SEPTEMBER: A Celebration of Labor Day, Jewish New Year, and Diversity 

The month of September begins with Labor Day picnics and parades and ends with one of the most holy of Jewish holidays, Rosh Hashanah or the New Year. In between, we celebrate the contributions of Americans of Hispanic or Latino descent, and acknowledge the United Nations’ calls for an end to gender inequality, and pleas for worldwide peace. 

Labor Day, Sept. 5, has its roots in the American labor movement that began in the late 19th Century. Workers—sometimes even children as young as 5—often spent 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, toiling for poor wages under unsafe conditions. Recognizing there was strength in numbers, organizers formed labor unions to negotiate for workers and advocate on their behalf with employers. Strikes and large rallies drew attention to the worker’s plight but were often met with violence. The very first Labor Day parade was held September 5, 1882, when 10,000 workers took unpaid leave to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City. By 1894, 30 states celebrated Labor Day; the federal government made it official later that year. Falling on the first Monday of September, Labor Day is a time for picnics and parades, and has come to signify the end of summer. To learn more about the holiday’s history, click here.  

National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed September 15 through October 15, and celebrates the culture, history, and contributions of Americans whose ancestors hailed from Spain, Mexico, Central/South America, and the Caribbean. The recognition began as a week-long observance in 1968 under President Lyndon Johnson; 20 years later, President Ronald Reagan expanded it to a full month. The starting date is significant: Independence is celebrated September 15 in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, followed by Mexico and Chile on September 16 and 18, respectively. Celebrations such as community gatherings, festivals, art shows, and more, offer opportunities to learn about other cultures to help us better understand and value diversity. In fact, this year’s theme is ”Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation.” For workplace ideas, click here. To learn about cultural icons—like civil rights activists Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta of the United Farm Workers, and Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic member of the Supreme Court—or to explore art and books for kids, click here.  

HeForShe Day, September 20, was initiated by the United Nations in 2013 to promote gender equality, and to recruit men, boys, and people of all genders as advocates. There are now 2 million activists across the globe, contributing to 3 billion conversations on social media every year. Together, they are helping women build businesses and are tackling a range of issues from social media’s harmful gender stereotypes to gender-based violence. Partners include world leaders and institutions, plus the arts, students, business, the scout movement, educational institutions, and many more. As an example, during this year’s Black History Month, Howard University launched a campus initiative on gender equality with a HeForShe  summit for historically black colleges and universities. To learn more, find resources for getting involved in your community, and/or follow the movement on TikTok, click here.  

In 1988, the United Nations established the International Day of Peace, Sept. 21, to encourage “rising above differences” and “creating a culture of peace.” In 2021, the U.N. voted unanimously to further designate this day as a “period of non-violence and peace,” asking for a global 24-hour ceasefire. With “End racism. Build peace.” as this year’s theme, the UN plans to speak out against hate speech and violence directed at racial minorities, and promote anti-racism through education. To participate, join the “Minute of Silence/Moment of Peace or Peace Wave” that occurs each Sept. 21 at noon in every time zone around the world. Click here for more information, including activities for kids and adults.  

Rosh Hashanah, September 25 to 27, is the celebration of the Jewish New Year and the beginning of the faith’s high holy days—a 10-day period for contemplative reflection, culminating in Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement. Rosh Hashanah is also known as Judgement Day, when God considers a person’s good and bad deeds over the past year to determine how the year ahead will be. Religious services focus on messages of hope and atonement in the new year. While families may have their own traditions, the evening meal typically includes many sweet foods, such as apples, honey, and honey cakes, to signify “positive wishes for the new year.” Click here to learn more about the history and traditions, including food.