By Sichu Mali, summer intern
Last Wednesday evening, I was listening to Ed Desgrosseilliers at the 2009 Watering Can Awards Celebration program as he was presenting The Social Landscape Artist Award to Kevin and Judy Simpson. I was impressed with the vigor that the Simpson couple brought to the stage.
What struck me the most about them was the sheer amount of time that they had dedicated to social justice causes. They have been involved in civil rights and community service for well over four decades. In the 1960s, they had worked with National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Congress On Racial Equality to end school segregation and housing discrimination. Besides striving for racial equality, they had also advocated for peace and non violence. They had been active in the movement to bring U.S. troops home from Vietnam. Besides, they had led the local chapter of Neighbor to Neighbor while disapproving U.S.-funded violence in Central America. Their commitment to social justice has been not limited to race and peace issues. Lately, they have joined Maine People’s Alliance and are now campaigning for single-payer health care, fair taxation and the Employee Free Choice Act- an act that would amend the National Labor Relations Act to provide for mandatory injunctions for unfair labor practices during organizing efforts.
One could not help but be touched with their unwavering determination. Even after all these years, they are still actively pushing for social and economic reforms. Their faith in a progressive society still remains strong. As Judy would say, “Injustice is not a permanent feature of the world. We just keep at it and along the way, we manage to inspire others.”
The issues championed by the Simpsons were the issues Frances Perkins had defended throughout her life. Minimum wage, collective bargaining, employment assistance, social security and unemployment insurance were the topics that Frances included in the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Social Security Act when she drafted them. At Frances Perkins Center, we honor her vision and serve to raise awareness of Frances’s work. As a part of a project for this event, I put together an exhibit about Frances Perkins and the Frances Perkins Center which is displayed below: