Friday, October 15, 2010

Truck where tomato pickers were chained tells slavery story; traveling museum opens exhibits in Nashville this weekend

Update: The museum's arrival in Nashville has been delayed due to mechanical issues.  Tuesday is the earliest it will arrive.  More details at the Tennessean.

A variety of Nashville groups have brought the Modern-Day Slavery Museum to Nashville this weekend, starting with a showing at Second Presbyterian Church today and moving to other sites Saturday and Sunday. The museum offers an interactive accounting of current cases of U.S. slavery in this decade, using a replica of a truck where tomato pickers where chained up at night.

Nashville has at least twice been the site of modern-day slavery arrests. In 2005, the Jersey Journal and the AP reported on a woman found here who was alleged to be part of a ring that held 13 adult women and 6 juvenile women captive, all from Honduras. In 2008, WTVF reported on two men charged with holding a 22-year-old Mexico City woman captive for sexual servitude.

Here is the press release about the Nashville showings of the traveling slavery musem:
On October 17, the Florida Modern-Day Slavery Museum rolls into Nashville to spend three days teaching residents the hidden stories behind our discount produce. The mobile museum's itinerary includes:

Second Presbyterian Church
3511 Belmont Blvd, Nashville
WHEN: Noon-7pm, Sunday, October 17

Vanderbilt University
Alumni Lawn
WHEN: 9am-4pm, Monday, October 18

Rio de Dios Church
12966 Old Hickory Blvd. Antioch, TN
WHEN: 9am-1pm, Tuesday, October 19

Nashville City Hall
1 Public Square
WHEN: 4pm-8pm, Tuesday, October 19

The free museum operates out of a replica of a cargo truck where Florida tomato pickers were nightly chained, in circumstances which a 2008 grand jury described as “slavery, plain and simple.” The Museum's exhibits, developed in consultation with workers who have escaped from forced labor operations as well as leading academic authorities on slavery and labor history, focus on the roots of modern-day slavery, the reasons it persists, and solutions.

The stop in Nashville is part of a wider tour of the Southeast. Katy Savage, a co-founder of Nashville Food Sovereignty, which is coordinating the Museum's visit, says: "The Museum's mobility means that the stories of farmworkers can begin to spread as widely as the produce they harvest.”

The Museum is part of an educational campaign created by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers,, a group of migrant farmworkers who help investigate and prosecute slavery cases in Florida's fields, and also work for improved conditions for agricultural laborers. Under the slogan that "Consciousness + Commitment = Change," the CIW has achieved unprecedented concessions from the corporate food industry, with giants like McDonalds and Taco Bell signing agreements with them to monitor conditions in the fields they buy from and pay workers directly a penny for each pound of tomatoes. Their current campaign targets Publix Super Markets, which until now has refused to come to an agreement with CIW members.

Tristan Call, founder of Vanderbilt Campaign for Fair Food, which is bringing the Museum to campus, says: “The Nashville Civil Rights movement was famous for bringing justice to the lunch counter. Now its time to bring justice to the entire food system.”

Nashville's Civil Rights heritage will be remembered in a resolution presented to City Council on October 19th which welcomes the museum to Nashville and condemns modern slavery of any form. The Museum hits Nashville just months after a local scandal in which H-2B guestworkers were allegedly held in forced labor conditions.

Carlos Santiago, a local worker and organizer with the Nashville-based Workers' Dignity Project, supports the work of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. “Workers need to face this crisis together," he says. "If we do, we can improve the situation of workers who are abused on the job, whether farmworkers in the fields or workers here who have their wages stolen by bosses. Anything we can do to support the CIW, we will stand in solidarity with them.”

Nashville Food Sovereignty is a coalition working to identify and eliminate the root causes of injustices that lead to hunger and poverty in the world, and move toward democratically-produced food systems at home and globally. The Vanderbilt Campaign for Fair Food is a student-led organization aiming to partner with administrators to shift institutional food sourcing towards fair, local, and organic options. The Workers' Dignity Project is a volunteer-run project which educates low-wage workers about their labor rights and provides support for direct action against wage theft.

1 comment:

  1. The dates are wrong. It says Friday the 17th, today is the 15th. If today is not Friday, I will be really upset. ;) castillo615


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