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The Big Conversation: “Milk in the Mohawk Valley: How Migrants Make the Difference”
September 18 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
The Big Conversation speaker series is dedicated to continuing “the big conversation” about peace and social and environmental justice here in a public space in Utica. It is dedicated to Utica peace and justice activist Sunithi Bajekal (1933-2014)
Immigrants are a vital, yet vulnerable part of the workforce driving New York state’s $14 billion dairy industry. Here in the Mohawk Valley, rural isolation renders the contributions of immigrants to our communities invisible. Moreover, the hostility of immigration law and policy threatens immigrant workers and their families with separation, detention, and deportation. This talk will focus on the challenges facing local immigrant dairy workers and how they are mobilizing to fight back. It will conclude with information about what people can do to support local immigrants. Donations will be collected to establish the Mohawk Valley Migrant Health Fund.
Kathy Smith will be reading an excerpt from her book, Otro Día, a fictional account drawing from her experiences as a teacher and advocate for the immigrant worker community in the Mohawk Valley. For the past thirteen years, she has worked for New York state’s Migrant Education Program.
Rebecca Fuentes and Crispin Hernandez will speak about a landmark case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and recently decided by the New York State Supreme Court that affirmed farmworkers’ right to organize and what is next in the battle to protect immigrant workers. Fuentes is a longtime activist and the lead organizer at the Worker’s Center of Central New York (WCCNY). Hernandez is a dairy worker organizing with WCCNY. He was also the lead plaintiff in the ACLU case.
Trinh Truong, an immigration organizer with the Mohawk Valley Latino Association, will be presenting on ways that individuals and groups can help immigrants through the provision of sanctuary. Truong has also worked for the Immigrant Bail Fund of Connecticut and is a former member of the local New York Civil Liberties Union board.