Celebrating Patrick Kaufman: father, teacher, leader in the Fair Food Nation…

Patrick Kaufman, left foreground, with his son, Jeremiah, bottom right, are pictured with fellow fasters during the CIW’s Return to Human Rights Tour in March of 2017.  They joined 17 other members of the Columbus, Ohio, community and students from the University of Ohio in support of the Wendy’s Boycott with a week-long fast.  Patrick passed away a few days ago of Stage IV Melanoma, leaving behind his wife and three children.

Today, with incredibly heavy hearts, we mark the passing of Patrick Kaufman, a passionate, unwavering voice for justice and leader of the Fair Food Nation in Columbus, Ohio.  As the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, we can only do our best to embrace, support, and love those who are grieving Patrick with the same grace and tirelessness that Patrick embraced, supported, and loved farmworkers from Immokalee and their families as they struggled for a dignified life.

We ask all who are able to support the Kaufman family during this difficult time to visit the Kaufmans’ Go Fund Me page:  https://www.gofundme.com/kaufmans

A celebration of life is being held at the Methodist Theological School of Ohio (MTSO) in Delaware, Ohio this morning at 11 am.  In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Franklinton Farms or the Methodist Theological School in Ohio.

Even as we share in a moment that is inevitably, and sometimes unbearably, difficult, we must also lift up and celebrate the many gifts that Patrick gave us.  Patrick was a tremendous father and husband, and an irreplaceable member of his local community.  Since 2016, Patrick has been a central figure in the Ohio Fair Food community, opening his church to CIW members, encouraging his brilliant children – themselves budding human rights leaders – to join delegations to Wendy’s managers, educating fellow Methodist Theological School in Ohio students about the fight for Fair Food, and supporting the movement for human rights and farm labor justice in a thousand other moments too many to count. 

We want to share our gratitude, and help the beautiful life he lived while with us to continue to reverberate and inspire others even after he is gone, by sharing a few moments and words of inspiration that he left with our community of Immokalee.  The video below captures the final day of a weeklong fast in the Wendy’s Boycott undertaken by Patrick and his 13-year-old son, Jeremiah, as well as over 17 OSU students and other community members, during the Return to Human Rights Tour in the spring of 2017.  Patrick appears in the opening of the video and is featured again in the middle during a montage of speeches:

To launch the fast that ended with this massive parade, Patrick shared this beautiful prayer, opening the space for the young people and community members around him to turn their values into action:

“Holy Creator, we gather as your people to pray and worship together and express our thanks for your creation that sustains us and gives us life.  For the life we have and for the blessing of Earths beauty and bounty, we promise to become caretakers of the Earth and our sisters and brothers that journey with us.  We ask blessings for the Earth, the people and the hands that produce our food as we are mindful that the rights of workers are not always upheld by those they work for.  We ask forgiveness for the ways we perpetuate the oppression of those who allow us to eat.  Sometimes we have the privilege to make different choices and yet we do not, forgive us.  We remember and lift up to you, Oh Creator, those who do not have the means or privilege to make choices at all because food is food.  Be with us as we seek a food system that feeds and cares for all equally.  Give us strength for the journey as we seek justice for all those doing the work of fasting and fighting to bring light.  Give us strength for the journey as you lead us into solidarity and support of human rights for farmworkers and for all people.  Amen.”

Finally, we wanted to share the full audio of the deeply moving speech that Patrick gave as the fast came to a close.  His address to the gathered crowd, all of whom had just marched for three miles in the pouring rain, perfectly captures the indomitable spirit of the Fair Food Nation, how the roots of our work intertwine with other movements both local and global, and the force for justice and goodness that Patrick Kaufman was – and will always be, through the many lives he touched.