As the night gave way to a new day Julia made her way up and down the sidewalk waking the weary with “Up! Up! It’s a new day!” <sigh> Yes. I fell asleep somewhere between 4:30 & 5:30 am. If it’s “always darkest just before the dawn,” then I think it stands to reason that the coldest hour of the night is also just before the dawn. I think the cold finally made me succumb to sleep. Lots of us took one or two little “power naps” throughout the night. The naps, the coffee (did I mention there was a 24-hour Starbuck’s less than 2 blocks away?!), & the breakfast burritos helped give us the energy to make it through the night, into the morning and another day of action.
We continued our vigil and greeted the new day with prayer, singing, sharing and more coffee. We all began peeling off the “layers” as the chill of the early morning quickly became another warm, beautiful, sunny day. More sharing from members of the CIW and the supporters helped keep us focused on our mission and before we knew it, it was noon. After eating lunch the tents, tables, and the “stage” were disassembled & loaded onto vans & the truck that would lead our 3-mile march. One final announcement from Gerardo before unplugging the mics: “The two Port-O-Pots have reached capacity & are no longer in service!” I wonder if perhaps Publix can find meaning in this tongue-in-cheek metaphor?
The newly energized vigil-keepers were soon joined by many, many more supporters. People began arriving from all over Florida and goodness knows where else. The shuttle vans carrying supporters ran non-stop until 2:00 pm when it was time to begin the 3-mile march to Kryger Park at Mirror Lake. The line of supporters, marching two-by-two, extended the length of the sidewalk, across the street, and down another sidewalk for at least 1/2 a block! Although I don’t have an exact number, all reports indicate that 1,000 (maybe more?) were marching. I watched Gerardo going through the line counting us all. I also know that there were plenty of people who were back at the park setting up tents, chairs, water stations, and a new stage.
The 3-mile march didn’t drain me, it energized me! Naturally I ended up next to the Reverend from the Orlando UU church, and Elena laughed when she found us bringing up the end of the line “talking shop!” I caught up with Gwen, Rob & Gail at the rally. I welcomed the shade, the water, and the chair to sit in. Fun fact: Rob was one of Michael Livingston’s professors when he was in college. Small world!
I’m happy and humbled to have been able to join the CIW on this vigil. What an incredible experience! I truly am blessed to know such amazing people. The CIW, their families, and their many supporters hold a special place in my heart. The 10-day, 10-city tour came to an end Saturday evening, March 15th, but the struggle for systemic change in the agricultural industry continues. The women of the CIW closed the rally with a very powerful message for Publix, Wendy’s, and others who would profit from their abuse, “We will not take one step backward. We will only continue forward.”