My apologies. The following is truly a mess of “brain-dump” ramblings, but it just has to be that way. I participated in the last day of the CIW March for Rights & Respect for Farmworkers, and so many things happened along the way & I met so many wonderful people, that I just have to get it out before I forget even the smallest detail (like the ladybug that landed smack-dab in the middle of the right lens of my glasses; good luck on St. Patrick’s Day!).
During the week before the final day of this amazing march I made my own sign. I figure I’ll be working with others in my area to organize some actions & I’ll use it more than once. I do tend to make good signs & put them on 6’ poles (I am not quite 5’ tall!).
I was a “protest of 1”. Again. I don’t think my gift is for rallying the masses. My gift is making signs & slogans & finding information to pass along. I think, too, that we should live our convictions in action whether we are alone or in a crowd. So…. off to Lakeland I went, alone, but with many prayers from friends & family who couldn’t make it. I arrived with the first of 5-6 vehicles & was soon in a shuttle-van to take us to the starting point of the day’s scheduled march.
The sight that awaited us as when we arrived at the starting point was impressive. There was already a huge crowd full of supporters who were chanting, singing, and waving signs & banners! This picture is from out of the back window of the van. I was thrilled & overwhelmed by what I heard & saw! This was the largest protest I’ve ever been involved with.
We rallied on the sidewalk outside this Publix & then we got into groups of 3 and began our march to the Publix Headquarters about 6 1/2 miles away. Some people had electronic mega-phones & they kept the marchers chanting about 5-6 different things both in English & in Spanish. Si, se puede! These energetic ladies were behind me.
The security volunteers did a great job of keeping us going & keeping us safe. Other volunteers passed out water & snacks. I had cut-up apples in my bag & shared with those around me.
It was hard to see (again, I’m not quite 5’!!!), so I stepped into the grassy side of the road to see how far the line of marchers extended. Wow! I’m pretty sure it was about 1,000 people long (one volunteer confirmed that number)! It occurred to me that I felt “caught-up” in a growing school of fish. There is a species of fish (I don’t recall the name) that moves in unison to fool its predators and avoid attacks in order to survive. I couldn’t see exactly where we were going, but I knew that those ahead knew the way, & I trusted them. I can only attribute that kind of “now-ness” to my faith. What freedom, & what a proper visual: fish=CIW & shark=Publix! Only thing is, the CIW & its supporters are growing larger than Publix. How long will Publix resist coming to the Fair Food negotiating table? Surely they must be hungry for justice by now, too! We are hungry for justice, but we are more patient!
I met members of a group from Orlando who have marched with the CIW before. I marched alongside students, couples, families with young children, CIW members, and church groups; people like Francisco, Helena, Lynn, Cassidy, Ann, & many others who had come from Maine, New York, DC, Texas, and other parts of our nation with the same hope: A Fair Food nation!
When we hit the last ¼ mile around the corner & down Airport Rd. toward Publix Corporate Parkway, the chanting & our pace grew louder & quicker. “Publix! Shame on you! Farmworkers are people, too!” CIW members & those who marched all 200 miles were seated in the many chairs that were already set up in front of the flatbed stage. Music, dancing, banners waving in the wind, chanting, and a jubilant feeling of triumph at reaching the end of a long journey. That’s what greeted us from where I was at the back end of the march. All that, water bottles, snacks, & port-o-pots, too (sorry, no pictures of those!)!
While on the march a pastor from the Presbyterian Church made her way through the crowd calling out ‘Anyone here a pastor, priest, sister or religious leader?” Not knowing if someone was in need of prayers or help, I raised my hand & told her that I was an Adrian Dominican Associate; then I saw her clerical collar from under her CIW t-shirt. Soon we were engaged in conversation about our work & how we became involved in the CIW. She had a presentation at the end of the march & wanted all religious leaders to help her out, so at the end of the day ( a day that I had started alone), I found myself on that flatbed stage with students, farmers, farmworkers, and clergy! I honestly don’t know how I get swept-up into these things! But there I was, the only Catholic “religious” on stage with a Rabbi, two Lutheran pastors, Presbyterian clergy, Unitarian ministers & many other ministers of other congregations leading this crowd of people in a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired Litany! I felt a little embarrassed, but I took the opportunity to make some connections for the continuity of the CIW efforts.
OMGosh! And from onstage & backstage I had the privilege of witnessing something beautiful, funny & poignant. After Sra. Gonzalez (doing ALL of the translating!) came off stage to a crying infant under the stage (he apparently needed some “fair food”, too!), she re-appeared with us “clergy” with her baby still attached! When pastor Noell began speaking in English & she began translating in ENGLISH we all sort of stopped & looked at her & said “En Espanol, por favor!” She laughed & blamed her brain-hiccup on the baby. I said to the minister next to me “Look how happy the baby is with ‘Fair Food’!” He agreed!
At the end the members of the CIW gathered onstage to highlight what the Fair Food Program means to the workers in the fields & what it means to their dignity and their home life. These are the real stars of this march. Publix, they deserve your support, so don’t turn a blind eye to their needs & their right to respect & fair, livable wages. Like my sign says, this is not a labor dispute; it’s a human rights issue that is everyone’s business. Please, Publix: Come to the table and help bend the arc of morality just a little bit more towards justice!