Iconic Time Magazine Special Issue on legacy of Civil Rights Movement features CIW, Fair Food Program!…

CIW’s Fair Food Movement featured among “People and Groups Fighting for a More Equal America” in sweeping Time Magazine special issue out this week including essays and interviews with Rep. John Lewis, Bryan Stevenson, Annette Gordon-Reed, Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade, and Rev. William J. Barber…

In a deeply moving special issue on newsstands this week — an issue that should be required reading in classrooms and government offices across the nation — Time Magazine takes a look back at the fight for social and economic equality in this country that reached its zenith during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.  And through the prism of that historic movement, against the measure of its hard-fought victories and unachieved dreams, the issue turns its gaze to the many, still-evolving battles for social justice that are the Civil Rights Movement’s legacy today, from criminal justice reform to the ongoing struggle to protect and expand the right of every American to vote.  

Portrait for TIME by Hank Willis Thomas and Digital Domain.

What emerges from Time’s unique project is a remarkable portrait of a more diverse, but still vastly unequal, America in the 21st century.  It reveals a country riven by deep divisions, yet at the same alive with a resilient spirit of hope, embodied in the efforts of a multitude of communities and individuals determined to make real “the ideal of equality on which the nation was founded.”  

And featured prominently among that multitude is the movement of which we all are a part — the fight for Fair Food.  The inclusion of the CIW’s Fair Food Program in the feature article “People and Groups Fighting for a More Equal America” is both deeply humbling and invigorating, but most of all it is timely, coming as it does on the eve of next month’s massive mobilization in New York.  For three days next month, some of this country’s poorest, least powerful workers will leave the fields of rural Florida to march in the streets of lower Manhattan — in the heart of the financial capital of the world — calling on some of this country’s richest, most powerful people to join them in making this world just a little more equal.  Theirs is a humble, yet profound, demand.

The roots of the Fair Food Movement run deep, through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s, as the Time article rightly asserts.  But they don’t stop there.  Its roots run deeper still, through the decades of daily struggle by unknown millions for dignity and survival against the nightmare of Jim Crow, through the aborted advances of Reconstruction, through the valiant battles of the Abolitionists, down to the very promise that “all men are created equal… endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”  

That same promise of universal human rights that animated Dr. King sixty years ago animates those who will be marching next month in New York.  And Time Magazine’s special edition, Equality Now, is a timely reminder of that timeless struggle.

In announcing the release of the special issue, Edward Felsenthal of Time wrote, “Our hope is that it will not only change the way we see history, but also help awaken in all of us an understanding of the power of our own voice to have a positive impact on the world.”   Join us in New York next month and feel the power of your voice in the growing chorus calling for long-overdue farm labor justice.

Dr. King: “Miles of progress left to be covered”… 

In announcing the release of the special issue, the editors of Time wrote:

As soon as Martin Luther King Jr. stepped off the podium in front of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963, it was clear the speech he’d just given would resonate far beyond the hundreds of thousands of people gathered to hear it. The words of his “I Have a Dream” speech have since been woven into the fabric of America….

… America has made strides since the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in approaching the ideal of equality on which the nation was founded, thanks to the work and resilience of countless individuals. No longer is race a barrier to entry at a lunch counter; no longer can restrictive covenants legally declare that only some kinds of people can buy some kinds of houses; no longer do literacy tests block the ballot box and angry mobs block the schoolhouse door. But look closer at today’s realities in each of those arenas of American life, as this special project does, and it is clear that the dream of equality remains just that—and that the fight continues.

The most recently available Census statistics show that income inequality in America, as of 2018, is at its most extreme point in half a century. Access to a quality education remains heavily shaped by ZIP code, while access to a safe place to live remains heavily determined by wealth. Change is still undermined by the difficulty of voting. Even the water that comes out of America’s taps is unequal. This project aims to shine a light on those problems, and on those who are working to fix them.

“For every tortuous inch gained,” TIME declared when Martin Luther King Jr. was named Person of the Year for 1963, “there are miles of progress left to be covered.” That statement is no less true today.

It is in the wide-ranging, in-depth discussion that followed of the “miles of progress left to be covered,” and about those fighting to cover those miles, that Time turned to the CIW and the Fair Food Program. Here is the except on the CIW, in full, from the article titled, “These 16 People and Groups Are Fighting for a More Equal America” :

   Justice for farmworkers

A Fair Food Program auditor, right, conducts an interview with workers on a participating farm in Florida

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) began in the 1990s as a collection of Florida-based farmworkers organizing to fight long-standing labor abuses. Lucas Benitez, 44, one of the co-founders, tells TIME via translator that the CIW’s main goal is to correct the imbalance of power between the food industry and its workers that “allowed for the abuses that we were facing.”

In 2011, the CIW launched the Fair Food Program (FFP), an agreement between the CIW, farms and retail food companies that pledge to purchase produce only from growers who agree to a code of conduct with enforceable consequences, ensuring the civil rights of farmworkers are protected. Megabrands such as McDonald’s and Walmart are among the participating buyers, and the group is targeting holdouts: on March 10–12, the CIW will lead a series of marches through New York City to put pressure on Wendy’s to join.“We realized that if we were going to actually address the poverty and the abuses on the farm,” says Greg Asbed, 56, another co-founder, “we’d have to look beyond the farm for the answer.” —Madeleine Carlisle

To be included in such company as those featured in the Time Magazine list is simultaneously an honor and a challenge (be sure to check out the list in its entirety here).  Next month in New York City, farmworkers and their families from Immokalee will rise to that challenge once again.  But they cannot do it alone.  Your voice, your presence will determine exactly how far this 21st century movement for fundamental human rights gets, how many more “torturous inches” we gain on the road traveled by Dr. King, and so many uncounted millions more traveled before us.  We hope to see you there.