LEXINGTON, Ky. — “Amy Belvin was passionate about the fight for a better world,” explained Socialist Workers Party member Amy Husk, one of a number of speakers at the Aug. 26 celebration of her life. Organized by Rev. Brian Chenowith and Fran Belvin, Amy’s sister, the event was held at the Unitarian Universalist Church here. Amy Belvin died July 9.
“In 1979 Amy joined the Socialist Workers Party and threw herself into the working-class struggle with determination. As a party member and a unionist she built solidarity with striking packinghouse workers at Hormel in Minnesota, cannery workers in Watsonville, California, and many others,” Husk told the 50 people there.
Fran Belvin said her sister was an activist even as a teenager. “Amy and a friend organized a protest against the Vietnam War holding up signs in our front yard that read, ‘Make the world safe for 14-year-old boys.’” She stressed Amy’s role as part of the layer of women who fought their way into ‘nontraditional’ industrial jobs that had previously been for men only. This influx of women strengthened the unions and helped inspire the rise of the women’s rights movement.
One of the messages to the meeting came from SWP leader Joel Britton. “During her years in the party, Amy helped organize opposition to Washington’s military interventions around the world and stood up to attacks on constitutional rights.” She was a partisan of the Cuban Revolution and “helped organize solidarity in the early 1980s with the then-workers and farmers governments of Grenada and Nicaragua.”
“When her health no longer permitted working an industrial job,” Britton continued, “Amy taught school in Oakland and participated in a long strike by the teachers union in the late 1990s. With great enthusiasm, she rolled onto the strike picket lines in a wheelchair decorated with strike placards.”
Fran Belvin and her husband Richard King put together a lively slide show that included the two sisters growing up in the 1950s as well as Amy joining with other U.S. workers to visit and bring solidarity to Cuba and Nicaragua. One slide showed Amy and other workers on the picket line with striking copper miners in Arizona as they stood up to National Guard troops brought in to break the strike.
The celebration included a reception with food and displays of artwork and poetry Amy had made. Many participants looked through a display of articles from the Militant that included articles she wrote and reflected working-class struggles she had been involved in.
Longtime friend Jim Altenberg sent a message describing their work together as members of the SWP. He said they also spent time traveling and enjoying cultural activities in the Bay Area.
“She introduced me to Shakespeare and Brecht. We even got to see the very last performance of Bertolt Brecht’s own theater company, the Berliner Ensemble, in Berkeley,” he wrote.
Amy Husk stressed Belvin’s lifelong commitment to the SWP and the fight for a world based on human needs, not profits. “In the 20 or so years she was actively part of this fight she lived more than many people live in a lifetime. We know her life will be an inspiration to others.”