The March for Rights, Respect, and Fair Food is a Wrap...

Epic fifteen-day journey, huge final day lift Publix campaign to new level, inspire thousands of new leaders in fight for Fair Food!

The fifteen-day, 200-mile March for Rights, Respect, and Fair Food came to a loud, colorful, and jubilant end on Sunday, March 17th outside Publix corporate headquarters in Lakeland.

The final day began with a 6-mile march through the city of Lakeland and ended with a 2-hour long rally that had audience members swinging between tears one moment and riotous laughter the next, as marchers reflected on the significance of their monumental journey, musicians performed a diverse selection of songs on human rights from 50-year old civil rights standards to fresh new hip hop tracks, and the CIW theater troupe put on its most elaborate production to date (the picture below gives a taste of the theater action):

By any measure, the march was a huge success. The two-week trek provided an ideal vehicle for unprecedented face-to-face outreach. Forty-five different churches and community groups were involved in feeding and housing the marchers on the 200-mile route, all of whom were able to learn of the Fair Food Program from the workers' perspective first-hand. Moreover, marchers were fueled along the way by the near constant honking and thumbs up of thousands of drivers and onlookers, most of whom had likely never heard of the campaign before coming across the march on the road:

Media coverage of the march was widespread and uniformly positive, as well, and began to chip away at the misinformation about the penny-per-pound payments and non sequiturs that have made up the whole of Publix's response to the Fair Food Program to date. Finally pressed beyond her canned quotes and facile dodges in this article, Publix spokesperson Shannon Patten revealed the real reason the grocery giant continues to turn its back on the Fair Food Program and purchase tomatoes from the few remaining non-participating buyers -- a reason that effectively boils down to "we prefer business as usual over human rights." Here's an excerpt:

"... Patten did not directly dispute that this is how the payment method works, but instead said the company prefers other tomatoes provided by other growers that Publix has long-standing relationships with.

Those growers are part of the 10 percent of all Florida tomato growers who do not participate in the Fair Food Program..." read more

But perhaps the most important upshot of the march was the impact it had on the participants themselves, the energy and commitment it forged in those who marched, whether for an hour or for all fifteen days, which will last long into the future and power the ongoing battle for Fair Food for years to come. Hundreds of new Fair Food activists were formed on this march, inspired by the workers' sacrifices, but also by the unfailingly warm, friendly, joyous spirit of celebration -- as opposed to protest -- that characterized the two-week long action. Like the physical law of the conservation of energy -- according to which, energy, once created, is never destroyed but only changes form -- the social energy created in the March for Rights, Respect, and Fair Food will also never be destroyed, but will continue to manifest itself in an ever-growing demand for the full respect for human rights in our nation's food industry.

So, to give you a living, breathing sense of that energy, we close our final march wrap-up with a link to all the great videos and photo report narratives from our fifteen days on the road (including the final video with all the action from Day Fifteen). Take some time to re-live the march through the links below, to kindle that energy in your own spirit, and to fuel your own commitment to carrying the Campaign for Fair Food forward, both toward an agreement with Publix and toward a food industry founded on respect for farmworkers' human rights across the board, from Wendy's to Publix, from fast-food to supermarkets:

And, finally, you can find all the past daily wrap-ups right here: