One day after 50 year anniversary of MLK death, Fuerza del Valle to host film screening on FFP
Updated: Feb 20, 2019
On Thursday, April 5, at South Texas College in McAllen, Fuerza del Valle Workers Center (FDVWC), along with South Texas College Women’s Studies Committee and the Sociology Club, will be hosting a film screening about the Fair Food Program just one day after the 50 year anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s death in Memphis, Tennessee, and as part of National Farmworkers Awareness Week.
The Fair Food Program is a unique partnership among farmers, farmworkers, and retail food companies that ensures humane wages and working conditions for the workers who pick fruits and vegetables on participating farms. The original campaign, beginning in 2001 by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the program enforces an extra penny per pound for tomatoes bought by fast food chains and restaurants in order to support wage increases. There are over 20 participating growers and 14 participating buyers that have signed on since 2004.
The screening, which will be shown today in the Building D auditorium, from 6-9 p.m., documents “an intrepid group of Florida farmworkers’ battle to defeat the $4 trillion global supermarket industry through their ingenious Fair Food program, which partners with growers and retailers to improve working conditions for farm laborers in the United States.”
The program has been called a “visionary strategy…with potential to transform workplace environments across the global supply chain” by the MaCarthur Foundation and “an international benchmark” in the fight against modern day slavery by the United Nations. Beginning in Florida, the movement has spread up through Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey.
Recalling attention on their event page to the fact that Dr. King was in Memphis Tennessee, in solidarity with sanitary workers demanding union recognition, better safety conditions and a decent wage, where he was killed by a sniper’s bullet on a balcony outside his second-floor room at the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968, FDVWC honors the legacy of Dr. King’s life often forgotten most.
Much attention has been refocused in recent years on MLK’s radicalism by progressives and leftists, against the whitewashing of his views and positions, omitting his organizing for economic justice and against the Vietnam War. For instance, Dr. Cornel West’s 2016 work, entitled The Radical King, ponders this very important question: “The radical King was a democratic socialist who sided with poor and working people in the class struggle taking place in capitalist societies. . . . The response of the radical King to our catastrophic moment can be put in one word: revolution—a revolution in our priorities, a reevaluation of our values, a reinvigoration of our public life, and a fundamental transformation of our way of thinking and living that promotes a transfer of power from oligarchs and plutocrats to everyday people and ordinary citizens. . . . Could it be that we know so little of the radical King because such courage defies our market-driven world?”
That year, Dr. West participated in a round-table discussion hosted by Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders in Charleston, South Carolina, about the legacy of Dr. King, with fellow-panelists Killer Mike and Fmr. Ohio Senator Nina Turner. Beginning the discussion, West stated “anytime we are talking about Martin Luther King Jr., we recognize the degree to which he makes us shake and tremble. But the important thing is he is not an isolated icon…” setting the tone for the discussion, seconded by all the panel.
In August of 2017, Harper’s Magazine hosted a speech delivered by Senator Sanders at the Riverside Church in New York City, as Sanders launched his then-new book, Guide to Political Revolution. It was the Brooklyn native’s first time inside the church. He took the occasion, as such, to recall a “courageous and powerful speech” delivered by MLK Jr. 50 years ago at the time, regarding the Vietnam War; “It was, in fact, one of the important speeches in modern American history,” said Sanders.
On Tuesday, Democracy Now! hosted the Reverend James Lawson, who originally invited King to come to Memphis and support the Memphis sanitation workers strike. At the time, Lawson was the pastor of Centenary Methodist Church in Memphis. King called Rev. Lawson “the leading theorist and strategist of nonviolence in the world.” Reverend Lawson recalled the relationship between Dr. King’s faith and sense of justice in argument that ‘pastor’ is a more accurate term than ‘civil rights activist.’:
“We were pastors who insisted that the gospel of Jesus encompassed all humankind and that the other side of love was justice, so that you could not be a person of character and love if you did not want to see all sorts of people having equality of dignity, equality of work, equality of play...The work of economic justice, the work of social justice, the work of cultural justice, the work of the equality of all humankind is a part of my own mind—in my own mind and heart…”
Although one person’s ‘civil rights’ are another’s ‘faith’, nonetheless, perhaps it can be said that the legacy of Dr. King as a labor and anti-war activist, despite mainstream narratives that reduce him to the “I have a dream” King, has been preserved, but only by a long and determined struggle by the survivors, veterans and descendants of the Civil Rights Movement, like Lawson, Sanders, Turner, and the labor activists who respond in solidarity every day, who make sure that we never forget.
FDVWC has taken the side of RGV workers victim to unpaid wages. As a recent Nation headline read: Dr. King knew that labor rights are human rights. We should feel honor and pride on this anniversary to know that organizations like FDV monitor and defend workers rights in the RGV, while also accepting the responsibility ourselves of giving support and solidarity to those struggles. What can we do in our own lives, jobs and for labor and worker rights in our schools and cities in the RGV?
Food Chains premiered at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival and screened subsequently at the Tribeca Film Festival and Guadalajara Film Festival. Food Chains will be released nationwide November 21st. The film’s Executive Producers include Eva Longoria and Eric Schlosser.