Labor Day is an interesting end of the summer! It is after the season of vacations and relaxation for most and is just about the time school starts and we hunker down for a sprint towards Thanksgiving and Christmas to prepare for the beginning of another year.
Labor, what does it mean historically for those not born into a situation of privilege or having opportunities at their disposal because of family and or a position in the community?
Labor is symbolized by the struggle of being able to work at a job to make a decent wage and provide for your family and get a good education.
However, there has been a number of things skipped over or not included in our history that because of it not being from the Caucasian point view is left out.
I had the sincere joy and delight in interviewing Maida Springer Kemp who was an American labor organizer who worked extensively in Africa for the AFL-CIO. Nicknamed “Mama Maida”, she advised fledgling labor unions, set up education and training programs, and liaised between American and African labor leaders. In 1945, traveling to England on a labor-exchange trip, she was the first African-American woman to represent U.S. labor abroad. She was also active in the civil rights movement, and advocated for women’s rights around the world.
Here is a refreshing and at times sobering story of her life (told in her own words) that gives us insights to the unsung hero’s of the Labor Movement that don’t get attention in our schools history books but because she is one of God’s children her story is shared on Passages. Listen to Mrs. Kemp on Passages where award-winning stories come alive in an informative and entertaining way. Click on the audio button below.
As she grew from being a union foot soldier to a pioneering international labor advocate, Maida Springer Kemp traveled the world. Everywhere she went — Europe, Africa, Turkey — she looked for the union label, the sign that workers were being treated fairly.
That’s because Mrs. Springer Kemp knew the life of the thousands who toiled long hours in the garment industry sweatshops. She was one of them.
Mrs. Springer Kemp, a native of Panama who went to Harlem at age 7, had lived in Pittsburgh since the late 1970s. She died after a long illness at the age of 94.
Mrs. Kemp’s legacy grew out of her activism that was planted in Harlem. There Mrs. Springer Kemp was deeply influenced by her mother, Adina Stewart Carrington, who listened to the black nationalist messages of Marcus Garvey and told her young daughter to be hopeful and value education.
Have a wonderful Labor Day! Part 2 of her story will be featured on Media Mission’s website later today.
We pray for all the workers and their families in the world this day!