz began DJing in 1974, and is considered one of the first Hip Hop Djs to rap while mixing.  He joined the Cold Crush Brothers in 1979 and built a reputation in New York as an MC long before Hip Hop hit the mainstream.
Caz’s “South Bronx Subway Rap” is featured in the seminal Hip Hop film  “Wild Style”, and remains a true classic of the era; the track has been remixed and re-released dozens of times.
 Big Bank Hank stole Grandmaster Caz’s rap and used it in the first top 40 Hip Hop single, “Rapper’s Delight”.  Caz was never credited or paid for the rhymes he wrote.
 In 1998, Caz was #11 in Blaze Magazine’s top 50 MCs of All Time list. He has collaborated with Biz Markie, Doug E Fresh, KRS-1, and many others.  Caz was inducted into the Technics DJ Hall of Fame in 1999.  He continues to produce music, with tracks on labels as diverse as Definitive Jux, Mute, and Flospot in the recent years.

 

LENNY DEE

We think most of you know Lenny’s story…creator of the world’s first Hardcore Techno label Industrial Strength, internationally acclaimed DJ, and friend of Blackkat since he first played with us in 1998 at some tiny Dumbo loft with Manu Le Malin…his tag team with Frankie Bones two years ago at Mayday was a rare special set.


…here’s a couple things you maybe didn’t know---he started DJing in 1984, and his name first appeared on a record in 1985---he has made piles of hip hop breaks, house, electro, disco  techno, ambient, and all sorts of records, besides his signature styles---when you include solo and group project records, co-productions, remixes, official mix cds, and compilation tracks, Lenny has over 900 releases to his credit!

 

HUNGRY MARCH BAND

The 30-odd members of the HMB family are old friends of ours, and we’re sure they are known to most of you by now!---here’s what NYCs premier marching mayhemmakers have to say in their own words:
“The Hungry March Band has earned a reputation for mythical revelry having performed at a huge variety of fine venues and celebrated events. Such planned and spontaneous performances have included guerilla art events, mermaid parades, rural raves, subway parties, eccentric weddings, community affairs, protests, high art events, the Staten Island Ferry, Brighton Beach Boardwalks, MOMA, Lincoln Center, steps of the NYC Post Office, playing themselves in the final scene of John Cameron Mitchell's recent film "Shortbus” and many other forays into the territories of free spirit.”