Photo Report: “Cycling to Crenshaw” Bike Pilgrimage to Publix Immokalee to Lakeland, FL 8/27 – 9/6, 2011

“Cycling to Crenshaw”
Bike Pilgrimage to Publix
Immokalee to Lakeland, FL
8/27 – 9/6, 2011

Immokalee to Ft. Myers
Days 1 & 2

Participants on the tour gathered before dawn for some coffee and last-minute safety checks at the CIW’s headquarters…

… where, before heading out for Lakeland, they received a blessing for the road from Rev. Miguel Estrada of Mision Peniel, a longtime local ally (and deejay on CIW’s radio station in his spare time!).

The ride along State Road 82 — a road lined with orange groves and heavily traveled by fruit trucks carrying their 20-ton loads of tomatoes north to the rest of the country in season — provided a safe shoulder for breaks and space for a bit of diversion on the way to Ft. Myers…

… as well as a place to add a few necessary decorative touches to the accompanying vehicle.

The 31-mile ride ended with a sea of supporters awaiting the bikers’ arrival at a spot that just happened to be conveniently located outside a popular Publix in South Ft Myers. For the next couple of hours the bikers and their allies enjoyed a spirited picket outside the Ft. Myers Publix store.

In an interview last year, Mr. Crenshaw told the Tampa Bay Business Journal that the single most influential bit of advice imparted to him from his grandfather, Publix’s founder, was “Don’t let making a profit get in the way of doing the right thing”. The protesters reminded Mr. Crenshaw of his grandfather’s sage advice.

It was an impressive protest, fueled by the energy of the bikers themselves, whose enthusiasm was contagious among the diverse allies gathered that afternoon. Among the many congregations represented at the protest were a sizable groups from the neighboring Unitarian Universalist congregation of Ft Myers as well as Blessed Pope John Paul XXIII, who graciously served us a fantastic array of fruits, bagels, and juices following the action.

After a restful afternoon, including a dip in the pool of local pastor Allison Farnum — a much-needed soaking for some exhausted bodies — the bikers returned with their bikes to Brooks Park, where friends from the Islamic Center for Peace — Imam Mohammad Al-Darsani and his wife Paulette — brought us a spectacularly delicious homemade meal. They kindly kept us company as we devoured multiple platefuls. As Ramadan is underway, they would not themselves eat until sundown, when they would enjoy their Iftar meal.

That evening, our bike delegation swelled to thirty-strong, as friends from nearby joined us for a four-mile stretch of the 200-mile-long trek to Lakeland.

The age of participants varied from 5 to 76, and included members of Ft Myers’ fearsome bike polo team, cycling reinforcements from Immokalee, and Rabbi Bruce Diamond, who made good on his pledge the week previous in an outstanding op/ed to take part.

The ride culminated in an art exhibit at Cool Hand Luc’s, a fair-trade coffeehouse and ice cream shop, that featured original paintings, photographs, drawings and protest art reflecting on the CIW’s efforts to transform Florida’s tomato industry.

On Sunday morning, the bikers split up to visit three different Ft Myers churches, where they were invited to share with congregants about the purpose for their ride.

One team spoke at Ft Myers Christian Church, where Rev. Mark Condrey, who joined us on the picket line the morning before, preached on the theme of Poverty & Faith, telling his congregation that the Bible references poverty 2,000 times and accordingly is a subject that “deserves careful reflection” of its cause.

The scripture for the morning, Deuteronomy 24:14 reads “You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers,” a practice that Wilson explained has long flourished in Florida’s tomato industry during a presentation in the fellowship hall following the service.


Meanwhile, another team, including a representative of Interfaith Action, CIW’s partner organization that put together much of the logistics required for the Pilgrimage to Publix, headed to longtime Campaign for Fair Food stalwart, St. Columbkille Catholic Church.

That afternoon, after a carb-packed luncheon courtesy of some more old friends — the good people at All Faiths Unitarian Congregation — the Immokalee bike messengers headed due west, straight into head-on winds, toward Cape Coral, including an awe-inspiring trek across the formidable Cape Coral Bridge, which spans the Caloosahatchee River. After a 12-mile ride, the bikers arrived at Faith Presbyterian Church for food and fellowship, a meal that began in the same way all meals have begun on the road trip — a prayer for a safe journey for the bicyclists and for Mr. Crenshaw to soften his heart and to accept their invitation to Immokalee.