Previous | Next
491492493494495496497498499500501502503504505506507508509510511512513 of 592
their reactions regularly and listen to what they say, you'll be able to
apply what's been done in the past to the present circumstances.
The other thing I think you need is a passionate commitment. I think
I've had it all the time, a commitment to bring the best there is to
working people. I remember in 1981 when Harry Belafonte,
performing in New York for the first time in seventeen years, came to
do a concert for 1199 Bread and Roses at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln
Center. We packed the hall, 2,800 members of our union dressed in
their best, in a place where they had never been in their lives,
enjoying a program with Harry Belafonte, who contributed his services
without pay but who interrupted every program, every song, to go to
the footlights and reminisce on, “I was with you and with Dr. King in
the civil rights campaign. I walked with you on the picket line in 1959.
So I know you and 1199, and we are close, and that's why we're
privileged to be here.”
I remember that a nurse's aide who was there said it was like reaching
over the footlights to each other, and you had this feeling that you
didn't know where the stage ended and the audience began. There
was that close interchange. You'd have to have produced millions of
leaflets, made thousands of speeches to do that kind of thing that
would have proud identification with the union. People always say to
me, “Why do you do it in Lincoln Center? Why do you have to do it?”
Frankly, my feeling is our members have never been there, and that, I
think, we persuaded him to come again the following year. I said,
“Harry, you've got to get it done until you get it right.” And he did.
And that event is an example, a good example, of what we're doing
and why we're doing it.
That would be a perfect place to end, but I just want to go back
with one question. Can you remember a time when -- this is about
Bread and Roses' tangible benefits for union organizing and so on --
when a Bread and Roses program was used specifically to help in
union organizing, maybe theater in the hospitals?
In the case of our musical Take Care, which is a musical
comedy, musical revue based upon oral histories with hospital
workers, and where the material was then turned over to professional
writers to write songs, sketches, lyrics, and we had interviews with
workers, two groups of twenty-five workers, you transcribed them,
took the notes.
© 2006 Columbia University
Libraries | Oral History
Research Office | Rights and
Permissions | Help