Juneteenth is a holiday which celebrates 153 years of African American independence. Black Lives Matter Bellingham will put on the first ever Juneteenth celebration in Bellingham at Maritime Heritage Park on Saturday, June 16th from 4:00 - 8:00 pm. Read more about the Juneteenth celebration here. Below is an interview from Shovia Muchirawehondo, C2C's Legislative Liaison, on the connections between communities who struggle under an exploitative system.
I am so excited about Juneteenth. It is the celebration of African American independence which legally began in 1865. From C2C’s perspective, we celebrate this independence and also recognize the connections between the struggles that communities of color are facing. Because we all impact each other: we all have a stake in food justice and labor issues. African Americans have a history of working the land for little or no pay, we came out of that, and now you have the immigrant population stepping into it. So we have a situation of history repeating itself. Land owners don’t want to pay fair wages to farm workers and immigrant workers. C2C supports farm workers in their efforts to grow good food that is free from pesticides, and also to earn a fair wage. Corporate farms abuse their workers not just with low wages, but in all the ways that they treat their workers. You have mothers who are working the farms and being exposed to all kinds of pesticides, families not having the proper space to rest their heads for the next day. All of these things factor into African Americans’ past.
So you can see how our society in general has not grown. We have not learned from our past mistakes. We’re still imposing the same abuses, it’s just onto another group of people. And we do still have African Americans participating in farming and receiving low wages and unfair treatment. So these issues are important for anybody who cares about the earth and where their food comes from.
In terms of labor, the government is eroding workers’ rights in a lot of ways. The H2A program is an example of how our government sees workers as a resource instead of as human beings. You can also see cheap labor getting extracted from those incarcerated in private prisons. The government uses African Americans and Latinos in our jail system as justifiable slavery. Prisoners are exposed to some of the worst working conditions for maybe a few dollars a day. And it’s all justified. We can’t see them, they can’t see that we’re there for them. So this is a system that our corporate farms create and support. This also squeezes out small farms who are trying to do the right thing and pay fair wages. So, it doesn’t do any of us good. It is eliminating our ability to sustain a healthy world. The exploitation of workers ends in death. That’s what we’re fighting against.
C2C stands in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. We will be there on Saturday for the first ever Juneteenth celebration in Bellingham, to show support and to link together what our common fight is. Food justice is an issue that disproportionally affects communities of color. Mass produced GMO foods come into our neighborhoods and we don’t have the economic stability to fight back. Whereas in wealthy white neighborhoods, you can see that people are fighting against GMOs and pesticides where people can afford to stand up for themselves. We don’t have the economic stability to do that. That’s an issue that our black communities have in common with Latino and all low income communities. We are fighting against racism and poverty on all fronts, and you can especially see that when it comes to the food we put on our tables.