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Peace Jam Award

At the 2013 PeaceJam Southeast Slam, we presented River City Science Academy with our first ever Activism Award for their social justice work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

At the 2013 PeaceJam Southeast Slam, we presented River City Science Academy with our first ever Activism Award for their social justice work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

On Saturday October 19th, students in the Community Service Club at River City Science Academy (RCSA) here in Jacksonville received the Southeast Activism Award from the Peace Jam Foundation at Florida State University. The students received this award for their work on behalf of migrant farmworkers in the tomato fields of South Florida. They were the only school selected for this award in the whole of the Southeastern United States.

Florida farm workers, who pick tomatoes in industrial farms in the state, work for sub-poverty wages that have remained stagnant for the past thirty years. In this line of work, they have no right to overtime pay, no health insurance, no sick leave, no vacation or pension and no right to organize and improve their conditions. In addition, numerous cases of modern-day slavery have come forward in recent years and have highlighted the severity of the crisis. Furthermore, large tomato purchasers in the food industry have used their volume purchasing to demand cheaper tomatoes, holding down tomato prices and profiting from the poverty and exploitation of farm workers.

The students’ campaign to help end the human rights crisis involved a number of different outlets. Throughout this process, they partnered with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and the Student Farmworker Alliance to offer their assistance.

Over the last few years, students at RCSA have involved themselves with this issue by holding workshops with every student in their school to educate them about this issue. They led a letter writing campaign and sent over 600 letters to the CEO of Publix asking his company to participate in the CIW’s Fair Food Agreement. They painted a mural to give to farm workers as a representation of their support. Many students fasted for six days as an act of solidarity with farmers prior to the CIW’s “Fast for Fair Food” campaign. Some fasted all food, others fasted sweets or video games for those six days.

At the Peace Jam Southeast conference in 2012, students met with Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams, who spoke specifically to RCSA students to offer her support for their work and suggested that she would like to use the power that she possesses to help with this issue. After consulting with the CIW, RCSA students asked Ms. Williams to send a letter directly to Publix CEO Ed Crenshaw, encouraging his company to sign the Fair Food Agreement, which she did.

This year, students created a short documentary film that chronicles their involvement with the CIW organization and the state of affairs in the tomato industry in Florida, which includes their participation in a march for two days and over twenty miles en route to the Publix headquarters in Lakeland, Florida last Spring. Through the process, students interviewed a number of members of the Coalition. They spent hours with one particular individual who played a role in the development of the CIW decades ago in exposing one of the worse cases of modern day slavery, which happened to occur in the agricultural industry in Florida. Students also were able to bring CIW workers to speak to all the students at their school in Jacksonville. These workers also brought along with them a traveling Modern-Day Slavery Museum that many students at their school were able to tour.

The 20-minute documentary that these students created can be seen at the following link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hX95PZh0gd4&feature=youtu.be

The mission of the Peace Jam Foundation, which gave this award, is to create young leaders committed to positive change in themselves, their communities and the world through the inspiration of Nobel Peace Laureates who pass on the spirit, skills, and wisdom they embody. Every year, students from the Southeastern U.S. who have been actively involved in projects to better their communities come together in Tallahassee, Florida to share the work that they have been doing while they meet with a Nobel Peace Laureate. Students at RCSA have participated in Peace Jam for the last four years and have been able to meet and interact with Rigoberta Menchu, Shirin Ebadi, Jody Williams, and former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. This year they will be meeting Leymah Gbowee. Peace Jam itself has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize eight times.