Joseph Mairs was a 21-year-old trade unionist and a coal miner who died in 1914 after being arrested by government troops during the Occupation of Ladysmith. (Citizen file)

Ladysmith’s annual Mairs memorial honours labour martyr

His grave is inscribed with: “A Martyr to a Noble Cause – The Emancipation of His Fellow Men” and on Sunday, Jan. 19, the life and work of Joseph Mairs will be honoured in Ladysmith.

Mairs was a 21-year-old trade unionist and a coal miner who died in 1914 after being arrested by government troops during the Occupation of Ladysmith. He was among the coal miners fighting for an eight-hour day, health and safety regulations and union recognition.

This will be the 18th annual memorial event.

“We have for all these years honoured his sacrifice by holding a gathering which includes music, food and a speaker,” explained organizer Eden Haythornthwaite. “All this is to examine the history of working people and their endeavours to build a better world. We always aim to inspire all our current efforts to continue with this important work.”

This year the keynote speakers are Dipti Baranwal and Noah Lippe-Klein.

Baranwal is a South Asian immigrant who has spent the last 11 years teaching in Los Angeles.

“Inspired by the historic 2012 Chicago teachers strike, Dipti helped initiate and sustain Students Deserve, a student-teacher-parent organization that is working to end racism, challenge privatization, and shift public consciousness,” said her biography.

Lippe-Klein is also from L.A.

He “has been teaching History at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles for 20 years. He is on the Board of Directors of UTLA, the union that led last year’s 6-day strike,” according to his biography. “He also supports the student movement in LA called Students Deserve, which leads the Making Black Lives Matter in Schools campaign.”

Together, their talk is called “The Historic L.A. Teacher Strike and the Work of Making Black Lives Matter in Schools.”

As in years past, Art Farquharson, Beverley McKeen and Lily Haythornthwaite and their friends will play live music at the event.

The event begins indoors at 1 p.m. at St. Mary’s Catholic Church Hall in Ladysmith then moves outside for a walk to the graveyard.

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