Honoring Labor History, Celebrating Cultural Diversity, and Looking Forward to the Future
The Bread & Roses Heritage Festival is more than an annual event; it’s a living testament to the spirit of Lawrence, Massachusetts. Celebrated each Labor Day, this festival brings the community together to honor its rich labor history, revel in its cultural diversity, and explore future possibilities. This year, the 39th Annual Bread & Roses Heritage Festival will occur on September 4, 2023, at Campagnone (North) Common from 11:30AM-6PM.
What the Bread & Roses Festival Celebrates: More Than a Strike
The festival commemorates the iconic Bread & Roses Strike of 1912, a pivotal event in labor history where immigrant textile workers demanded not just fair wages (“bread”) but also dignity and respect (“roses”) in the workplace. The call for “bread and roses” resonated far beyond Lawrence, echoing the struggles and hopes of workers nationwide. However, this festival isn’t solely about revisiting the past; it is about celebrating the enduring spirit of the community, its diversity, and its continued efforts to build a better future. Learn more here.
Deep Dive into the Bread & Roses Strike
The 1912 strike wasn’t just about economic struggle but also a plea for human dignity. The term “Bread & Roses” succinctly captures this dual demand. “Bread” represents basic needs like fair wages, while “roses” symbolize the need for time to enjoy life, for respect, and for opportunities beyond mere subsistence. It’s a phrase that embodies the notion that life should be about more than just surviving—it should also be about thriving.
This sentiment still resonates today, particularly as modern movements for social justice continue to fight for both economic and social equity. The festival serves as both a remembrance and a renewal of these vital aspirations.
Activities and Highlights of the Day
Honoring the Past: Commemorations and Discussions
The day begins with a commemoration ceremony at the 1912 Textile Workers’ Strikers’ Monument across from City Hall. Following this, Lawrence History Live! It provides a platform where historians, workers, and union representatives share insights into the city’s past labor movements and discuss current issues affecting today’s workers.
Celebrating the Present: Music, Food, and Culture
The festival also serves as a vibrant showcase for the city’s diverse cultures, talents, and initiatives. Performers for this year’s event range from nationally acclaimed musicians like Oompa and Fabiola Méndez to local skills like Grace Givertz. Entertainment also includes the Bread & Puppet Theater, known for its captivating performances featuring giant paper mache puppets. See below for more information on all the acts.
Vendors and local businesses participate in the festival, offering everything from artisanal goods to international cuisines. Special recognition is given through the Hall of Fame Award, which honors Mary and Antonio Guerrero this year for their significant contributions to the community through El Taller and Cafe Azteca.
An array of family activities offers something for everyone, from an international food court to trolley and walking tours. The KidzZone includes pony rides, magic shows, face painting, and bubble art to entertain the little ones.
Looking Forward to the Future: Engagement and Activism
While rooted in the past, the Bread & Roses Heritage Festival keeps its eyes on the future. Educational presentations, historical tours, and family-friendly activities entertain, educate, and inspire attendees to engage with their community.
In the words of a previous attendee, “The festival is a testament to the resilience and diversity of our city. It’s a day of reflection, celebration, and inspiration.” So, please mark your calendars for this Labor Day and join us in celebrating the rich tapestry of Lawrence’s history, culture, and community spirit at the 39th Annual Bread & Roses Heritage Festival. We look forward to seeing you there!
BIAJAVIER – 11:45AM – 12:15PM
Biajavier is an emerging singer-songwriter from Lawrence, MA, who fuses R&B with Latin music to celebrate her Dominican roots and pay homage to her love of R&B. Using her life experience and perspective, she writes vulnerable and honest lyrics that appeal to many listeners. She creates music using her bilingualism in English and Spanish to introduce listeners to a Caribbean ambiance while connecting with people from all backgrounds. Her works have been featured on various blogs and media outlets such as BuzzMusic LA, Spark FM, Major Stage, and Sofar Sounds, with performances in Boston MA, Brooklyn NY, and Austin Texas. Listeners can find her work on all streaming platforms.
SONN DE MI TIERRA – 1:15PM – 1:45PM
Sonn De Mi Tierra is a musical group that was born in 2014 in the city of Boston, MA, under the leadership of the Colombian musician Juan Andres Restrepo ‘Juanchito’. The style of the group is based on the interpretations of different Latin musical rhythms, vallenato, salsa, merengue, cumbia among others. This group was a finalist for 2023 Best Latin Act at the Boston Music Awards.
ZETA – 2:45PM- 3:15PM
Zeta is a collective art piece. Defined by its strong emphasis on dense polyrhythmic percussion that sway from profoundly authentic Afro-Caribbean to the most crude and raw punk with atmospheric elements that are drawn from 70’s era Psychedelia and post-rock to form a visceral, intense and unique listening experience. Zeta are known for touring relentlessly – and due to their nomadic nature they foster and adopt artistic communities from all over the globe.
OOMPA – 4:15PM – 5:00PM
OOMPA is a nationally-acclaimed, Boston-born hip hop artist who forever represents the queer, black, orphaned, hood kids n’ them. She was named one of Boston Magazine’s 150 Most Influential Bostonians /and her engaging, interactive performing style has earned her 3 Boston Music Awards and an unprecedented 14 nominations. WBUR’s The Artery describes the lyric-focused rapper as having a “natural tenderness with language” and calls her verses “funny…incisive and memorable.” Oompa showed this poetic prowess as the 2017 Women of the World Poetry Slam winner and a finalist in the 2016 National Poetry Slam.
Following the release of her second album, Cleo, in August of 2019, Oompa sold out The Sinclair and a number of other Boston venues. Since then, she has shared the stage with renowned artists around the country like Charli XCX, 24KGoldn, Tinashe, 2Chainz, and Rico Nasty. She has continued to be a staple live performer in Boston this past year with a headline performance at the Paradise Rock Club and multiple festival appearances in 2022, including a set on Boston Calling’s Red Stage.
Her latest album, UNBOTHERED was released independently in October 2021 to popular and critical acclaim. This album is joy incarnate. What it feels like, what it sounds like, what it looks like, who it’s for, and, most importantly, how to find and make joy a reality in this life even when presented with so much constant sorrow. This album is Oompa expanding as a human and as an artist. Free of boxes, free of expectations, and free of rules except for those she has laid out for herself.
In the Fall of 2022, Oompa was named as one of 12 artists accepted into the prestigious Pepsi Music Lab which is a multi-year partnership brokered by United Masters that will see her featured in advertisements, radio spots, concerts, and branded content nationwide. New music, visuals, and more are on the way this summer 2023 that will elevate Oompa to even greater heights.
INDI-DOS –12:30PM – 1:00PM
Afro Latino Duo whose art specializes in live poetry and jazz.
The poet from Dorchester, Rafael Arturo Shabazz, and Saxophonist from Lawrence, Oriel “Lone Sol” Mendez, combines poetry and jazz saxophone into a mixture fit for any genre and environment as shown in their recent album, “Poe Jazz”.
GRACE GIVERTZ – 2:00PM – 2:30PM
With a large voice packed into a tiny body, Grace Givertz is a multi-instrumentalist who uses her honest lyrics to bring a refreshing sound to folk. Born and raised in Jupiter, Florida, Grace has been writing songs and performing since she was eleven years old. Performing at well loved Boston venues, including Great Scott, Club Passim, ONCE Ballroom, The Red Room and The Burren, Grace Givertz has opened for favorites like Lucy Dacus, Neyla Pekarek (The Lumineers), John Paul White (The Civil Wars), and Erin Rae.
Out November 2019, Year of the Horse is Grace Givertz’s debut studio album. Two years after her first EP The Light, Grace has turned her wit to grit to create her most vulnerable release yet. in this independent release, Grace has turned tragedy into a triumphant record. She writes openly about living with chronic illness and how it has affected every aspect of her life.
Grace Givertz showcases her multi-instrumentalism on the debut album, playing guitar, banjo, mandolin, harmonica, and vocals. Year of the Horse showcases Grace’s ability to turn lemons in to lemonade. “…The only real option is to smile at how much she packs into a tiny punch of a song,” Nina Corcoran writes in digboston.
FABIOLA MÉNDEZ – 3:15PM – 3:45PM
Fabiola Méndez, B.M is a Puerto Rican cuatro player, singer, composer, and educator. Her artistic vision and original music focus on the exploration of her culture, her ancestry, and her identities.
Bread And Puppet Theater – 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM
The Bread and Puppet Theater was founded in 1963 by Peter Schumann on New York City’s Lower East Side. Besides rod-puppet and hand puppet shows for children, the concerns of the first productions were rents, rats, police, and other problems of the neighborhood. More complex theater pieces followed, in which sculpture, music, dance and language were equal partners. The puppets grew bigger and bigger. Annual presentations for Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and Memorial Day often included children and adults from the community as participants. Many performances were done in the street. During the Vietnam War, Bread and puppet staged block-long processions and pageants involving hundreds of people.
In 1974 Bread and Puppet moved to a farm in Glover in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. The 140-year old hay barn was transformed into a museum for veteran puppets. Our Domestic Resurrection Circus, a two day outdoor festival of puppetry shows, was presented annually through 1998.
The company makes its income from touring new and old productions both on the American continent and abroad, and from sales of Bread and Puppet Press’ posters and publications. The traveling puppet shows range from tightly composed theater pieces presented by members of the company, to extensive outdoor pageants which require the participation of many volunteers.
Bread and Puppet is one of the country’s oldest, nonprofit, political theatre companies.