Labor Day in the US means different things to people. For some it is the end of summer, others the start of school and for retailers, it is the big sale day. For me, it is a day to remember my parents. Growing up I had two models of “labor,” my mom at Hampton University and my dad at Fort Monroe. My dad’s world was structure and order, my mom was the arts and creativity, but the debates were about politics.
My experience has been, in the workplace, people often avoid politics or tread carefully until they think we are among coworkers who share their views. In the 1968 Olympics, Tommie Smith (USA), Peter Norman (Australia) and John Carlos (USA) were the gold, silver and bronze medalists in the 200-meter dash, respectively. All three wore Olympics for Human Rights Project badges. There is an infamous photograph that captured the Americans, Mr. Smith and Mr. Carlos, with black gloved fists raised in a salute to human rights. If you look closely at the photo, the Americans are shoeless to represent poverty. John Carlos has his jacket unzipped to show solidarity with labor. A huge uproar followed. At home, I heard my dad and his fraternity brothers debate the actions for this was something they dare not discuss at work. It was opposite the case with my mom. On campus, with her, I heard the professors and students in open dialog, spirited conversations on the proper platforms for protests.
Labor Day originated from the labor movement seeking better working conditions and better wages with workers marching through the streets. Today, Labor Day is often celebrated with parades. The photo shows my Labor Day parade, my platform with my multicultural, peace warriors. Namaste, my friends.