Say Their Names! Anti-Racism Statement; Honoring Our Black Farmworker | Farmworker Association of Florida

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

Geraldean Matthew and Betty Dubose with the Lake Apopka Farmworker Memorial Quilt banner at a demonstration for justice in downtown Orlando

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

Linda Lee with one of her sketches for the "Labor of Love" mural planning
Linda Lee with one of her sketches for the “Labor of Love” mural planning

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.