Bárbara Ramos in a mangrove near the Quilombo Graciosa. Photograph by Rodrigo Oliveira for Hammer & Hope.
On August 17, Maria Bernadete Pacífico, a prominent national leader of quilombos (maroon communities) in Brazil was assassinated at home by gunmen after years of death threats, and six years after her son Fábio Gabriel Pacífico was murdered. Many quilombola leaders believe that local landowners and loggers were behind her killing. As a 72-year-old yalorixá (spiritual leader), she was a major voice in the struggle for state recognition of community land ownership. Pacífico’s assassination illustrates the dangers Indigenous groups and descendants of enslaved people face in Brazil; at least 30 quilombola leaders have been assassinated in the past decade there. In the face of such violence, solidarity across borders is vital.
A good example of that took place on Earth Day in April 2012, when hundreds of Bay Area activists and community members broke the locks on a gate surrounding a patch of land in Albany, Calif., pitched tents, and started planting seeds. The occupation took place the same month the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) of Brazil organized Red April, an annual series of land occupations to remember the 22 MST members assassinated by military police in the massacre of Eldorado dos Carajás in northern Brazil in 1996.
But the Occupy the Farm movement was not just a symbolic gesture of solidarity; it considered itself to be an active part of Red April, bringing the practical experience of the Brazilian organization onto American soil. Those Bay Area activists developed agroecological urban farming and food sovereignty projects while resisting attempts by the University of California, Berkeley, to privatize that land, which it had owned for decades. In 2013, the community and the university signed an agreement to create a community farm on a parcel of the land; anyone can harvest food there so long as he or she helps with weeding, planting, or watering.
Efforts to retake the land and rebuild our communities require us to internationalize class and racial struggles, since capitalism and agrobusiness have intensified exploitation and land grabs across borders. That’s why, in July 2023, Hammer & Hope hosted a roundtable discussion with five workers from two Brazilian and two American organizations that struggle for land reform and alternative food systems. Echoing the Occupy the Farm movement, this magazine wants to share successful strategies and initiatives across the hemispheres while building solidarity with rural social movements. In contrast to the rivalry promoted by nation-state capitalism and U.S. imperialism in the Americas, we join forces with grassroots movements reconquering their lands and building alternative food systems.
Bárbara: I am a fisherwoman, quilombola, and educator. I live in the community of Graciosa, located in the city of Taperoá, in the southern region of Bahia state. I’m part of the Movimento de Pescadores e Pescadoras [Movement of Fishermen and Fisherwomen] and one of the coordinators of the Articulação Nacional de Pescadoras [National Articulation of Fisherwomen]. In my community there’s always action. An activist is an activist anywhere, so I’m also a member of the board of the fishermen’s association in my community.
Our fight is always against the oppressor. We live in a highly valued area, with the best beaches in southern Bahia, so capitalism hits us like a steamroller, very often using the discourse of development as a disguise. But we refuse this kind of development, which threatens human life and hampers biodiversity. Our bodies are constantly on the front line, because we hardly have the state on our side. Yet the traditional communities [an umbrella term for maroon, Indigenous, and fishing communities] still preserve their land despite external pressure. And we fight for this preservation and for our people’s rights. It’s not enough to have formal rights in the Constitution; we push for concrete public policies on diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. We don’t have a single goal — our fight is for all of this. But it all boils down to respect for human beings.
Edgar: I’m the political director of an independent farmworker union in Washington State called Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ). Familias Unidas is one of the few unions in the United States that represents farmworkers. We have over 500 members; they come primarily from Guerrero and Oaxaca, Mexico, and are Indigenous. The union was founded to pursue the basic principle of getting your rights respected at work through a union contract, a collective bargaining agreement. But the longer we were involved, the more we started seeing the structural issues that kept immigrants, people of color, and poor and contract workers down. The union realized that it wasn’t just about winning a contract; it’s about every structure that has been built up to keep workers down. We would ask ourselves, What are we doing in the United States? We started to analyze all the different reasons why people come all the way up to almost Canada, to another border. We’re talking about being an immigrant but also Indigenous to the continent. We’re talking about borders, free-trade agreements, corporations and how they run our lives. Suddenly, the fight for the union contract had a bigger purpose. And a lot of us gained political consciousness through that.
Waldemar: Familias Unidas por la Justicia’s experience seems to resemble the trajectory of the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) in Brazil. MST went beyond the struggle for land reform after realizing the complexity and all the structural elements involved in it. Elenilda, please introduce yourself and the Landless Workers’ Movement of Brazil.
Elenilda: I’m from southern Bahia, a quilombola, an assentada [a rural worker who receives a portion of land distributed by the Brazilian state], and a member of MST. I am also part of the Articulação de Mulheres Negras do Baixo Sul da Bahia [Black Women Association of Southern Bahia] and the Rede de Agroecologia Povos da Mata [Agroecology Network Peoples of the Forest]. I lead the Costa do Dendê brigade, a collective within MST responsible for grassroots organizing. I also cooperate with other movements and organizations in the region, including the Quilombo Graciosa, where Bárbara lives. In general, MST’s work focuses on supporting homeless people, workers subjected to slave-like conditions, and poor people living in slum areas. We invite them to join our occupations of unproductive land and abandoned buildings so that they can live in dignity, taking sustenance from the land and producing healthy food for themselves and anyone else who needs it. We also work a lot on education. We have a school in every single occupation and settlement and strongly encourage our youth and members in general to study, attend college, and defend the National Program of Education in Agrarian Reform. So MST’s overall goal is to change the life of Brazilian people and help to build an egalitarian society for all. This has been its objective in almost 40 years of existence.
These are hard times to be an activist. But we trust MST’s project to reconquer the land that was taken away from us. It is a daily struggle to guarantee the land for those who need it and work on it. As our motto says, “If the field does not plant, the city does not dine.”
Waldemar: Covonne and Gavin, can you please talk a bit about yourselves and Planting Justice?
Gavin: I’m a co-founder of Planting Justice. We’ve been around for 14 years. We’re based in East Oakland and Sobrante Park. As many of you know, the United States has a tremendous amount of systemic violence toward Black and brown people, which has led to the absolute crumbling of state-run social systems and communities like Sobrante Park. The way that that shows up in our community is mass incarceration, multigenerational poverty, and oppression.
As an abolitionist organization, Planting Justice is working toward a world without prisons, and we directly connect land without ownership or not being used as a means of production to mass incarceration. We live in a society where the costs of housing, food, and basic necessities are out of reach for so many people because there’s little to zero economic opportunities for people to support themselves. Thus, Planting Justice exists to create space primarily for people who have been most oppressed by these social systems.
We work to get land back in service of the community. We are in one of the most difficult real estate environments in the world. The cost of land in the Bay Area is so enormously out of reach, but we’ve been able to access 13 acres for food and economic justice projects in and around Oakland. Our primary goal is to create full-time living-wage jobs and leadership opportunities for formerly incarcerated people.
On these lands, we’re operating orchards and plant nurseries and building out an aquaponics farm and a pay-what-you-can cafe and community center. The food system in the United States has always been based on exploitation. We are hoping for a way for people to become the owners of their own basic needs and means of production in their communities. We want to have dozens, if not hundreds, of sites across the country that are owned and operated by the community so that they are able to produce the healthy food that has been denied to them.
Covonne: I’ve been in the Oakland area where Planting Justice operates for my entire life. I’m the fourth generation here. What we do at Planting Justice helps us and the community grow, and it helped a lot of us stay out of jail. It also helps a lot of us learn about food systems, since a lot of us grow our own food. The Black Sobrante Park Community Healing Council provides educational and recreational activities as well as job opportunities. The council and Planting Justice are working together to regain some of the land and family homes that we lost and is a place for youth and anyone else in the community to go for resources. We know very well what the needs of the community are.
Sobrante Park is one of the most overlooked and underfunded communities in Oakland. We’re stuck in the corner in the middle of three highways, where there’s a lot of pollution. We can’t grow in the soil because all the pollution has contaminated the soil. A lot of us have been pushed out of our communities because of all the systemic racism. Planting Justice has been vital in helping a lot of us in the community be able to stay where we all grew up — and also help us access land and learn how to grow our own food and actually be the owners.
Waldemar: The exclusion of historically marginalized groups from farmlands is also a major concern of organizations in Brazil. Bárbara, could you please talk about the quilombola movement’s strategy to ensure access to land for maroon communities?
Bárbara: Our strategy in the quilombola movement is audacious because it’s focused on taking back our lands. We filed a land titling process with INCRA, a federal body in charge of land reform, and the state of Bahia. But we know how much time this process will take, and meanwhile nothing happens. After all, we’ve been waiting there for a lifetime — for several lifetimes. How many generations have passed and we still haven’t achieved our rights? Despite not having equal ownership of the land, we occupied an area within the community. We are now 214 families in total, and 95 percent of them live off local, small-scale fishing. In the past we lived off agriculture, but we were expelled by farmers who claimed to be the owners of the lands. With no other option, our family occupied the areas that nobody wanted, the tidal areas.
We are people of resistance; we are obliged to resist every day. After we learned how to live from fishing, we were hit by a predatory tourism industry that tried to expel all families from the tidal areas. But this time we resisted, because we knew our rights. We occupied the land to pressure the state to give us legal ownership of it.
We haven’t received the land title yet, but we’ve already taken long steps in that direction. When we take a step, we are taking it for all our companions, for our Black brothers and sisters. And we resist because we believe that land reform should be led by the people. We believe in a popular land reform. The people do justice when they occupy and resist. For example, we had a big loss due to a dramatic environmental crime, an oil spill in 2019. To this day, we wait for justice. Those who suffered were the riverside communities, fishermen and fisherwomen who live off local, small-scale fishing. We were obliged to resort to food donations, even though we were the ones providing healthy food to the community. The situation worsened even further with the pandemic.
In this sort of situation, we realize who is on the big boat and who is in the small canoe. We know that we are different, and so is our suffering. But with all the pain, we also learned to resist. We organized ourselves, occupied our territory, and gave the opportunity for many young people to settle with their families in houses of their own. We also recovered a community garden, previously at risk, which still exists today. The community garden is something that we will adopt for life.
Education is also a very important aspect of our resistance strategy. For us, it is important to go beyond so-called formal education, which serves the ideological apparatus of the state. We developed projects with other organizations and applied for grants. The Black literature project, carried out here at the Quilombo Graciosa, is an example of that. It is the first time in our history that there has been such a daring project, because what we hear in schools is that Blacks were slaves. We still hear our children reproduce stereotypical beauty standards, wanting straight hair. There’s no problem with wanting to straighten your hair — the question is to learn who we are. We want to rewrite our history. We are telling and constructing our history based on our knowledge and practices, and this has produced great results.
The other project I would like to mention is the community flour house, a traditional cassava flour mill. Indigenous tribes and people of African descent have planted cassava here for hundreds of years. Our strategy includes our ancestors’ lessons, because this guarantees our community’s sustainability. After the pandemic, we built a traditional flour mill, which brings us great benefits, in addition to planting cassava. It’s always been nós por nós mesmos [we are by ourselves, we fight for ourselves], but we won’t give up.
A final aspect of our strategy: we also occupy Bahia’s state government offices to pressure the government to protect rights and implement programs.
Waldemar: Edgar, how does FUJ see the issue of access to farmland and land rights? What concrete initiatives are you putting in place to expand the struggle for rural workers’ rights?
Edgar: Private property dominates everything in the United States. Even the Constitution protects private property more than it does people. The members of our union are the landless workers of the U.S. They are also immigrants and have been seen as illegal. In this context of criminalization, it is very hard to build a critical social and political consciousness.
Bárbara just brought up something important about knowing and writing our own history. In our union, we developed the Cooperativa Tierra y Libertad to show the workers that they have the knowledge, the capacity, everything they need to run their own farm without exploiting people or the land. Workers wanted to do something that was different from the way we had been told agriculture had to be done, whether it was by using pesticides, doling out low wages, or depending on only one crop. Also the purpose of production was not to become rich but to grow food that is accessible and culturally appropriate. Right now they are growing corn, chiles, chilacayotes, nopales, and blueberries. There’s also a small orchard.
Tierra y Libertad is a direct callback to Zapata in the early Mexican Revolution. It’s very important to recall that history of fighting for land, knowing that it’s in us. Just because we’re in the United States does not mean that we leave our history and that struggle behind. In general, we’re very respectful because we’re in somebody else’s place — not only in the United States but on Indigenous peoples’ land as well. But sometimes the respect goes too far, and that leaves us open to more exploitation, because we tend to believe that we have no power here.
Going back to this issue of land reform, which is something that has not been touched by either activists or campesino groups for a long time, this is a critical time because we’re seeing the restructuring of agriculture in an even more corporate, vertically integrated way. Bill Gates is now one of the biggest landowners in the United States. We’re seeing the mass displacement of small farmers. Gates and other rich people are reforming land for themselves. What’s missing is a social movement here in the United States to really push back. Tierra y Libertad could be a model where workers and the marginalized people have land. Accessing land is very difficult; even a small community garden is almost impossible to get. You probably have to negotiate with a church, a park, or the city for years, even though there are tons of empty lots everywhere. That’s when we must get creative and try to find ways to access capital, seeds, resources, anything. It would be a more effective strategy if we just started to occupy land, rather than trying to get a foothold in the system. That happened in the Bay Area. Occupying the land and direct action are effective strategies. We need a diversity of tactics to change narratives, but that won’t happen if there’s not a strong social movement here in the United States.
But we must be careful. Many people who say that they represent us probably never worked on the land. Maybe they are more formally educated in universities, but they don’t know our reality. The measures they propose aren’t the ones that are the real solution that the communities want. There’s a big gap in leadership and social movements here in the United States. A more theoretical kind of space has taken over instead of more militant direct action. There’s got to be some balance. That’s been a reality here in Washington — just how much space has been taken by people who settle for very little that, in the long run, doesn’t benefit us.
Waldemar: MST has been occupying the land as a strategy since its founding in the early 1980s. Elenilda, how did you experience that strategy? What are the challenges of implementing it?
Elenilda: First, we assess the area of the unproductive farm that we are going to occupy, or land that, according to the Constitution, does not have a “social function,” or farms where workers are subjected to labor analogous to slavery. Second, we talk to the people who work or live in the surrounding area to see if their land rights have been violated and whether they want to join the occupation. The number of people we mobilize depends on the size of the farm.
Our motto is “Occupy, resist, and produce.” To occupy means a well-organized entry into the farm and not leaving it. To resist is to face the farm owners’ attempts to evict us. And we produce because we understand that we occupy the land for that purpose. One of our goals is to arrive at an unproductive land and within a few days present to society what we have already produced by posting to social media channels, inviting journalists, and bringing produce to a local market. We want to send a message that we occupied the farm because we really needed that land.
Due to the expansion of large estates, we have faced many direct confrontations in the land occupation process. Landowners have been sending gunmen; there’s always this issue of gunmen trying to shut us up. But we are organized and will not leave. This situation has intensified in the past seven years since the coup against President Dilma Rousseff and after Jair Bolsonaro became president. Haastred against social movements has also intensified. As the largest social movement in Latin America [with around 450,000 families living in one of their several settlements, spread in 24 states of Brazil], MST suffered the harshest consequences. We took a step back, since life is the most important thing we have. But even during Bolsonaro’s tenure, we never stopped carrying out our activities. We wanted to show society that capitalism aims to destroy us, that it wants to own everything. We understand that as long as there are people without land, we are going to occupy large estates and support families to produce in an agroecological, organic way. This is our task as Movimento Sem Terra — this is what keeps us alive.
Covonne: My grandparents came from the Deep South when the towns were pretty bad, with Jim Crow and racism. My grandfather worked on the land and picked cotton when he was a boy. He migrated over here to California to get a little bit of freedom. He had to work very hard to get the land where Planting Justice is sitting. When it comes to the land struggle, a few of us community guys tried to figure out how to get some people’s family homes back, homes that were lost through prison, drugs, killings, etc. But we were in the dark, just trying to figure it out. We had some community people helping us out, but it didn’t take off until we met Gavin. Planting Justice has been very instrumental in helping us learn and reclaim some of these places. They have really helped us learn to use the land and how to obtain the land.
I’ve been to jail multiple times, and so have many of my friends. When I was little, the police basically gated up the park and locked us out of the only basketball courts. So once that happened the only place to do anything was out on the streets or on the corners because in the middle of that a lot of people were losing their homes. Now with the only remaining park in the neighborhood neglected and not maintained at all and some people’s homes gone, we just hung wherever we could. So while we were hanging out the police would come and harass us and other people in the community; they would cuff and search us, sometimes on the same street we lived or grew up on.
They would also label us as gangs for hanging in groups, but these were simply people you grew up with. Not everyone in this group was doing things that were against the law — they were just hanging with people who were friends or family. This was going on not only in Sobrante Park but in the surrounding communities. At any type of barbecue or neighborhood event the police would show up and sometimes get out and start messing with people. So many people in our community have dealt with these types of issues with the cops, and it happens more often in the most underfunded communities and communities of people of color. I have dealt with it firsthand — me, my family, and my friends.
After seeing people being killed, using drugs, going to jail, losing their family homes, we started working with some people in the community. How can we slow down the violence, how can we stop people from losing their family homes?
A lot of us came in through Planting Justice’s reentry program. With us speaking together about what the community used to look like and what we would want it to look like, it kind of aligned with Planting Justice’s mission. So that was the start. We now have more knowledge on how we can make things work without having to go to jail, battle with the police, and stuff like that.
Elenilda: In Brazil, we have a similar situation. Armed militia and gunmen are always on the attack, in defense of large estate owners. I would like to know: Who owns the land you are fighting for at Planting Justice? What do you plan to do with the land?
Gavin: Planting Justice is working to get land so that we can transfer the title to community-based organizations. For the first piece of land in Sobrante Park that we got access to, the title is being transferred to an Indigenous land trust. In the second one, we’re helping to start a community-based organization of Black folks in Sobrante Park that can hold title to that land and potentially other land in the community as well. That could include houses, apartments, urban agricultural projects, empty lots for aquaponics farms.
The land that we’re building the aquaponics farm on was a nursery owned by a Japanese family for about 90 years. It was sitting vacant for about 12 years and was closed off to the community with barbed wire. Nobody could enter it. So we had to work through market strategies in order to get long-term legal land access. And that is one of the differences, among some similarities, between Planting Justice’s and MST’s strategy.
Covonne: Planting Justice pays a lot of us who have been going through this fight and been in prisons to work in the community and recover somebody’s land. We get benefits, which we didn’t get before due to our backgrounds.
Waldemar: In Brazil, an important aspect of the landless movement’s strategy is to claim the “social function” of property, as inscribed in the Constitution. Is this also part of the political vocabulary of Planting Justice?
Gavin: In the U.S. there are some legal possibilities for land reform. But they’ve been used in the opposite way, to take land from people — like eminent domain, through which the government technically has the right to take private property and use it for the public good. But they’ve done that to take land, homes, and businesses from Black and brown people to construct massive highway infrastructure across the United States. That’s happened a lot in Oakland. The federal government owns a ton of land through the Bureau of Land Management, and they lease that land at insanely low prices to gas and oil developers, $5 an acre or something insane like that. They could offer that to the people for the public good. But we lack a social movement. There hasn’t been a political party in the United States in the past 100 years, maybe ever, that has articulated land reform strategies that align with some of these public-good mandates the government has. A very easy argument could be made that it is much more in the public good and even national security to have reforestation and local food production rather than gas and oil leases on public land.
The closest we are to the way MST takes land back in Brazil is through houseless encampments in Oakland. There are hundreds of them. But the police state has the monopoly on violence in the United States and moves people around so much that there’s no opportunity for people to plant, grow, and take care of themselves in these encampments. Lots of people have been severed from their cultural practices of taking care of land and growing food and have lost that knowledge. In Edgar’s context, it seems like the farmworkers kept those cultural practices alive and know how to cultivate the land and grow food.
The police exist in large part in the U.S. to protect private developers and landowners from anyone else. We’ve seen a lot of community gardens spring up in places where people don’t own land; a lot of labor and love and effort goes into them, and then that land is taken away. Planting Justice’s strategy has been a bit different. We’re trying to get the legal land title back to the community. That’s been very challenging, but the strategy there is to make sure that that land can’t be taken away, that people have the protection of private property, which sucks because that whole system should be abolished. Yet we need to figure out how to do that because people’s survival is on the line. We focus on planting business, on living wages and full-time jobs, in order to survive, in order to stay in Oakland, in order to feed our families. We’ve been severed from the land and the sustenance that’s available, so we have to focus on jobs that can’t be taken from us, on land that can’t be taken from us because it’s producing healthy food that the community needs and wants.
Edgar: We share a lot of the same frustrations with the system. I’ll give an example: We’re a union, but we are not allowed to function in a way that makes sense to us. Because we’re now tied to a legal process that’s very restricting in the way that we function and how we participate in politics. Even our own internal decision making is determined by federal law.
In terms of trying to fight for land reform, it is very limiting because we have to work within the functions of the state. We’ve been denied access to legal protections. The legal barriers that exist are very difficult to overcome. To overcome them means mass organizing, and we still have a ways to go here in the United States to build both a strong farmworker movement and a strong land reform movement. But we have local examples where it’s functioning. Trying to coordinate and strategize on national and international campaigns would be very interesting.
Bárbara: The 1988 Constitution of Brazil protects quilombolas’ territories; however, we’re always in conflict. As quilombola fishermen and fisherwomen, we risk our bodies to defend our territory and livelihood. But we receive pro bono legal assistance and legal and political training in land reform and territorial rights, environmental law, litigation, constitutional rights, public policies, and participatory processes from the Associação de Advogados de Trabalhadores Rurais (AATR) [Association of Lawyers of Rural Workers]. AATR is an experienced leftist organization committed to our struggles and not a law firm. We truly believe in popular justice. But we can’t move forward alone. We need each other’s support. Through AATR’s trainings, we’ve learned about our constitutional rights and how to file a legal complaint and formulate a legal argument — regardless of knowing how to read or write.
Edgar: What Bárbara mentioned brought up this concept we use in agroecology called organicity, which means organizing at different levels of society, in this case to support rural movements. That hasn’t been developed here in the U.S. There is the American Farm Bureau Federation, but it’s very conservative, very corporate-minded. The way that agriculture is talked about doesn’t have this component of being liberating. Having lawyers with that kind of analysis, background, and solidarity would go a long way here.
Waldemar: This conversation has made me think about the role of training programs and other forms of education. Elenilda, can you please talk about MST’s ideas and initiatives on education as well as the school you’ve opened at your settlement?
Elenilda: First, we organize locally in the settlement. We create our school’s management model, and we hire principals and teachers. All of that is overseen by MST’s state, regional, and national education departments; along with the settlement’s board of education, they formulate an educational program and a strategy to have our schools and educational principles recognized by the municipality. We also train non-teachers who live in the settlement to support the educational work in our classrooms. And we meet once a year to discuss our educational model and goals.
But we faced many challenges during Bolsonaro’s presidency. The state government of Bahia supported us, but we know that the state also depended on federal funding. Even so, we continued to hold our meetings. What we couldn’t achieve with the support of the state, we achieved through our struggle, organization, and partners. Now we receive support from the government and have become partners with public universities like the Bahia State University. We have a project called “Sim, Eu Posso” [Yes, I Can], which is a Cuban literacy methodology, through which we teach 4,500 adults how to read and write in three months in six different regions of the state. To push the government to support this project, MST marched 56 miles from the city of Feira de Santana to Salvador last year. The literacy classes have already started in our region of the state, with 712 students in total.
Covonne: It’s hard getting things recognized by the state. It’s hard to get into our education systems. Some of the schools here in Oakland have allowed our education team to come into schools and basically share some of the knowledge that we learned about propagation, planting, food sovereignty, and the importance of the land. But as far as it being recognized or anything like that? Not so. Planting Justice’s teachers educators do host hundreds of youth here at the nursery and at the aquaponics farm in Sobrante Park. I teach how to cook, how to make medicines with some of the organic plants we grow, and how people can do that in their own yards and in their own communities and spaces. But it’s a little hard to get recognized.
We also teach kids about the importance of land and how it can keep you in your community, as well as how the system impacts our communities. We have a lot of different training programs on local laws and how they affect the land and our food systems, organic versus chemical. We go through a little bit of everything, but getting recognized and being in every school? We haven’t made it that far yet.
Bárbara: We develop projects here based on our indignation and the violence that we have suffered in formal education spaces. According to Brazilian legislation, the traditional knowledge and practices of native and maroon communities need to be integrated into public school curricula. From that, we build up. We need to disturb the system somehow. We are not breaking the law — we are pushing for our community-based knowledge to be in these education spaces. With the support of different partners, we apply for public funding for our projects, such as the community garden, the Black literature project, and the fisherman/fisherwoman movement school, A Escola das Águas.
Edgar: We’re starting to develop our own internal education program. We’ve gone around the United States and met with other workers; it’s something that a lot of people would like. But there’s a void — nothing exists about political education, farmworkers, and organizing that I know of, but we’ve been developing a lot of methods within ourselves. We’re looking toward people from Brazil and Latin America and countries in the Global South, because they’re way more advanced, especially about land reform and social movements.
The trainings and methodologies that resonated in places we’ve been to are the ones that people from La Vía Campesina have used, as well as some from Nicaragua and Cuba, which were developed by MST. We’ve tried to use some of these internally and develop it in a way that speaks to workers in the United States. It is important to have international solidarity, because there is this mind-set in the U.S. that we’re way better than everyone. There are others who have much more experience. We’re interested in knowing and learning from each other and seeing how we can fit some of the lessons into our context.
Translated by Xanda Lemos
Edgar Franks is the political director at Familias Unidas por la Justicia, an independent farmworker union in Washington State.
Edgar Franks é diretor político do Familias Unidas por la Justicia,um sindicato independente de trabalhadores do campo no estado de Washington.
Elenilda Nascimento is a quilombola and an assentada (a rural worker who receives a portion of land distributed by the state) from the city of Camamu, in the state of Bahia, Brazil. She leads the Costa do Dendê brigade, a collective within the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) of Brazil responsible for grassroots organizing.
Elenilda Nascimento é quilombola e assentada da cidade de Camumu, na Bahia. Ela lidera a Brigada do Dendê, um coletivo regional de organização de base do Movimento de trabalhadores Sem Terra (MST).
Covonne Page is a member of the Nursery Land Team Lead at Planting Justice in his hometown of Oakland, Calif. He is also part of the Black Sobrante Park Community Healing Council.
Covonne Page é membro do Nursery Land Team Lead [Time de Liderança de Viveiros e Terras] da Planting Justice [Plantando Justiça] em sua cidade natal, Oakland, na California. Ele também faz parte do the Black Sobrante Park Community Healing Council [Conselho de Cura Comunitária do Sobrante Park Negro].
Gavin Raders is a co-founder and co-director of Planting Justice and a cultural anthropologist. He has been part of several movements for peace as well as racial, economic, and environmental justice over the past 17 years.
Gavin Raders é sócio fundador e codiretor da Planting Justice [Plantando Justiça] e antropólogo cultural. É militante de vários movimentos pacíficos, bem como de movimentos por justiça racial, econômica, e ambiental há 17 anos.
Bárbara Ramos is a fisherwoman, a quilombola, and an educator from Taperoá, in the state of Bahia, Brazil. She is part of the Movement of Fishermen and Fisherwomen and a coordinator of the Articulação Nacional de Pescadoras (National Articulation of Fisherwomen).
Bárbara Ramos é pescadora, quilombola, e pedagoga de Taperoá, no Baixo Sul da Bahia. Ela faz parte do Movimento de Pescadores e Pescadoras e é coordenadora da ANP, Articulação Nacional de Pescadoras.
Waldemar Oliveira serves as international adviser at Hammer & Hope and is a PhD student in history, with a focus on the African diaspora, at New York University.
Waldemar Oliveira é consultor internacional da revista Hammer & Hope e doutorando em história pela Universidade de Nova York.