Hey there! Can you believe it’s already May Day on Monday, May 1st? It’s a day where thousands of people all around the world come together to commemorate International Workers’ Day, also known as May Day. It’s a special day that has its roots in history, dating back to 1886, when workers, including many recent immigrants, organized a nationwide strike that led to the establishment of the eight-hour workday and other protections for workers.
This May Day, the struggle for justice and equality continues as the Movement for Black Lives, wage activists, and those who believe in freedom (aka “the majority”) join forces to support various causes, including racial, gender, immigrant, disability, queer, economic, and environmental justice. We’re going beyond the moment, moving beyond temporary outrage and narrow concepts of sanctuary, and breaking down barriers between communities that have so much at stake and so much in common. We’re planning to strike, rally, and resist, amplifying the voices of the unheard, recognizing the labor of those who are silenced and marginalized, and uplifting those in our country who have never had guaranteed protection.
As Malcolm X once said, “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman.” Unfortunately, these words still ring true today, even decades after his death. That’s why we’re centering and celebrating women and femmes of the past while standing up for the future of our communities.
Black women’s contributions and labor have often been erased from our stories of social change, media, homes, workplaces, and movements. It’s hard to value something that we can’t even see. The erasure of black women’s work, often done by men and white women, and the invisibility of that work contributes to its ongoing devaluation.
One example of devalued work is domestic work, which has its roots in the legacy of slavery. Today, this industry is largely made up of women of color and immigrant women who perform paid and unpaid labor inside the home, making all other work possible. Yet domestic work, because it is done by black women, women of color, and immigrant women, is not recognized as valuable work. It’s often seen as something that women are simply expected to do.
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We often hear about the gender wage gap, with women making 77 cents for every dollar that men make. However, few people address the racial disparities within the wage gap, including the wage gaps between women and men, women of color and white women, and transgender and cisgender women.
In history, Martin Luther King Jr. is often credited with leading the civil rights movement, but we know that black women like Rosa Parks, Diane Nash, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Ella Baker were the backbone of that movement. Unfortunately, this legacy continues today, as the work and contributions of women of color who organized the Women’s March on Washington were dismissed in favor of narratives that only credited white women for the largest mobilization in our nation’s history.
As we celebrate May Day, we also acknowledge that this day is no exception to the erasure of black women’s labor. During the 1886 Haymarket Uprising, Lucy Gonzales Parsons, a black, Mexican, and indigenous woman, was allegedly described by a Chicago official as “more dangerous than a thousand rioters.” Yet Lucy Gonzales Parsons, who played a significant role in the uprising and was one of the most dedicated and radical labor organizers in U.S. history, is rarely mentioned in relation to the labor movement. Her labor, along with the labor of millions of black women, women of color, and immigrant women, remains unseen and uncelebrated.