Like a great river flowing forth in the desert, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ March for Rights, Respect and Fair Food arrived at Publix Supermarket headquarters, 1500 strong, on Sunday, March 17th! The celebration outside the supermarket giant marked the culmination of a 2-week, 200-mile march by farmworkers who harvest our nation’s tomatoes and the consumers who purchase them. Together we witnessed to the new day of human rights dawning in the Florida fields and the urgent need for Publix to support these changes by joining the Fair Food Program.
Hundreds of Presbyterians from south Florida and beyond participated in the march and supported marchers by offering food, lodging, rest stops, releasing statements of support and offering blessings along the way. You can see snapshots of our church’s participation on the Presbyterian Hunger Program Facebook Page and read more in this Presbyterian News Service article.
At the rally, 1500 people extended their hand toward Publix’s headquarters as clergy led them in a litany, “We extend our hand to you Publix. Come, we have much work to do together. For the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” To date, Publix Supermarket has not responded to our call to sit down face to face with the CIW and join the Fair Food Program. So the Publix Campaign continues. Take action by sending emails, postcards, and dropping off manager’s letters at local Publix stores. With this march pressure for Publix to get on the right side of history grew and your voice matters.
With eleven corporations and the vast majority of Florida tomato growers now participating in the Fair Food Program, with growing numbers of its own customers – particularly those in the faith community – calling on Publix to join this proven program, the company is faced with a profound and moral question: what side of history will Publix be on. Will the company choose to use its power, together with other corporations, growers, farmworkers and consumers, to eradicate the generations of abuse and poverty in the Florida fields? Or will Publix continue down the road of “business as usual?”
“We are not against Publix,” proclaimed Pastor Miguel Estrada of PC(USA)-supported Mision Peniel in Immokalee, “We are against injustice!” encapsulating the spirit of the march. See this moving clip from Wednesday’s vigil.
May the leaders of Publix soon respond to the urgent and moral demand by sitting down with the CIW and joining the Fair Food Program.
The PC(USA)’s ministry with the CIW and our ongoing efforts in the Campaign for Fair Food are funded through the One Great Hour of Sharing Offering which many churches take on Easter Sunday. I encourage you in worship, in emails, on your websites and at fellowship hour to lift up the church’s witness for fair food, the high standards for corporate and grower accountability, and the advancement of farmworkers’ human rights as an example of the important work the One Great Hour of Sharing Offering makes possible. And please, please give generously! If you’re not able to be present in church on Sunday or want to make an additional gift now, you can give online.
This March page will chronicle this historic witness and Presbyterian participation in it. Additionally, visit http://ciw-online.org for media on the march, photos, videos and commentary, including this great article from the Tampa Bay Times which was in the March 17th Sunday morning’s edition.
On March 3rd, 75 farmworkers left the fields for the march, giving up 2 weeks of pay, in order that they might reap a harvest of justice! The 200 mile journey was hard, but not as hard as the exploitation they still face when harvesting for growers and corporations outside the Fair Food Program. Their sacrifice was great. And now they’ve returned to the fields, making possible the food we put on our tables. But because of the support of congregations throughout Florida and Presbyterians across the nation over these last 2 weeks, they know our church will keep “marching” with them until Publix recognizes farmworkers’ humanity and joins the Fair Food Program!
I leave you with this image of the son of Sylvia one of the CIW farmworkers and leaders. Like so many Immokalee children, he was on this march with his parents, helping to build a future where all God’s children are treated with the dignity they deserve. So keep praying! Keep believing! Keep working! For we know that with God, all things are possible!
The Rev. Noelle Damico, Associate for Fair Food, Presbyterian Hunger Program
Scripture for Reflection on the March for Rights, Respect and Fair Food
During the March for Rights, Respect and Fair Food, March 3-17, 20013, theCoalition of Immokalee Workers and their allies from the faith, student, human rights and sustainable food communities will walk 200 miles from Ft. Myers, FL to Lakeland, FL the headquarters of Publix Supermarket. The March will chronicle the advances made in human rights, grower accountability and corporate responsibility over the last decade because of the fair food movement. And we will urge Publix to become the twelfth company to join the Fair Food Program and support these advances.
Presbyterians and other friends will be gathering on the march to reflect on the church’s witness. You’re invited to pray and reflect along with us from afar. Feel free to share your thoughts on the Presbyterian Hunger Program Facebook page.
Sunday, March 3, 2013: Isaiah 43:9
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
Monday, March 4, 2013: Micah 6:8
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
Tuesday, March 5, 2013: Matthew 5:6
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Wednesday, March 6, 2013: Genesis 1:27-28
So God created human kind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Thursday, March 7, 2013: Romans 12:21
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Friday, March 8, 2013: Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Saturday, March 9, 2013: 1 Corinthians 12:14
Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.
I’m very proud to join this year’s March for Rights, Respect and Fair Food. Since 2007 Compass Group has enjoyed a partnership with the Coalition and the Fair Food Standards Council that reflects the highest levels of ethical behavior, transparency and authenticity. The Coalition embodies passion and integrity coupled with humility, and that’s what brings about lasting change in a way that honors and recognizes everyone. On a personal level it is always feels like a homecoming to return to Immokalee and visit friends and partners. Sharing this March together, particularly during the Lenten season, feels like a walk of faith, transformation and celebration. -- From Cheryl Queen, member of Myers Park Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC and VP of Communications for Compass Group, one of the eleven corporations participating in the Fair Food Program.