Effects of fast, cold front, set in on Day 2 of the Freedom Fast…

The growing crew of fasters — now well over 80 at the fast site itself, not to mention those joining in support for the full five days remotely — settled in on Day 2 as the physical effects of the fast, and the increasing cold ahead of still tougher weather tomorrow, made themselves felt.

… But fasters’ spirits stay strong, with a little help from their friends (and a lot from their kids!).

As anyone who has fasted will tell you, the first days are the hardest, as the body adjusts from its regular routine and changes its physiology to compensate for the lack of new food — new energy — entering the system.  And as fortune would have it for the Freedom Fasters, just as Day 2 brought its new physical challenges, mother nature decided to test their collective commitment still further with cloudy skies and falling temperatures ahead of what looks like some snowy, and quite possibly nasty, wet weather for Day 3.  

But the fasters made it through the day with flying colors, their spirits strong thanks to an agenda full of visitors, music, reflection, and, of course, action.  And where the fasters might have started to flag, their children — nearly thirty beautiful young people from Immokalee accompanying their parents in this struggle for dignity and respect — were there to pick them up and add their own contribution to the story of the day.

And speaking of those beautiful children, we begin again with a short video from Day 2, followed by a photo report.  Click on the arrow to check out the video:

And your photo report from Day 2 follows below:

On Day 2, the fasters rose before dawn to ready themselves and gather their materials for an 8:00 am start at the fast site.  Once there, they quickly spilled out from the buses and, with a remarkable unspoken efficiency, unloaded their protest art and support equipment and deployed the fast site once again, making their message loud and clear…

… for the thousands of New Yorkers heading to work that day along Park Avenue. 

For those men and women — executives, lawyers, investors, accountants, consultants, and so many more — who ply their respective trades at the apex of the nation’s many markets in countless gleaming offices towering above that famous street, it was an unexpected introduction to the men and women who toil every day in the fields at the bottom of the country’s food market… and a moment for reflection, however brief, on the inherent injustice at the heart of the business model that has sustained the country’s vibrant, trillion-dollar food system for generations.

But for the fasters, Day 2 also posed new challenges well beyond that of communicating their message to the people of New York’s Park Avenue.  The reality of the fast had set in, as had the cold front that presaged the roughest weather predicted for the five-day protest.   

Those new difficulties could be read on the faces of even some of the most experienced among the Immokalee crew as the day got underway in the cold shadows of the street…

… but as is their wont, the fasters found strength in each other, and in the steady outpouring of support for their protest that continued throughout Day 2.

First up on the day’s agenda was a blessing from a contingent of rabbis with the CIW’s longtime and steadfast ally, T’ruah, The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.  With their rabbis was Ruth Messinger, former President of American Jewish World Service, and a onetime candidate for Mayor of New York City.  Her words of prayer provided an inspiring start to the day, so we share an excerpt here:

“We gather here this morning, many of us having begun a fast, to dedicate and rededicate ourselves to a critical struggle for freedom — freedom of farmworkers from harassment, freedom of farmworkers to earn a living wage. 

And we start our day, Day 2 of this effort, with a prayer…

All of us – from many faiths and no faiths – pray that the world will improve that justice will come to the farmworkers and the many others in this country and across the globe who are oppressed, who are harassed, who are able to speak for themselves but need their voices amplified to ensure that they are heard and acted on.

All of us pray for those fasting; and we pray for those here in support of the fasters; and we pray for those thousands of workers whose needs are represented here so clearly; and we pray, as well, for those who have the power to make a difference for those workers but are not yet acting to protect their human and civil rights.

Nelson Peltz, that includes you; you are in our prayers.”

And as as Day 2 continued, new fasters began to arrive, adding to growing crowd and lifting the action’s already impressive numbers well above 80 at the fast site — and nearing 100 in total, including those fasting in solidarity at a distance!

One thing that will never fail the CIW in times of need is its deeply-rooted tradition of popular education, and Day 2’s long hours of bitter cold were no match for the Immokalee crew and its tools for reflection.  Some of the conversation was led by the CIW’s team of experienced animators, who used drawings to spark discussion on the history of the Fair Food Program and the meaning of the equation ‚— “Consciousness + Commitment = Change” — that has powered the CIW’s two-decade long journey toward the comprehensive transformation of Florida’s agricultural labor system…

…  and prompted a conversation that turned the sidewalk and street in front of Trian Partner’s Park Avenue office into an impromptu Wednesday night meeting at the CIW center into Immokalee.

Meanwhile, still more reflection broke out when over twenty workers from Workers United, women employed in New York’s troubled nail salon industry, visited the site and brought with them a powerful, fighting spirit of solidarity.

Together with the members of Workers United — and the able assistance of one-time Immokalee resident and coordinator of the Student/Farmworker Alliance, Claudia Saenz (above, center, with the mic), who organizes with Workers United today — fasters from the CIW and their allies rolled out a time-tested staple of CIW popular education, the yarn web.

In this particular reflection, participantes take turns throwing a ball of yarn across the circle to fellow participants, with each new recipient forming a new nexus of a growing web and sharing his or her thoughts on the subject at hand…

… which on this day was the underlying forces driving the poverty and abuse of all low-wage workers, and the power that comes from being united across our struggles.  The topic resonated deeply with Alejandra Valles (center, speaking), of SEIU United Service Workers West, and two of that union’s leaders, Veronica Lagunas and Dora Diaz (pictured here on either side of Alejandra), who traveled all the way from California to join the Freedom Fast after themselves fasting last year for a law (AB1978) to protect women janitors in California from sexual harassment and assault on the job — and winning!  You can read about their inspiring movement here.

The coming together at the Freedom Fast of the women of the #YaBasta movement to end the rape of women janitors in California, and the members of the CIW, who fought and won to end sexual assault in the fields through the Campaign for Fair Food and the Fair Food Program, is not only a formidable example of exactly the kind of unity that the yarn web reflection is designed to engender, but it is, without doubt, an alliance that will continue long after our five-day fast together is over.  The Fair Food Program’s worker-to-worker education model has inspired the women of the YaBasta movement to form their own “promotoras” program, and we have already begun the process of sharing the lessons of worker education and enforcement that have made the Fair Food Program such a success in the fields with our compañeras from California.  The struggle to end sexual assault at work is being — and will continue to be — led by the very women who face abusive conditions every day on the job, and by their male co-workers who themselves are tired of working in an environment where the dynamics of power between workers and their employers are so out of balance that crimes like rape and forced labor are possible in the 21st century.  

Back at the fast site… the afternoon of Day 2 was rung in with music, provided by another California resident (and longtime CIW troubadour) Pedro Lopez (right) and Lu Aya of the Peace Poets…

… whose songs got the fasters (at least those who could stand up) on their feet and singing along.

Then, as the fasters’ stay at the site outside Wendy’s board chairman Nelson Peltz’s office came to and end, it closed first with words of support from allies from around the country, including Julie Taylor, Executive Director of the National Farm Worker Ministry (above, left), whose words warmed the fasters’ hearts and got them on their feet one more time…

… to turn their signs toward the building and address Mr. Peltz directly…

… letting him, and the company over which he wields so much control, know that, no matter how tired and cold they may get, their hunger for justice and freedom from sexual violence in the fields will never be satisfied until Wendy’s does it part to protect farmworker women and joins the Fair Food Program. 

But the story of Day 2 would not be complete without sharing the news of the day from the CIW’s ever-growing youth contingent.  First, while their parents worked against fatigue and the weather to get their message out on the streets of New York, the kids hopped on a boat and visited a monument to another era’s “tired, poor, huddled masses”, Lady Liberty!

Later, some of the children grabbed paper and markers and made their own drawings for reflection on the Freedom Fast’s cause.  In this one, one of the young girls drew herself leading a protest before a startled Wendy…

… which was, as it turns out, perfect preparation for the final event on Day 2’s agenda, a Wendy’s protest not far from the fast site.

And as you may have already seen in the video at the top of this post, in this particular case, the children did in fact lead them.  Sensing, perhaps, their parents’ fatigue, the CIW’s remarkable young people picked up the protest signs and carried the action on their own tiny shoulders this time!

And that job included, on this night, leading the delegation to deliver the manager letter inside the restaurant and returning to confidently deliver a report to the fasters and allies gathered outside.  Their report — a few moments of which you can watch them deliver in the video at the top of the post — is the perfect last word to a cold, tough, but thoroughly inspiring Day 2 of the Freedom Fast.

That’s all for now from New York.  Be sure to check back tomorrow for the Day 3 report!