New Work in Labor Series In Memory of James Wu
When I started the Labor series, I knew right away who I wanted to use for the Postal Worker: James Wu. For years we had been internet friends and fellow artists trying to support each other despite a muck-filled creative industry. He and his partner Rebecca have been so wonderfully supportive of my work; buying things from me, sending me money, sending me encouraging messages, just in general being appreciative, kind, and cool.
I didn’t tell James or Rebecca that I was going to use him for the illustration, I just figured I’d surprise him when I got it done. I was devastated to learn in August that he passed away suddenly, from a heart attack while at work training a new employee. I regret not finishing this illustration sooner so that he could have seen it and known how much I appreciate him.
James was a letter carrier for 14 years for the Newton Center Post Office in Boston, where he was well-known and much-loved by his route, especially by the dogs and cats. He took beautiful photos of the eclectic and historic stairwells he encountered on his delivery and shared them online in a project titled Stairwells of Boston. He also shared many adorable photos and deliveries of the animals and pets he came to know on his route. He was a comic artist and lifelong fan with immense knowledge and respect in that world. He was an adamant supporter of labor rights, and a member of the National Association of Letter Carriers; his final post on Instagram was in praise of his union. His passing affected many, and it is clear that he is so very much loved, respected, adored, and missed.
His death, in context of the recent purposeful dismantling and destruction of the postal service, is hard to bear without feeling anger and sadness. I already felt badly for my own neighborhood’s letter carriers, watching them roll around even at midnight delivering packages in the cold, but after James passed I have even more compassion for the hardships of their job, and for how important what they do is for the rest of us. It is not just or right for workers' bodies to take so much abuse in service of others. Please have compassion and patience for postal workers, and all laborers, regardless of a pandemic or the Christmas season.