Thursday, November 4, 2010

Taking UCF By Storm!

The Lake Apopka Farmworker Memorial Quilts greeted over 600 participants at the University of Central Florida’s Diversity Week Breakfast. While passing through the doors of the Pegasus Ballroom, professors, students, faculty, and staff experienced the stories of Red Quilt and Blue Quilt, as they have come to be called. Sarah Downs, one of the two driving forces in the creation of the quilts, had the opportunity to sit at the Diversity Affairs table and hear addresses from speakers like the Director of Diversity Initiatives and UCF’s President.

One of the organizers raved about the presence of the quilts, realizing that the Memorial Quilts are the first visual piece to accompany the Diversity Breakfast. The visual appeal and historical significance of the quilts added a common talking piece to events occurring across campus, Barbra Thompson, Assistant Director of Diversity Initiatives said. The Quilts, no doubt, will return to visit UCF.

The quilts continued their UCF journey to a panel discussion that highlighted issues in the farmworker community. The distinguished panel was moderated by Dr. Maria Santana. She managed to keep these feisty lions at bay: 

Dominique Aulisio of the Youth and Young Adult Network from the National Farmworker Ministry who represented young activists who support the farmworker community;
Annabelle Conroy, an Assistant Professor in the Political Science Department at UCF who has been actively engaged in the creation of the Memorial Quilts;

Sarah Downs, one of 'quilt moms' who always brings the incredible perspective of a selfless ally for the farmworker community;

Jeannie Economos, the activist/pesticide expert/environmental justice guru who fired the audience up with roaring speeches about the history of the Lake Apopka toxicity;

Linda Lee who is, of course, the Mother Bee of Red Quilt and Blue Quilt and tells the moving story of her life working on the muck and renewed commitment to get the story of her community told;

And Bert Perry from the National Farmworker Ministry who has been a passionate organizer for over 30 years.

These outstanding women painted a great picture of how the environmental injustices of Apopka impact the farmworker community and greater population, leaving the audience with the profound realization that the dinner on America's proverbial table is not only laced with a taste of pesticide, but the hard work of rural farmworkers. 

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