Well over 30 years ago (I'm unsure of the exact number), Congressman Louis Stokes, who was representing a swath of the East Side of Cleveland then known as the 21st district, started the tradition of the annual Labor Day Parade and Picnic. It was the largest annual public event in Northeast Ohio's black community.
The tradition was carried on by his successor, the late Stephanie Tubbs Jones, who sadly died suddenly of an aneurysm in August 2008 at age 58. (Stokes returned to host the event that year as we were without a congressperson.) Now the tradition is being carried on by her successor, our estimable congresswoman Marcia Fudge, who today called what is now the 11th congressional district "the greatest congressional district in the country." Considering the overwhelming number of progressive Democrats and the inability of Republicans to dismantle the district because there are just too many black people and they will not vote Republican, she could be right.
Today's parade was an enormous one, featuring delegations from virtually every union you've heard of (and maybe a few you haven't), local businesses, social service groups, schools, churches, drill teams, high school bands, black fraternities and sororities (Fudge herself was once president of Delta Sigma Theta) and of course officeholders and candidates. They walked a lengthy route lined with enthusiastic people in Obama gear — way more than four years ago.
Below I've posted some photos just for the fun of it and because I took 600 of the darn things.
Here's our congresswoman with Lou Stokes, still alive and kicking at the age of 87.
Marcia waves as the parade goes by the review stand, here with (l to r) Cleveland councilman Zach Reed, North Shore AFL-CIO executive secretary Harriet Applegate (seen partially behind her), Cleveland councilwoman Mamie Mitchell, and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.
Congresswoman Betty Sutton, who was pitted by Republican mapmakers against another incumbent, Teabaggin' Jim Renacci. She's a forceful, fighting progressive and we have high hopes she can win.
State Senator Mike Skindell (r.), a great friend of labor and candidate for Ohio Supreme Court. The Ohio Republican Party and their friends at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are working hard to stop him.
Bill O'Neill (center), also running for state Supreme Court. Bill is a former union organizer, former appeals court judge and currently a pediatric emergency room nurse (late-life career change!). He's opposed to special interests buying judges (his slogan is "money & judges don't mix") so the U.S. Chamber of Commerce isn't a fan of him either.
One of a boatload of unions marching today.
Among the many people lining the parade route.
At the park for the picnic, prepping the grub!
Woman enjoys food in the seniors tent.
Couple takes in the music from one of the blues and R&B acts that performed.
Think this man is excited to vote?
Rob Rivera mans the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats table, one of many booths where you could register to vote or pick up a mail-in ballot application.
Republican alert! Cuyahoga Common Pleas Judge Joan Synenberg (r. and R) greets Cleveland Municipal Judge Pauline Tarver (l. and D). Considering that Joan supports things like the Rape Crisis Center, the AIDS Taskforce, and the APL and is a strong believer in restorative justice, I'm not too worried about her.
U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown showed up later (after the congresswoman had already taken off for Charlotte) and fired up the crowd by talking about what he has done to protect U.S. Jobs (a lot). After ticking off all the jobs involved in the Ohio-based creation of the Chevy Cruze, he mingled with the crowd, had his photo taken by kids, and listened to the concerns of citizens. Seriously, can you imagine a Republican doing this, especially with a crowd that was probably two-thirds black? I can't.
Sherrod concluded his short speech by reminding the crowd what they had to do to guarantee that batshit crazy Republicans aren't running everything this time next year. The young man to the left, Adrian, tirelessly held that sign aloft. You could not turn around without running into someone with a clipboard asking if you were registered. The congresswoman threatened people if they tried to leave the park without being registered. She also reminded people to VERIFY their registration, another big Democratic push in light of purge threats from desperate Republicans.It's very simple: if we vote, we win. Let's do it.