USC student arranges May Day Festival

This weekend marks a holiday celebrated throughout much of the world as International Workers’ Day, and one USC student has played a leading role in organizing an event in honor of the occasion.

International Workers’ Day, also known as May Day, is not officially observed in the United States, unlike much of the world, although many people use it as a day to protest in support of workers’ rights.

Tiffany Scalia, a senior majoring in Spanish and international relations, planned and organized a free music and arts festival, that will take place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Hoover Recreation Center on the corner of Hoover Street and Adams Boulevard. Scalia hopes the event will to unite the community in celebration of May Day.

Keeping with the spirit of May Day, Scalia said the festival will be aimed at increasing awareness of the struggles still faced by laborers. She is hoping for a large turnout from USC students as well as community members.

“Students should be concerned about these things because they are the future,” Scalia said. “If we hope to see the world progress in a positive way, the exploitation on a global scale has to stop.”

Scalia planned the festival as a lead-in to Sunday’s annual May Day March and Rally for Immigrant and Workers’ Rights in Downtown Los  Angeles.

Meetings regarding the festival started in February, after Scalia approached friends about putting her ideas into action. She was inspired after talking to a producer of the Sunset Strip Music Festival, who said the event was originally organized to decrease racial tension and xenophobia in the community.

Scalia initially approached several friends, including USC students and alumni, for help in organizing the festival, and recruited volunteers from her network and from community-focused organizations like USC Creating Just Communities.

After she graduates this year, Scalia plans to continue the festival as an annual event organized by a council of students from local high schools in conjunction with a group of USC students. She hopes this will promote community involvement and unity.

Each year, Scalia said, the festival will focus on a specific labor rights issue.

This year’s festival will ask the Dole Corporation to provide fair compensation for the hundreds of banana workers suffering from the pesticides used in the company’s Nicaraguan plantations. According to the Los Angeles Times, more than $2 billion have been given to Dole banana farmers workers who claimed to be unable to have children because of pesticide poisoning.

There will be flyers and other informational material about the Nicaraguan banana workers at the festival, as well as letters attendees can sign and send to the Dole Corporation demanding action.

“The festival isn’t trying to shove social issues down peoples’ throats, although it will be trying to raise awareness,” said May Day Festival volunteer Quyen Le, a freshman majoring in writing for screen and television.

In addition to promoting labor rights, Scalia hopes the festival will develop into a meaningful connection between USC and the community.

“I had the idea to create a festival in the USC area to increase meaningful interaction between community members and USC because I hate that that divide exists,” Scalia said. “We are all members of this community and that dichotomy shouldn’t be there. I’m trying to alleviate that through this festival.”

The North Area Neighborhood Development Council, an organization dedicated to the well-being of the communities around USC, is co-sponsoring the event. NANDC members see the event as a significant advancement in the development of relations between USC students and the community.

“NANDC is currently working with the local parks in the community to be sure that homegrown festivals like this have community support and are for the betterment of the community,” said Shawn Simons, president of NANDC. “We’re very impressed that this is something they wanted to take on and put together on their own because it’s something that is important for the development of this community.”

The festival will include a full lineup of live music and entertainment from local artists, a kids’ zone with activities and crafts, an art gallery and live painting across the park. There will also be food, book and clothing drives set up in collaboration with Food Not Bombs, Books For People and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Council of Los Angeles.

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