Theater, reflection make for a festive evening in Immokalee!

Scenes from the final community meeting before the March for Rights, Respect, and Fair Food!

 The final community meeting before any major action is an excellent window into the spirit — or in Spanish, “el animo,” which in some ways is a more comprehensive word in this context than the English “spirit” of the CIW members preparing for the action.

And by that barometer, after last night’s meeting there can be no doubt: Immokalee is ready for the March for Rights, Respect, and Fair Food!

The centerpiece of last night’s meeting was a theater piece that provided the basis for a powerful reflection on the reasons for — and urgency of — Sunday’s big march. The theater was an old drawing come to life, a drawing (below) depicting Publix standing with its arms crossed, refusing to lend a hand as workers, growers, and other food retailers join forces to push the agricultural industry out of a ditch and onto the road to progress and human rights:

The theater took the audience on a quick tour through Campaign for Fair Food history, beginning with a small group made up of workers, students, faith allies, and one food industry leader — Taco Bell, second from left, in the dog mask — struggling to push the car out alone:

The narrative continued as more buyers were convinced, though much cajoling, tugging, and threats to give up french fries (McDonald’s and Burger King, in case the costumes were not sufficiently self-explanatory):

And then it was time to get down to work, except this time, Publix wasn’t just standing aside refusing to help, they were actually standing in the way, trying to impede progress, stopping the growing Fair Food team in its tracks:

But the intrepid members of the Fair Food movement were undaunted, lowering their shoulders to push ahead:

And with commitment to the human rights in the fields fueling their effort, they overcome Publix’s resistance and push the agricultural industry further down the road to progress:

The reflection following the theater was as lively as it was penetrating:

People discussed the long history of the campaign and the careful building of support among Fair Food allies, corporate buyers of Florida tomatoes, and Florida tomato growers that has made the changes being felt in the fields today — the new day of respect for human rights that is dawning in the Florida tomato industry — possible.

But people also observed that the “car” is not fully out of the ditch yet, and that the higher ground of human rights and dignity for all Florida tomato workers remains somewhere in the distance.

The reflection concluded that to reach that higher ground, we need still more support behind the Fair Food Program, and that Publix, a company with nearly $30 billion in annual sales making it Florida’s largest corporation, can no longer stand aside while eleven other food companies, some much smaller than Publix, do their part to help.

The meeting ended with a renewed commitment to march, to leave work and family behind, for a 200-mile, two-week long trek to Publix headquarters in Lakeland, and to talk to tens of thousands of Floridians along the way, building the Fair Food Program as we have built it since our last march across the state in 2000 — step by step, consumer by consumer.

Will you be joining us?