Beyond Beyoncé: Farmworkers Fear the Worst While the Music Plays on

IMG_6464“Let’s just cut to the chase,” writes Jon Caramanica, pop music critic in today’s New York Times, “There’s not likely to be a more meaningful, absorbing, forceful and radical performance by an American musician this year, or any year soon, than Beyoncé’s headlining set at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/15/arts/music/beyonce-coachella-review.html

About seven miles down the road from the scene of Beyoncé’s great triumph, a farmworker family spends a blistering hot afternoon in their double-wide trailer, shades drawn.  Gabriel Thompson, a journalist based in Oakland, California, shares this family’s story and the fear that permeates their life in Coachella, Underground, a piece for which I and others at East Coast Migrant Head Start Project were interviewed.

I don’t mean to dis Beyoncé.  In fact, I am a huge fan.  “Sorry” has been a rallying cry for our project since the song’s release in June of 2016.  Our farmworkers celebrate the song’s chorus.  It resonates: Why should we apologize for our presence when “rich or poor, what Americans have on their dining room tables is what we are giving them from our hands.” https://vimeo.com/158226128  I also love the video for “Sorry”, with its allusions to farm work, crew buses, and the stark dividing line that often exists between farm labor and farm capital.

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you of the fear of family separation farmworkers experience each day they leave their children in our care and head to the fields and to the packing houses.  When all that stands between our parents and the loss of their American dream is a “broken tail light” and a sheriff’s deputy without a heart.  There are no music festivals to draw attention to it, but in Florida, Alabama, and the rural Mid-Atlantic, our farmworker communities remain persecuted as traffic stops lead to immigration holds that too often lead to removal proceedings.

In the face of these attacks, it’s important to support the causes that serve and uplift farmworker families.  East Coast Migrant Head Start Project is just one non-profit among many that have built a capacity to help farmworkers involved in immigration removal proceedings.  You should support us and you should support our partners.

Meanwhile, our farmworkers will no doubt do what they’ve always done: be resilient, work hard, and have faith that their resilience and hard work will be rewarded.  Until then, deuces up.

 

ECMHSP Shares Best Practices for Services at MAFO Conference

MAFO held its annual National Farmworker Conference and Convention this week in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  The MAFO Conference is an opportunity for advocates and service providers for the farmworker community to come together to discuss current issues affecting America’s farmworkers and to share innovative tools and best practices.  The theme of this year’s conference was Building Stronger Rural Communities and ECMHSP’s strong presence made significant contributions in support of it.

Rudy Beserra, Vice President of Latin Affairs at Coca-Cola with ECMSHP COO Javier Gonzalez.

Members from the ECMHSP Board of Directors and staff attended the conference townhalls on Sunday, as well as the workshops and plenaries on the following two days.  ECMHSP leadership also had the opportunity to share strategies on how to effectively provide services to the farmworker community through workshop presentations.

In a session titled, “Using Technology to Connect Programs,” Dr. José Villa, ECMHSP Chief Executive Officer, and Andy Pederson, IT Manager, presented ECMHSP’s efforts to utilize technology to improve data collection and effectively deliver high quality services.  They also discussed the organization’s work with partner organizations to increase collaboration and improve services delivered to the farmworker families.

In addition, Dr. Villa presented in the workshop, “Giving Migrant Children a Head Start,” accompanied by Christine Alvarado, ECMHSP Chief Innovations Officer; Javier Gonzalez, Chief Operations Officer; and Governance and Norma Flores López, Collaboration/Development Manager.  The session provided an operational view of the comprehensive Head Start services provided by ECMHSP to successfully meet the unique needs of the preschool children of farmworkers, and the program outcomes and successes achieved through collaborative partnerships.

Dr. Jose Villa, ECMHSP CEO, presents the LUPE Award at the MAFO Awards Gala.

On Tuesday night, MAFO held its Leadership Award Banquet and Gala, where MAFO honors the excellence and dedication of individuals, particularly those who do outreach, perform hard work and whose efforts many times go unrecognized or unrewarded.  The evening included the conference participants, leaders in the farmworker community, and community leaders representing the Albuquerque area.  A mariachi band initiated the evening’s celebration, and a young troupe of flamenco dancers provided entertainment during dinner.  Dr. Villa, as a member of the MAFO Board of Directors, participated in the awards ceremony by introducing the recipient of this year’s LUPE Award at the gala.  To close out the evening, the night’s keynote speaker, Arturo Rodriguez, President of the United Farm Workers, gave a motivating speech, reminding advocates that as a community, we have overcome larger obstacles than today’s political climate. He shared, as examples, the personal victories of farmworker advocates in the room, including ECMHSP’s Dr. Villa and Javier Gonzalez.

The MAFO Conference provided ECMHSP access to relevant and emerging information for service providers and advocates of the farmworker community, as well as an opportunity to reconnect and network with diverse and multicultural rural community leaders and organizations. We look forward to more opportunities to represent our community at next year’s conference in San Antonio, Texas!

Norma Flores Lopez, ECMHSP staff, with UFW President Arturo Rodriguez and UFW Foundation Executive Director Diana Tellefson Torres.