Bread Yes. But Roses Too.

When you have a blog with one post that maybe 25 facebook friends read two months ago, you don’t expect your autobiographical response to a series of essays that have been bothering you to get 3000 page views, 650 facebook posts, 50 retweets, and I don’t even know whats on Google+ in about 24 hours.

But that’s what happened.

Thanks for reading, reposting, agreeing, disagreeing. I have responded in the comments and on facebook as much as I could, but there isn’t enough time. I will write on this topic again taking into account all of the positive and negative feedback I’ve received.

A still from Trash Dance taken during the crane solo.

For now, I want to share some of the dance project that inspired me to finally write down why “Just Don’t Go” bothered me so much – and I think all those reposts later – why it bothers so many others, too. Last weekend I was fortunate to see the rough cut of Trash Dance, a documentary that records the work of Allison Orr, who is on the dance faculty at Austin Community College in Texas, and the men and women of the Austin Sanitation Department. In Trash Project, Orr first worked alongside the men and women of the sanitation department. She did jobs that sanitation workers did, and then collaborated with them to translate their everyday movements into dance. What’s interesting to me is how the performers describe their initial resistance – I’m not getting paid for that, my after work time is my own, etc – turning into an interest for sound, performance, and figurative expression. By changing their frame of reference, the sanitation workers and their audience began to understand sanitation work differently, as something that can’t simply be summed by tasks, pay, and benefits. Pay and benefits are damn important – some of my readers don’t think I know that – but why did the striking women millworkers at Lawrence hold signs that read, “Bread Yes, But Roses Too.”?

I know you can’t see the entire Trash Project performance online, but look for the documentary film Trash Dance at festivals next year.  Here are some clips to give you a sense of it. For some reason, I can’t put my finger on it now, I couldn’t read “Just Don’t Go” anymore without exploring what was on my mind.

And here’s more footage of the performance:

And why was “our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes,  hearts starve as well as bodies, give us bread but give us roses”  a live political statement millworking  women in 1911 Chicago and 1912 Lawrence, MA could organize around, but not us?

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One Response to Bread Yes. But Roses Too.

  1. I loved your “famous” post, and while I get angry at the “corporatization” of the academy, I share your belief that this type of work has real value and is worth fighting for. I went to school and got my MFA (a terminal degree) in visual art at age 40, after lots of years working in the “real” world. I am sometimes amused at the naivete of my fellow academics who seem to be shocked by this stuff. I’ve worked in the private sector, government and non-profit jobs–in all of these areas I have been overworked, underpaid and slighted on benefits. It’s a problem of capitalism (to simplify it to the extreme). I am lucky to be in a tenured position now–but my passion, hard work, willingness to move to Alabama etc. played a part in using that luck. In ANY case I did not mean to start talking about that…I just wanted to see if you were aware of the artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles. you can get a sense of her work here:

    Also (as if you don’t have loads of reading to do) you might enjoy “The Re-enchantment of Art” and “Conversations at the End of Time” by Suzi Gablick. Thanks for sharing “Trash Dance”.

    Take care
    Kathryn Jill Johnson

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