Jan 22, 2007
A former worker at the Detroit Fort Street Post office, Mr. Alfred Martinez “Mart” Gomez, died at the age of 84 on December 20th. He had worked at the main branch of the Post Office for 30 years. In the 1970s, he became active with SPARK. But long before this, he fought for the right for himself and his fellow workers to be treated like human beings. Proud of his Black and Native American heritage, he opposed the racism of this society all his life.
Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1922, he attended Central High School, where among other subjects, he studied art, and there developed his skill in capturing the likenesses and movement of animals, which he put to use later when working at the Post Office.
He was a superb athlete in his younger years – from swimming to the broad jump. But according to his family, after high school, he turned to his great love: boxing. As an amateur boxer, he won three gold medals, and the Golden Gloves and Diamond Belt titles.
Even after his own career and aspirations to become a pro boxer ended, he spent years at local Detroit gyms, helping and coaching many young people. He taught them boxing skills, yes, but he also taught them that they didn’t need to be aggressive. He himself was never one to pick a fight. But he also taught these young men that they should not back down when they found themselves under attack.
Post Office workers not only work “through snow and sleet.” Like all workers, they have to endure hard work, long hours and speed-up, as well as times when they could have to work as long as 15-day stretches without a day off.
And then there was management. Mart distinguished clearly between managers that he and his fellow workers thought were decent, and those who acted like the enemy. And so it was only those infamous supervisors who earned the most vivid and colorful animal names and pictures in the famous cartoons he drew: Bulldog, Rattlesnake, Police Dog, the Weasel, and the Sly Fox, among others.
Through humor, then, he helped to make work-life more bearable for himself and for his co-workers.
Even when he retired, Mart didn’t retire from the class struggle. He would go into work and onto the docks, and maintain ties with his fellow workers. The very year he retired, he stepped forward, with 25 other worker-candidates in Michigan, to join the political campaign, WORKERS AGAINST CONCESSIONS – organized to give workers in Michigan the choice to say “No!” to both the Democrats and Republicans, and to the corporations.
He will be remembered for his humor, his cartoons, his uncanny memory (especially when it came to numbers), his story-telling, his boxing stories, replete with the motions of his matches and those of famous boxers.
He was a fighter, literally, since he was a boxer. But he was also a fighter for his class. In fact, he was like the many workers in this society who are athletes, who are artists and musicians, who are writers and poets. They are everywhere among the people who do the essential work to make society run. They are the “ordinary heroes” so to speak, seldom recognized for their contributions to history and to social change.
We share in the joy of his memories, and the sorrow for his loss with his friends and family, including his nieces and great nephews, and especially his dear sister, Mrs. Bertha Jackson.
We remember Martinez Gomez, a fighter for his class, notable for the impact he left on many.