Monday, July 20, 2020

"Labor of Love" Picture Progress!

The "Labor of Love" mural is progressing, especially with the help from local community members and artists! Click the "read more" button to see the updated pictures for the Apopka history mural.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Picture Updates for "Labor of Love" Mural!

The "Labor of Love" Apopka mural is working on outlining the artwork so that the colored painting process can begin! Head artists Linda and Sarah are working with community members constantly to pump out work. Read more to see picture updates on the mural!

Monday, June 22, 2020

Say Their Names! FWAF Statement on BLM

FWAF Statement on Black Lives Matter

Say Their Names! George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and all the others, whose lives have been lost senselessly, needlessly and tragically because of an ever-pervasive and inherent racism that infects our country.…like a pandemic. We will say their names and we will continue to say their names, because their lives matter! Because this moment in our country’s history is pulling back the veil from the lies that have perpetrated a system that declares “liberty and justice for all”, but has failed to live up to that promise for far too many people, most of them whose skin color is Black.

We cannot close our eyes anymore; we cannot hide behind the curtain and profess equality under the law, when we have seen the truth exposed, and have seen the many lives that have been cut short, bringing profound pain and trauma to family members and to our nation – a nation in which an emergency worker is shot in her bed as she sleeps; in which a man is suffocated under the knee of an officer of the law as others stood by, watched and videotaped; in which a man out for a pleasant jog is gunned down by civilians for no just cause. But, these are not all. The names are far too many in number, but we will remember them all, because they lived, and breathed and made a difference in the world! They were part of the fabric of America. And, their lives continue to be a clarion to us all that we ignore only at our peril. For whatever happens to the least of us, happens to us all. Quoting the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

The Farmworker Association of Florida unequivocally condemns the policies and their racist roots and underpinnings that have for far too long privileged one race over another. The past is not past at all. Just as we walk on land stolen from the indigenous first nations people in this country, we reside in a land that was built on the backs of people torn from their homes in Africa to be subjugated to hard labor and “ownership” as slaves on plantations. What has been omitted from our history books is now bubbling to the surface. The truth must be told or it will continue to haunt us. Slave labor built the wealth of this country and fed and fueled the industrial revolution. The underlying roots in the evil of slavery continue to contaminate our contemporary world even now, and they are a stain on our stated values of human worth and dignity for everyone.

The killings over the past few weeks have particular resonance for farmworkers. After all, it was Black men, women and children that were the first “farmworkers” who endured the yoke of slavery as they labored on the plantations in the South, producing the food that fed the growth of the entire nation in its infancy until the present.  In the famous television documentary “Harvest of Shame”, one farmer was quoted as saying, “We used to buy our slaves, now we rent them.” 

As we share our outrage of the recent – and sadly, continued! – killings of Black and Brown people, we are demanding and will work for action and for progressive, positive and systemic change. Once the veil is lifted and we look the ugly beast of racism in the eyes, we can face the enemy and, together, we must work with all our might to vanquish the monster of racism.

In Memoriam of Apopka's Black Leaders

As we remember the Black lives who have been lost to hateful violence and police brutality, we honor our deceased Black farmworker leaders, who can trace their grandparents and great grandparents roots to indentured servitude, share-cropping and back to their ancestors who were enslaved people. For the hardships, discrimination, racism and overall injustice they endured while they were alive, and for the legacy they leave to the generations that follow, we want to remember our own – the African American farmworker leaders in Florida, who fought for justice for their community and for all farmworkers: We say their names, as well. Geraldean Matthew, Betty Dubose, Earma Lee Peterson, Betty Woods, Johnnie Mae Hughley, Johnnie Mae Byers, Louise Seay, Angela Tanner, Willie Mae Williams and all the others who worked in the fields in Florida, but who worked for justice for farmworkers and for a better future.  We stand on their shoulders. We will want them to know “we got your back.” And, we will not be silent!

"Labor of Love" Mural Remembers Black Farmworkers

People around the world are taking steps to support the lives and rights of black communities in the United States, and FWAF is doing that through our creation of the "Labor of Love" Apopka community mural. Former Lake Apopka farmworker and lifelong Apopka community member Linda Lee is the leading artist for "Labor of Love." Linda has spent her life fighting for the rights and acknowledgement of black farmworkers, and during this difficult time for the world, it is more important than ever to remember the generations of black leaders and fighters that have paved the way for the Black Lives Matter movement today. The mural is underway, and we cannot wait to memorialize the black farmworkers that spent their lives feeding America. To learn more about the "Labor of Love" mural project, click here to view our information and donation page.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

"Labor of Love" Apopka Mural Project Begins the Painting Process!

In Apopka, FL, the Apopka History Mural project has chosen an official name, and that is "Labor of Love." The title was decided by lead artist, Linda Lee, who has spent decades fighting for the rights of farmworkers in central Florida. After many months of planning and deliberation, the Labor of Love mural has finally begun the painting process!

Artists Linda Lee (left) and Sarah Downs (right) planning the mural layout

After much consideration, the Labor of Love mural will be placed on the side wall of the Big Potato Foundation. The placement of the mural was changed multiple times, so this final decision has come after deciding that the wall would be sturdier, and more visible to people passing by the building. 

Sarah's nephew, Justin, helping apply the paint for the Labor of Love mural

Now, there are multiple parts to the mural. While a tree with several sunbeams will be painted directly onto the building's wall, the rest of the mural will be painted on plywood and attached to the wall. This way, the mural can be moved/transported in case there is a need. Currently, Sarah and Justin are working on completing the color for the tree and sunbeams that are painted directly onto the wall, while Linda and another mural artist, Norman, are sketching the outlines for the art on the plywood!

Linda (left) sketching while Justin (right) paints the oranges in the tree.

Norman sketching on the plywood

While the Labor of Love mural project was put on a brief pause due to coronavirus precautions, we are back and working while maintaining healthy practices and social distance! We cannot wait to unveil this beautiful art piece that only came to fruition from the care, dedication, and love of the community. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Apopka History Mural Project Continues!

In Apopka, FL, the Farmworker Association has been working since August of 2019 to begin the implementation of a mural project. While the idea began in August, it's taken months to figure out all the details, contacts, plans, and coordination for the project. Now, in the midst of a global pandemic that has left most members of the community quarantined, the artists behind the Apopka History Mural continue to work, so that once it is deemed safe they will be able to dive in and finish this project that has taken months of work and dedication from so many others.

Artist Linda Lee - a lifelong member of the Apopka farmworker community, one of the lead artists for the Lake Apopka Farmworker Memorial quilts, and the lead artist on the Apopka History Mural project.

Artist Sarah Downs - one of the lead artists for the Lake Apopka Farmworker Memorial quilts, and one of the lead artists for the Apopka History Mural project.
The months of planning mostly involved figuring out what the mural would feature, receiving community input and ideas, and also logistics for where and when the mural would be ready. The planning team interviewed several Apopka residents to hear what they had to contribute to the mural, and also got a chance to submit Apopka farmworker histories to the Samuel Proctor Oral History Project at the University of Florida. After the interviews were completed, we had enough ideas to begin the painting process. Yet, just as the wood had been ordered and the artists were ready to prep for the painting process, coronavirus locked Florida down and, in order to protect the health and safety of our artists, we put a hold on the mural project. This has not stopped our artists from working at home to finalize the mural content.

Sketches and paintings from Linda and Sarah for the Apopka History Mural Project
This past week, several members of the Apopka History Mural planning team got together and completed the sanding and priming of the wood that our mural will be placed on. Now, once the wood has dried, we will be able to begin the process of painting and bringing the mural to life. While we are still prioritizing health and safety at this time, the mural planning team believes that if we continue to practice social distancing and keep our meetings small, then we can continue to meet and further the mural, even during this uncertain time. 

Linda and Sarah interviewing Apopka resident, Leroy, in January.

Linda and Sarah interviewing Apopka resident, Mae, in February.

Sarah working with Linda's grandsons on sketches for the mural project in February.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Quotes from Law Students After Visiting Apopka Farmworkers

At the beginning of March, before the pandemic of the coronavirus shut down people's lives across the globe, the Florida State University Law School held an alternative spring break where law students could visit Apopka, Florida, and learn about farmworker rights, history, culture, and struggles. You can read more about the visit here.

After their visit, the students did a write-up describing their experiences and take-aways from the alternative spring break. They were kind enough to send us excerpts from their write-ups, and said we were welcome to share on our blog! Below are the quotes.

“Our weekend experience was full of in-depth exploration surrounding many of the issues I have attempted to address above – and much of that exploration led to dark truths. However, more consequentially, working with Jeannie and Yesica and Linda and Paola and Squirt and the rest of our wonderful team inspired hope and passion in me. The work that these people have done and the work that they carry on doing every day provides me with energy for the future. Many of the realities facing the farmworker community are harsh ones – and unjust ones. These realities will not change absent persistent effort: effort exemplified by the Farmworker Association of Florida in Apopka.” - Barclay, 1L

“Many environmental justice groups ignore communities harmed by the industrial policies they seek to change. I’m grateful to the Farm Worker Association for teaching us that we cannot achieve a safer, greener earth without acknowledging and fighting for the invisible, skilled people who are very clearly the backbone of America.” - Lauren, 1L

“I am very thankful I was able to attend this program; it is a great way for law students to get a taste of a variety of farmworker issues, while still getting a very immersive experience. I would highly recommend this program.” - Margeling, 3L

“The invisible people. Alternative Spring Break 2020 was an eye-opening experience for me. My heart broke for a community of people that is treated unjustly everyday and yet we look the other way. Farmworkers feel invisible, their cries feel unheard. This is unacceptable. The narrative around farmworkers must change. Their stories must be heard in order to begin change.” - Peyton, 1L

“...fighting injustice is always the right thing to do. Creating a more just world, through the smallest of actions to the largest of societal change, is always worth it. Small actions change people, people change communities, communities change the world.” - Yazel, 1L

Reading quotes like these makes all the work we put into these trips worthwhile! In order to help farmworkers fight for their rights, we must spread awareness and education on the issues. We hope that through this technique, we are helping build a brighter future for farmworker communities. Thank you again to the FSU law students that have become a part of that future!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Law Students Learn from Linda Lee and Mural Progress Continues

March 13th-16th, students from Florida State University Law School ventured from Tallahassee to Apopka to dedicate part of their spring break to learning about the life and struggles of farmworkers. On their first day in Apopka, the students were taken on a toxic tour of Lake Apopka to learn about the environmental racism and injustice that has plagued the community for decades. At the end of the tour, the students even got a chance to meet Linda Lee, a community activist and former Lake Apopka farmworker whose powerful memories provide a vivid picture of what life was like on the Lake Apopka farms.

The students had a busy weekend of working in local plant nurseries, and assisting the Farmworker Association with community outreach over the 2020 Census and other community issues. The students were especially saddened to see some of the dilapidated houses that some of the community members live in. The group of students was able to reconvene with Linda in the Apopka Campesinxs Garden to do some more hands-on work. The Campesinxs Garden is meant to provide community members like Linda Lee with access to land, so that knowledge of plants and farming that has passed through generations of farmworkers can be remembered in the present.

While Linda continues to teach students and community members about the history of Lake Apopka, the mural project is still underway at the Farmworker Association! Although the covid-19 precautions have caused a bit of a slow down in the process, Linda and her boys continue to sketch every day, and they have big ideas for the mural!

Work for the mural continues on, and we hope that once public health issues have calmed down we will be able to return to the community art project that is meant to memorialize the hardworking people of Apopka!