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2007 Truth Tour :: Day 7

"Concert for Fair Food"
House of Blues, Chicago, IL

On Saturday, April 14th, CIW members got together with 2,000 of their closest friends from throughout Chicago and across the country for the "Concert for Fair Food."

Six years ago, a handful of farmworkers stood on the side of a street in Ft. Myers, Florida, to launch a campaign to hold the fast-food industry accountable for the exploitation of the workers who pick its tomatoes. On Saturday, some of those same workers stood on stage in Chicago, in a hall overflowing with allies and passion, to celebrate that campaign's new agreement with the largest restaurant chain in the world and to declare the future of what has become now a full-fledged social movement, a movement grounded in a vision of dignity and human rights that extends well beyond the tomato fields of Florida.

That's not to say that the day went off without a hitch... For three months, the CIW and its allies had planned what was to be the largest protest in the history of the fast-food industry to take to the streets of Chicago on April 14th. Months of presentations and preparations in Chicago, months of mobilization in communities across the country, and months of organizing in Immokalee, all aimed at building toward a protest in Chicago's Federal Plaza, suddenly were forced -- by a combination of the unanticipated agreement with McDonald's and Chicago's threatening weather -- to pivot and shift to an indoor celebration. The logistical challenge was enormous, and made for more than a few frayed nerves in the process, but thanks to the infinite understanding of our allies we were able to make it through the storm and...

... by the time the concert began the house was packed to capacity and ready to start a party that would, by day's end, fill those in attendance with renewed energy and commitment for the battle ahead.

The energy was provided by an incredible line-up of artists and speakers, and led by a trio of remarkable MC's, including Ken Brown of the United Church of Christ.

The Hot 8 Brass Brand traveled all the way from New Orleans to join us for the planned Carnaval in Chicago, but was right at home in the House of Blues.

Speakers ran the gamut from national leaders in the fight for worker justice, like AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, whose visit to Immokalee over a year ago with Ethel Kennedy helped cement an already strong bond of solidarity between the farmworkers in Florida and the country's largest labor federation,...

... to grassroots community leaders like Yvonne Strafford of LIFFT (Low Income Families Fighting Together) out of Miami, where the community is celebrating a victory of their own in the fight against gentrification and displacement.

The Student/Farmworker Alliance took the stage and described the evolution of a "target market" that has transformed itself from passive young consumers to active agents for change through the education and organizing work of the SFA and its thousands of members across the country.

Jose Oliva of Interfaith Worker Justice, a longtime organizational ally of the CIW and host of the 2007 Truth Tour, also lent his talents as MC to the Concert for Fair Food.

The line-up of top-quality, mostly underground music ranged from ska to hip hop, from local to international, from Chicago's JamOne...

... to Cuba's Las Krudas, an incredible trio of performers who now call Austin, Texas their home.

The MC team was rounded out by Carolina Gaete, whose work with the community group Solidarity Not Charity has helped build links between the youth of Chicago and the youth of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

As the program reached the three hour mark, it was time to hear from the workers whose vision gave birth to the movement for Fair Food. Domingo Jacinto (far left) -- one of the six CIW members who waged a 30-day hunger strike ten years ago in Immokalee to demand talks with Florida tomato growers -- and Mathieu Beaucicot (with mic) gave thanks in Kanjobal and Haitian Creole to the crowd for standing shoulder to shoulder with workers from Immokalee in their battle.

Gerardo Reyes spoke next of the work that lies ahead, both the work in the fields to which CIW members will return in the coming days to harvest the crops, and the work of "cultivating the seeds of consciousness that were planted here today" that all those gathered -- CIW members and their allies, alike -- must take up in their respective communities over the months and years to come.

The CIW wrapped up with a stirring speech by Lucas Benitez, a CIW member since its inception nearly 15 years ago, who connected the workers' struggle to the Civil Rights movement and to the shared vision of a promised land where fundamental human rights are universally guaranteed to to all. Lucas also made clear that the path to the promised land runs through Miami, home to Burger King. He challenged Burger King to meet the new standards established in the McDonald's agreement, or to face growing conflict to intensify by the year's end.

The crowd couldn't have agreed more.

The speech was electric, and sealed the commitment between the workers from Immokalee and the 2,000 activists gathered in Chicago on this day to take the fight for Fair Food to the next level. As Lucas concluded, "It is no longer a question of if we will win, it is now only a question of when."

The electricity sparked by Lucas' speech set the stage for the appearance of the day's headliners...

For many of those in attendance, an indispensable voice for economic justice and human rights -- indeed, quite possibly the most powerful voice of this generation -- was silenced seven years ago when the members of the seminal rock band Rage Against the Machine went their separate ways. A void was created with the band's dissolution that has never been filled since. Meanwhile, the need for that voice has only grown greater every day.

On April 14th, at the CIW's "Concert for Fair Food," that voice was heard once again...

... first in the form of The Nightwatchman, Tom Morello's solo venture developed over the last few years and fine-tuned at rallies, pickets, and coffeehouse open mics around the country. The Night Watchman played a few songs, including the uncensored version of Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land," for the pumped up crowd, as anticipation continued to build for a reunion that had been touted in the music media from SPIN Magazine to MTV in the days leading up to the concert.

And then, the moment so many had been waiting for during seven long, long years...

The reunion was done.

Here in this space, created by farmworkers from Immokalee, Zack de la Rocha and Tom Morello came together again to lend their music and inspiration to the workers' battle for a more just world.

The unforgettable moment was captured by hundreds of cameras around the hall and etched into the memories of everyone present.

(Note: If you'd like to share your pictures of the Concert for Fair Food, you can click here to upload them to our Flickr group for the 2007 Truth Tour.)

Zack began the set with a composition written on the way to Chicago, dedicated to the CIW's struggle and the recent victory.

Check back in the coming days for the lyrics from this song and electrifying video from the concert.

The acoustic set included three Rage songs ("Bulls on Parade," "People of the Sun," and an encore performance of "Down Rodeo," for those of you keeping track at home...) and left the crowd ready to take the fight for Fair Food to the streets, be it in Miami or at home in cities across the country.

And so the 2007 Truth Tour came to an end that could never possibly be imagined six years ago, when workers from Immokalee first stood on the side of that street in Florida to announce the birth of what would become the Campaign for Fair Food.

The Campaign is certainly not over, and neither is our coverage of the 2007 Truth Tour. Stay tuned to this site in the coming days for more exclusive audio and video from the Concert for Fair Food that rocked the House of Blues and shook the House of Fast-Food!

Click here for a complete photo archive
from Day 7!