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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Quilts Celebrated at First Unitarian Universalist Church of Orlando

Both the Red and Blue Quilts were on display at the monthly Common Read meeting at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Orlando on Saturday, November 15. Dale Finley Slongwhite’s Fed Up: The High Costs of Cheap Food, which chronicles the oral histories of Lake Apopka farmworkers, was the Common Read selection for November. 

Slongwhite, former Lake Apopka farmworkers Betty Dubose, Geraldean Matthew and Linda Lee, and FWAF staff presented to about 30 congregants on the social, ecological, and labor history of Lake Apopka.  In addition, volunteer and artist Sarah Downs, who was instrumental in working with Linda Lee and the farmworkers in the quilt-making process, spoke movingly about her experience with presenting a quilt square to former farmworker, Johnnie Mae, of Johnnie's deceased daughter.  Everyone in the room was moved by the stories. The Quilts, the book, and the people who made them possible combined to make this an informative and consciousness-raising event.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Quilts and Fed Up at Seminole State College

On Wednesday, November 12th, both the Red and Blue Quilts were on display at Seminole State College. Former farmworker Linda Lee, Fed Up author Dale Slongwhite, and FWAF staff presented to a group of 66 students the history of Lake Apopka farms and the experiences of the people who worked there. Invited by Prof. Ann Riecken, they presented in her English class, but the event was also attended by other students and SSC staff.

Former Lake Apopka farmworker, Linda Lee, tells students about some of her experiences.
Dale and Jeannie Economos of FWAF educate the class about the history of Lake Apopka.

Dale spoke for about 10 minutes about writing Fed Up and how the book, which compiles the oral histories of Apopka farmworkers, came about. FWAF staff spoke for about 10 minutes about the history of the muck farms, and Linda Lee spoke for about 10 minutes about her experiences working on the farms and coping with the health effects of pesticides.  Our largest audience to date, the students loved learning about local history, asked penetrating questions, and many expressed a desire to get involved with the Farmworker Association!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Reflecting Florida Event at East End Market

On Sunday, October 19, thirteen authors gathered at East End Market in Orlando to present at an all-day event titled REFLECTING FLORIDA: HOW AGRICULTURE, ART & ACTIVISM SHAPE OUR STATE. Dale Slongwhite, author of Fed Up: The High Costs of Cheap Food, was one of the presenters. She brought both quilts and set up the red quilt close to the podium where it was visible during every presentation and in every photo taken of every presenter. She hung an informational quilt brochure to the pole of each quilt, and also had on display a poster with photos of six farmworkers. Approximately sixty people attended the event and many were touched by the stories of the farmworkers. They spoke to Dale afterwards and some purchased the book through Bookmark It, one of the sponsors of the event.

The day ended with a reception featuring Bill Belleville, a well-known writer and activist for Florida's water.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

World Food Week

In celebration of World Food Week, October 12th to 19th, the Quilts were busy again in raising awareness about the Lake Apopka farmworkers who fed America for decades! World Food Week is a time to celebrate food and those who make it possible for us to eat. The Red and Blue Quilts were on display in the lobby of the Olin Library at Rollins College in Winter Park from October 14th to 17th. This was a great opportunity to be seen by the Rollins community.

On Wednesday the 15th, students from the University of Central Florida went on the first Toxic Tour of the semester. Linda Lee and Farmworker Association staff led the tour of the places around Lake Apopka where farmworkers have labored to feed America despite exploitive conditions, pesticide exposure, and environmental injustice. That evening, Linda, a former farmworker who played a central role in creating the quilts, and Dale Slongwhite, who compiled the oral histories of the farmworkers in her book Fed Up: The High Costs of Cheap Food, joined Farmworker Association staff in a video showing of “Out of the Muck” and a panel discussion of the Quilts at Rollins College. It was a day rich in learning for everyone involved.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Quilts on Display at Rollins Theater and Local Food Summit Events

This weekend was a busy one for the Lake Apopka Quilts!  Both the Red and Blue quilts made an appearance at Rollins College and again at the Florida Local Food Summit in Central Florida.

The Annie Russell Theatre at Rollins in Winter Park invited us to display the Quilts before a performance of Working on Friday night.  Farmworker Association staff and volunteers met with theater fans before the show.  The director, Jennifer Cavenaugh, discovered the song “Un Mejor Día Vendrá”, which was based on an interview with a farmworker and hadn’t been performed since the show’s original run.  Because of the importance of farmworkers in Central Florida, she brought it back for the Rollins production!

At the first annual Florida Local Food Summit in Orlando, stakeholders from all around Florida gathered to promote local, organic, sustainable, and socially just practices for farmworkers, consumers, and everyone in between.  Farmworker Association staff Miguel and Jeannie joined Leah Cohen of the Agricultural Justice Project and Jordan Brown of The Family Garden in Bell, FL in an agricultural justice workshop Friday afternoon.  The workshop began with a Mystica, a La Via Campesina ritual of gratitude for the soil, water, the sun, seeds, and farmworkers that are necessary for us all to live. 

On Saturday, FWAF staff and Marty Mesh of Florida Organic Growers led a conversation on agricultural justice following a screening of the short film Hungry for Justice.  The Quilts were on display during the panel, the screening, and a delicious meal of local organic food.  Both events were wonderful opportunities to raise awareness in the community.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Global Food System

A fascinating new book explores the many complex issues that plague our global food system and attempts to offer solutions. Published  in July, The Global Food System: Issues and Solutions is a compilation of essays written by experts in different fields tackling several facets of the food system and edited by William D. Schanbacher. Chapter 4, which is about racism and gender discrimination faced by food chain workers, was written by our friend Joann Lo, Executive Director of the Food Chain Workers Alliance. The FCWA is a coalition of organizations advocating for food chain workers and the Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF). 

The chapter delves into the racial and gender discrimination that workers must face at every level of the food chain—farmworkers, food processing workers, distribution and warehouse workers, retail workers, and, finally, restaurant workers. Joann highlighted the story of our own Linda Lee and her leadership role in the Lake Apopka Quilt Project and FWAF in the section on farmworkers and the long history of racism on Florida farms.

An excerpt from the book:

“Linda started working on farms in the summers in the late 1960s, when she was about six years old. She harvested corn, cabbages, carrots, cucumbers tomatoes, beans hickory nuts, and potatoes…. ‘It was pretty tough trying to work, with cold, and then getting sunburned…. There was racism because they didn’t treat us equally. They’d tell us we had to get an order in, so if you got hurt in the fiends, it’s like: Go on back to work.’”

Friday, August 29, 2014

Fed Up - Book Signing and Talk at Barnes and Noble in Orlando



PhotoAuthor Dale Slongwhite and former Lake Apopka farmworker Betty Dubose addressed an interested audience on Thursday night, August 28th, at Barnes and Noble Book Store in Orlando, FL.  Ms. Slongwhite read passages from the book and Ms. Dubose talked about her personal experiences as a farmworker harvesting vegetables on Lake Apopka.  The book Fed Up: The High Costs of Cheap Food was on display in the front window of the Barnes and Noble and on the second floor of the store.

Audience members asked many questions about the environmental issues on Lake Apopka and the work and living conditions experienced by the farmworkers.  The Blue Quilt was a backdrop to their talk and presentation.  Betty Dubose demonstrated how to use the orange picking sack and what it was like to harvest oranges when she was a young woman.  Sharing the stories of the African American farmworkers was a powerful experience - connecting our lives to those of the people who worked to feed us.  The legacy of the workers is kept alive through the book and through events like these.

Betty Dubose at Barnes and Noble Book Signing in Orlando