Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Immokalee Documentary.. in Tampa

By Nora Zaki... High School student in Tampa

When you eat a piece of fruit or some type of vegetable, do you think twice about where this sweet, scrumptious and healthful treat came from? Yes, it did come from God. But, what about the workers who grew and cultivated them? Perhaps one should think every time they choose to eat fruits or vegetables because they may very well be consuming products in which forced agricultural labor was employed so people such as ourselves could conveniently go to grocery stores and purchase them.
This forced agricultural labor isn’t in another far away country where we cannot understand the language of its people. Rather, this modern day slavery, as the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) has dubbed it, has taken place for nearly 12 years. And, this forced farm labor has happened in a city called Immokalee, a few hours southwest of Tampa, FL.
There have been state court cases revealing the barbarity faced by these farmers. Mostly of Hispanic descent, these men and women have endured work weeks of 10-12 hours per day, six days a week, for $20 per week, to quote some of the court case U.S. vs. Flores. But, it’s not so much the actual conditions that are deplorable but the coercion of having to remain, therefore being deprived of freedom. Several of the court cases, which are summarized by CIW, also note the following of those workers to try to escape their plight: pistol-whipped, assaulted, run down with a vehicle; enslaved by crack cocaine; receiving threats and violence; and repeated attempts by enslavers of holding these workers at gunpoint. These are just a sampling of the unfortunate abuse dumped upon the people of Immokalee who work under fear and subjugation to provide an abundance of produce for the consumers.
This can be changed, and speaking out is essential. The court cases were undertaken because of individuals who held high values of morality, respect, equality, and fairness towards other brethren, regardless if those who spoke out were of different heritages and religions as the agricultural laborers of Immokalee. Join the Muslim American Society, Project Downtown and PIEDAD on Wednesday May 20 at USF to learn more about the plight of the workers through a documentary, but to also take away hope. Yes, people may have the power to enslave other people. But, there are those who also have the power to fight back. Justice will prevail in the end. Educate yourself and learn about these workers who provide for us the fruits and vegetables that we enjoy so often.