Albert Einstein once said, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” After attending the Miami Convening as a Student Facilitator, those words couldn’t be any truer for me. Miami was such a wonderful experience because I had the chance to lead a table of aspiring activists to become the change they wanted to see. It’s very easy to say “I want to do this” or “I want to do that” but what is truly hard is keeping that motivation alive and encouraging these students to go back home and bring their passion to life.
From the moment I walked into the Convening, I saw students from all over Florida that were ready to create campaigns and become the activists they were aspiring to be. As a Student Facilitator, I was assigned to work on the Wendy’s and Publix Campaign currently being handled by the Coalition of Immokalee workers. The CIW is a worker-based Human Rights Organization recognized for achievements in the fields of social responsibility, human trafficking and gender-based violence at work.
Prior to this assignment, my knowledge and experience in labor trafficking was extremely limited so it was a bit shocking to find out Publix, a supermarket that I shopped at daily was not part of the Fair Food Program. The alliance for Fair Food is a national network of individuals working in partnership with the coalition of Immokalee Workers for farm-worker-justice.
What I found most helpful in understanding the issue was having the opportunity to hear Regina Bernadin speak about her experience in working at the International Rescue Committee. Ronny Marty who is not only a Survivor Leader, but a Member of United States Advisory Counsel on Human Trafficking, also spoke of his experience. The story Mr. Marty shared has stayed with me till this day and I still find myself sharing his story with anyone I come across that is not aware of what Labor Trafficking is. It was beyond heart-breaking to read countless stories of innocent people who had one thing in common: they all longed to break free from a life that never allowed them to progress. They were yearning for better possibilities for not only themselves but for their families and in the end, they were exploited and had their basic Human Rights stolen from them. Within a blink of an eye, their lives were severely altered and forever changed.
After listening to the guest speakers and taking part in a few exercises, my job as a leader began. I remember the countless ideas running through my head and how sweaty my palms were as the six of us pulled in our chairs and sat down for introductions. Unlike the teach-in I attended this past summer in Atlanta where I was the Student, in Miami I was more than that. I had to take what I learned and the experience I had gained to become this teacher that could bring out the greatness each student had within himself or herself. I wanted each of them to be as imaginative and innovative as possible and not be afraid to “Jump in and Swim.”
I wanted each student at the table to know that in order for a campaign to stay alive we all need to be leaders; we all need to think outside the box and learn how to raise awareness in every way possible. The ideas started pouring in after we discussed two of the five Shifts of Change, a Shift in Behavior and a Shift in Awareness, and how we planned to bring each of them onto our campuses and personal lives. One of my favorite ideas my group created consisted of students from Florida Atlantic University who planned to reach out to the company that hired a Wendy’s Restaurant on the FAU Campus and notify them of CIW and why a Boycott is desperately needed. As we continued on with our group work, I noticed that each student played important role in his or her communities and respective Universities.
It’s fascinating to see people from different backgrounds, with different personalities, and even different college majors, come together to work towards one common goal. Being an activist to me means joining forces with the next person and forming a bond that cannot be broken. It’s building a very secure foundation and learning to grow and surpass every boundary or obstacle that crosses our path. The Miami Convening gave me a chance to be the teacher that I so longed to be. Dr. Bahiyyah Maroon said “Each one teach one,” and I truly hope after Miami, every single one of us taught another person and began that chain reaction that our World truly needs.