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A Look at Labor

laborfestSLUG REPORT > Food activism prompts upcoming UC Santa Cruz conference

Food: it's a topic so interwoven into our everyday lives that it never seems to stray too far from our thoughts, and our concerns. Whether it's finding out what's right to eat or growing it in our own front and backyards, food, and specifically where it comes from and how it gets to us, is a trending topic.

Food issues will be the theme of a Feb. 3-4 UC Santa Cruz conference called “Labor Across the Food System.” The conference is sponsored by the Center for Labor Studies, is in collaboration with the UCSC Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS), the Food First Institute for Food and Development Policy in Oakland, and was organized by the UCSC Institute for Humanities Research. Organizers expect the attendance of academics, activists, and journalists from throughout the nation to discuss labor and social justice and their role within the modern global food system.

“It's been a couple years in the making,” says conference chair Mary Beth Pudup, a UCSC community studies professor, who conceived of having the conference. “It sort of arose from discussion among faculty and students, too ... about all the food activism and interest in food-related research that has emerged over the last decade. With so much interest in food and where it comes from, no one really asks 'Well how does it get there?' How did your food get from the farm to your fork, or from farm to your table?”

The conference begins Friday, Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. at the Humanities Lecture Hall with a keynote speech by Frank Bardacke, a resident of Watsonville who cut lettuce and celery in the fields for six years in the early 1970s, and taught English as a second language for 25 years. Bardacke has also written two books, “Good Liberals and Great Blue Herons: Land, Labor and Politics in the Pajaro Valley” and the more recently published “Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers” (Verso Books, 2011).

“So often local institutions overlook the talent in their own backyard, and so inviting Frank just seemed like a natural fit,” says Pudup. “His book has just come out and has been gathering praise, and also having someone locally from the community who is also a scholar was a great opportunity to involve the community and not just have a [strictly] UCSC event.”

The conference continues on Saturday, Feb. 4 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., also at the Humanities Lecture Hall, with opening remarks by conference chair Pudup, UCSC associate professor of sociology and director of the Center for Labor Studies Steve McKay, and UCSC professor of community studies Judy Guffman, who's recent book,  “Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism” (University of California, 2011), is tackling many of the assumptions made about the so-called “obesity epidemic” and calls for more attention to injustices within food production.

Four panel discussions will follow, each addressing a major sector of the food systems: farm labor, food processing, shipping and retail, and food service and restaurants.   

“I think it's a perfect fit for UCSC given our historic and good work that the campus does,” said Pudup. “And having Frank Bardacke as a keynote speak is a important recognition of the talent within the local community. I hope there are more events like this in the future … maybe this will be the start of it.”

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Heart Me Up

In defense of Valentine’s Day

 

“be(ing) of love (a little) more careful”—e.e. cummings

Wednesday (Feb. 10) is Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. Friday (Feb. 12) is Lincoln’s 207th birthday. Sunday is Valentine’s Day. On Ash Wednesday, with foreheads marked with a cross of ashes, we hear the words, “From dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.” Reminding us that our bodies, made of matter, will remain here on Earth when we are called back. It is our Soul that will take us home again. Lent offers us 40 days and nights of purification in preparation for the Resurrection (Easter) festival (an initiation) and for the Three Spring Festivals (at the time of the full moon)—Aries, Taurus, Gemini. The New Group of World Servers have been preparing since Winter Solstice. The number 40 is significant. The Christ (Pisces World Teacher) was in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights prior to His three-year ministry. The purpose of this desert exile was to prepare his Archangel (light) body to withstand the pressures of the Earth plane (form and matter). We, too, in our intentional purifications and prayers during the 40 days of Lent, prepare ourselves (physical body, emotions, lower mind) to receive and be able to withstand the irradiation of will, love/wisdom and light streaming into the Earth at spring equinox, Easter, and the Three Spiritual Festivals. What is Lent? The Anglo-Saxon word, lencten, comes from an ancient spring festival, agricultural rites marking the transition between winter and summer. The seasons reflect changes in nature (physical world) and humanity responds with social festivals of gratitude and of renewal. There is a purification process, prayerfulness in nature and in humanity in preparation for a great flow of spiritual energies during springtime. Valentine’s Day: Aquarius Sun, Taurus moon. Let us offer gifts of comfort, ease, harmony, beauty and satisfaction. Things chocolate and golden. Venus and Taurus things.

 

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