Thursday, June 4, 2015

Lake Apopka Presentation at Seminole State College, Minus One Farmworker

On Tuesday, June 2nd, about 30 students braved the pouring rain to attend their English class at Seminole State College. Invited by Prof. Ann Riecken were Jeannie Economos, volunteer Bekah Torcasso Sanchez and Fed Up author Dale Slongwhite to present the history of the Lake Apopka farms and the experiences of the people who worked there. 

Dale Slongwhite spoke about writing Fed Up: The High Cost of Cheap Food and how the book, which compiles the oral histories of Lake Apopka farmworkers, came about. She also described the process of capturing, from the heart, people's stories and making them central to the narrative, de-centering her own experiences. Dale gave great advice on how to write for the purpose of discovery.

Jeannie looks on as Dale addresses the class.

Jeannie Economos of FWAF educated the class about the history of Lake Apopka and the lack of labor protections for farmworkers and domestic laborers. FWAF staff spoke for about 20 minutes about the history of the muck farms, as the students watched a short film "Out of the Muck" documenting the environmental injustices facing Lake Apopka farm-working communities here in Central Florida. The students loved learning about local history, asked penetrating questions, and many expressed a desire to get involved with the Farmworker Association!

Notably absent from this week's talk, however, was longtime FWAF community leader, Linda Lee, who recently lived through a tragic loss when she lost her granddaughter, Chrysantheam Ashley, to Lupus. In the past year and a half, Linda also lost her daughter to Lupus, an auto-immune disorder. A month and half ago Linda lost her older sister. Linda herself has Lupus. Linda and her sister both worked on the muck farms for decades until they closed down almost 20 years ago. Recent studies have shown links between pesticides and Lupus. You may have met Linda on one of the many Toxic Tours she helped guide around Lake Apopka or recognize her from this blog. It is truly the bravery of folks like Linda and her family, in the face of these trials, that exemplify the urgency to show support for change in farmworker rights, legally, economically and socially. These injustices must end!

Linda addresses a legislative committee in Tallahassee. 
Apart from an extended family reeling from the loss, Chrys leaves behind three young boys--who Linda will be taking care of since their mother has passed away. Linda was saving up to get a new roof for her tiny house, but now all those savings are going towards the funeral and her great-grandchildren. Please consider donating to the GoFundMe account created by the family to help them pay for her outstanding medical costs and to pay for the funeral and burial.

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