“If they did it, shouldn’t everyone?…”

You’re More Powerful Than You Think by Eric Liu⎢Book Trailer from Citizen Film

CIW, Campaign for Fair Food celebrated in prologue of new book on democratic participation and organizing for social justice!

Success of workers in Immokalee proof that, “You’re more powerful than you think”…

Eric Liu, the author of a new book on how to make your voice heard in the decisions that affect your life, titled “You’re More Powerful Than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change Happen,” needed a story for his prologue that would capture his message that profound social change is possible no matter what your circumstances.  So he turned to Immokalee and the Campaign for Fair Food.

Here’s how he explained his decision to highlight the CIW’s fight to the Washington Post as he made the rounds publicizing his new book:

Eric Liu, author of “You’re More Powerful Than You Think,” during an interview with The Post’s Jonathan Capehart on the “Cape Up” podcast on April 18. (Jonathan Capehart/The Washington Post)

… As the founder of Citizen University and the executive director of the Aspen Institute Citizenship and American Identity Program, Liu is an expert in and advocate for the power of civic engagement.  To prove the power of minority will, he opens his book with the story of the tomato pickers of Immokalee, Fla. “For decades, those tomatoes were picked by the hands of migrant workers, who were often undocumented and basically subjected to a form of what you would think of as indentured servitude,” he said. So they organized. They went on strike for and eventually received better wages and working conditions.

“They didn’t have connections. They didn’t have clout. Many of them weren’t literate in English, much less literate in power, in power politics,” Liu explained. “I open the book with that story because, if they could do it, there’s really no good reason why you or I can’t do it.”

And here’s an extended excerpt from the prologue itself:

Picture a ripe, red tomato. Perhaps there’s one in your kitchen.  If it’s nearby, hold it.  Feel its heft.  Consider its origins.

There’s a fair chance it was picked in Florida, home to a $600 million tomato industry; and if so, a fair chance it was picked in Immokalee, in the sweltering southwest of the state, where much of the industry is concentrated…

… Immokalee isn’t a place most Americans have seen.  But most Americans have eaten the fruits of its harvest.  And because the picking of tomatoes can’t be mechanized, that harvest has always been by hand.  By the hands of migrant workers… who were abused physically and verbally and sexually, who were entrapped in debt peonage, paid by the bucket and not by the punishing hours in the field, yet whose meager wages were routinely stolen by their overseers…

These workers were the very definition of powerlessness.  They had no recourse.  No advocates.  No fluency in the language of their own domination. They were socially dead to the rest of the United States.

And yet, starting in 1993, they came alive…

He then goes on to recount the history of the CIW’s organizing efforts, from the early strikes and marches in Immokalee in the 1990s, through the launch of the Campaign for Fair Food in 2001, to the implementation of the Fair Food Program and its unprecedented success since 2011, and he concludes:

So if you sometimes wonder if you have enough clout to make change happen — how you could ever been seen or heard, or have your demands answered — then just think of them.  If people who started where they started could learn power and transform their lives together, can’t anyone?  If they did it, shouldn’t everyone?…

… Go back to that ripe, red tomato, whether in your mind’s eye or on your kitchen counter.  Appreciate the world of possibility within it.  And let it be a humble reminder to you: You’re more powerful than you think.

That’s all we can share of this exciting new book for now, so if you want to read more (and you definitely should), you’ll have to buy it yourself!  You can find it in bookstores or order it online here.

It was, of course, quite an honor to be highlighted in this context, and so we reached out on twitter to the author to express our gratitude.  His response was even more humbling:

So, check out the book the New York Times is calling “engaging and extremely timely” and start your own revolution — or, at the very least, start your own Fair Food Committee and bring the Wendy’s Boycott to your hometown — today!

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