By Dwight Evans
I grew up in a working-class family in a working-class neighborhood of Philadelphia. When I was a kid, it seemed like everyone in the neighborhood had jobs. My pop had a job with a moving and storage company, and my mom worked as a secretary and a waitress.
In my family, work was more than a source of income. It was a source of dignity. I was proud of mom — and even as a little boy, I knew what a good waitress she was. I probably learned math by counting up her tips while sitting on our living room floor.
And I was proud of my pop for being of the best packers and movers at this company. Folks in the neighborhood would always come up to me and say, “You’re Hank’s son.”
My father ingrained in me to never forget my roots, and both my parents inspired me to be grateful for the freedom to pursue a career. Whatever my parents did, they did with excellence.
When my parents separated, it became a turning point in my childhood. My mom had four kids and it wasn’t going to be easy supporting all of us. So I lied about my age and got a job when I was only thirteen and told my mom I’d buy my own lunch, my own clothes, and my own books for school. I never took a dime from her after that.
My childhood wasn’t easy — but through it all, I found that I loved working. And I’m grateful to both my mom and my pop for instilling in me the work ethic that drives me still to this day.
Today isn’t just Father’s Day. It’s also Juneteenth — the day we celebrate the abolition of slavery in Texas in June 1865 and the emancipation of African-American slaves throughout the Confederate South.
Just six generations ago, there were African Americans in this country who didn’t get to have the dignity that comes from being paid for their labor, let alone having the right to vote or participate fully in American society.
Our country has come a long way since then, but the fight for jobs that pay and the march to end discrimination in the workplace and equal pay for equal work for all continues.
And the faith, courage, and strength of character demonstrated by former slaves and the descendants of former slaves remain an example for all people of the United States, which is why we also celebrate Juneteenth today.
Together, we shall overcome.