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April 11, 2024

  • Poetics of April
    As we enter into the poetics of April, also known as national poetry month, here are four voices from well to lesser known. The Tradition – Jericho Brown Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Brown visited the last American Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP 2024) conference, and I loved his speech and humor. Besides […]
  • Barbara Marie Minney in Perrysburg
    Indie bookstore, Gathering Volumes, just hosted poet and (transgender) activist, Barbara Marie Minney in Perrysburg To celebrate Trans Day of Visibility, Minney read from her poetry book – A Woman in Progress (2024). Her reading depicted emotional and physical transformations especially in the scene of womanhood and queer experiences. Her language is empowering and personally […]
Spring Housing Guide

Migrant worker ‘advocate’ speaks to packed house

There was a time when he didn’t know a name existed for things like racism or discrimination. A time when five or six other families rode down dirt roads in the flatbed of a truck, leaning against sideboards and hiding under flapping pieces of canvas.

Baldemar Velasquez, president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, shared his past, his heart, his goals and his soul to a packed house in Olscamp Hall last night. People had to line up against the walls and sit on the floor to hear Velasquez deliver his inspirations as he addressed issues on “Latino Immigrants: The New Civil Rights Movement in the United States.”

Born in Texas, Velasquez’s parents were migrant workers and he began working in fields when he was six picking berries and tomatoes. They weren’t allowed to eat in restaurants, even the greasy-side-of-the-road joints on the highway. Gas stations wouldn’t let them use the bathrooms. Signs said “No Mexicans. No Dogs.”

“Our pit stops were alongside the road in wooded areas, women one way, men another,” Velasquez said.

But it wasn’t the hardships or the poverty that made migrant life traumatic, Velasquez said.

“It’s the bad things that happen in your life that you can’t do anything about, the atrocities, the injustices, you can’t do anything about that,” he said. “That’s what bothers you, that’s what you think about when you wake up in the morning is what you’ve got to do. You have to overcome that.”

Facing the problems of farmers cheating Velasquez’s father out of money for their work, Velasquez took a foot ruler to the fields to figure out the area of the acres and the money they were promised for each acre they harvested.

“To watch my dad swallow his dignity, as a man,” he said. “When you grow up seeing your mom and your dad treated like that–you grow up an angry old man.”

These are the things that inspired Velasquez to educate himself, to do something for his family and for justice, he said.

“All the things that made me mad, we talk about the body, soul, spirit of America, well the soul is the emotions, the will, the intellect in this society–it is us,” he said. “That’s the battleground.”

It is the interaction, the interrelating and communication that is the key, Velasquez said.

It was the failure of this that lead a nationwide strike of Campbell’s in 1978 that brought a three-way pact in which growers agreed to give limited medical, holiday and a wage increase to more than 600 hundred workers on 28 farms.

He has helped negotiate agreements with Heinz U.S.A and its growers who signed a contract with FLOC covering about 700 workers, among many other accomplishments.

“We’ve got mountains to move because the obstacles are so big,” Velasquez said.

His job is working to make justice for everybody. He said it is the emotions, the drive of feelings to push for liberty and justice for everyone and trusting that solutions can be found with dialogue.

“We have to stand for these principles that America holds dear because let me tell you, when you make those things work for everybody it will be a greater America.”

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