Atlanta takes up the Fair Food banner!

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Tour crew arrives in Atlanta, visits Carter Center and King Center, joins with 100+ Atlantans to tell Publix “tomato workers deserve justice!”

Extreme wind and cold pose a challenge to nighttime candlelight vigil, but protesters persevere, sending powerful message of solidarity in heart of Publix’s expanding southeastern market…

Day 8 was a day full of travel, education, and action.  

Following a morning spent driving from Nashville to Atlanta, Wednesday afternoon’s tight schedule packed in visits to two national museums honoring Atlanta’s dual Nobel Laureates and ended with a vibrant — and soulful, thanks to another stellar performance by Atlanta’s incomparable Freedom Singers — action under a canopy of cherry blossoms at the Publix on Atlanta’s bustling Ponce De Leon Ave. 

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Upon arriving in the city, the tour crew headed straight to the Carter Center for a guided tour of the museum that chronicles the life and times of former President Jimmy Carter.  They were received there by Tom Crick (right), Associate Director of the Carter Center’s Conflict Resolution Program who, in his remarks upon greeting the group, touched on President Carter’s longstanding support of the CIW’s efforts to protect and advance farmworkers’ human rights.  He shared President Carter’s impressions of the CIW’s work, commending the CIW for the “dignity and integrity” that it consistently demonstrates in its efforts.  

He continued, providing a quick look at President Carter’s history, both his time in office and his work post-presidency, with a particular focus on his lifelong commitment to human rights.  In that context he discussed President Carter’s engagement with the CIW Campaign for Fair Food, which began in the mid-1990′s with his intervention in the 30-day hunger strike and has continued through the current day, with the former president playing a direct role in the the first two Fair Food agreements and following the campaign closely ever since.  

Needlesss to say, the tour crew was fascinated by still further insight (on the heels of the tour of Taco Bell boycott history in Louisville) into the early days of the CIW’s two decades of organizing history.

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Following that kind welcome, CIW members toured the museum, getting a closer look at everything from a burlap peanut sack from President Carter’s early days as a south Georgia farmer to the 2004 Noble Peace Prize medal.  They even got to peek in on an exact replica of the Oval Office from his days in the White House:

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Before leaving the Carter Center, the tour crew stopped to pose for a group picture with their host to memorialize the visit…

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… then headed straight over to the nearby Martin Luther King Jr. Center Center for Nonviolent Social Change for a visit to the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where they were given an overview of the church’s history and of its significance in the Civil Rights Movement by King Center personnel and by Atlanta City Council Member Kwanza Hall (below, standing), who graciously took time out of his busy day to speak to the group:

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Following the visit to Dr. King’s former church, the tour crew paid their respects to the fallen leader with a visit to his final resting place, across the street from the Ebenezer Baptist Church at the King Center itself…

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… and reflected on the significance of the eternal flame across the path from his gravesite:

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The back-to-back visits were deeply moving and provided ample material for discussion ahead of the evening’s action.  Atlanta is a city blessed with a rich history of struggle and a legacy of courageous leadership in the battle to expand the boundaries of human rights.  Yesterday, that precious legacy allowed today’s generation of leaders from Immokalee to refresh their own energy and spirit of struggle so that they could continue their own work, carrying the torch just a bit further down the road.  

Of course, the next step on that road led to Publix, the Publix on Ponce, to be exact, a store that we have visited before on a busy street in the heart of Atlanta’s Highlands neighborhood.  Last night’s action was a candlelight vigil, designed to be a peaceful witness to Publix’s indifference to generations of farmworker poverty and abuse and refusal to do its part to end the exploitation in its supply chain.  But the weather had a different idea…

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… as a bitter cold and brutal, gusting winds descended on Atlanta between the time of our arrival in the early afternoon and the action that evening.  The wind whipped our flags, the cold challenged the Freedom Singers’ vocal cords, and the energy of the storm turned the candlelight vigil into something of a protest-cum-survival test.  

But survive we did, and on hand last night to document that feat was Erik Voss, an Atlanta-based photographer and anti-slavery activist for over a decade who took some truly beautiful photos of all the action, like the one at the top of this post, and this one…

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… and this one…

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Check out the Facebook album he posted last night for even more here.  Finally, be sure to watch the vigil video below, featuring the ever-growing Atlanta Fair Food Movement with a special appearance from students of Emory’s Candler School of Theology, who are looking to bring their own pressure on Publix through the Jenkins family’s connection to Atlanta’s premiere university:

With the wind at our backs, we leave Atlanta and return to our home state of Florida for the final two stops of the Now is the Time Tour — first Jacksonville, and then on to Lakeland and the tour’s grand finale.  Check back later today for a media round-up from the first week of the tour and for all the latest news from the road!

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