top of page

Bread & Roses

By Christine Mason, CEI Executive Director

Last night, at about 8:30 pm I found myself at a nearby Staples store.  This store was as busy as I had ever seen it. Parents and children with basket after basket of back-to-school supplies. Preparing to return.  As I mentioned to my grandchildren this past week, something significant will happen in their lives within the next few days.  Returning to school. Such an auspicious occasion. We all know that The Teacher makes the all the difference in the world. If only each child could end up with The Best Teacher.

This Labor Day weekend, as we all prepare to head back to school, there is so much that I could write about. There are so many tasks to be completed, so much violence to combat, and so much to think about as we approach 2015-2016.  It has been quite a summer. Violence upon violence upon violence.

Of course not all the news is bad news.  There are signs that the world is awakening to its responsibilities. President Obama, for example, has traveled to Alaska and pointed out the worsening detrimental impact of melting glaciers. Glaciers sliding into bays, and stimulating cycles that disrupt ecosystems in ways that are being felt around the world. Awakening, but where’s the action? I have to remind myself, awareness is the first step.  How much more awareness is needed?

With our consciousness aroused, there is so much work to be done and so much trouble on this planet. Our to do list: Global warming. Check.

At the same time,  immigrants by the truckload are dying. Immigrants by the boatload are dying. In thinking of immigration and all that remains to be done (and undone) this Labor Day weekend, I recalled “Bread and Roses,”  the song of marching for justice so long ago. A reason to celebrate.

The Bread and Roses slogan originated with a Textile Mill strike in 1911.   Rose Schneiderman gave a speech (“The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too) at the first moving picket line,  and women and immigrants gained better working conditions.  A significant win. Next came a poem, Bread and Roses, by James Oppenheim and finally in 1974, Mimi Farina (Joan Baez’ sister) put the words to music:

“”Yes, it is bread we fight for’”but we fight for roses, too!”

May you find that this year you are working not only for wages, but for justice and beauty, to improve lives today, to build a strong foundation to help lead others to a better tomorrow.


bottom of page